This week, L’Oreal Paris starred a hijab-wearing model for a new hair campaign. The model, a British YouTuber and beauty blogger, Amena Khan, is shown in the ad saying: “Whether or not your hair is on display, doesn’t affect how much you care about it.” Ever since I saw the ad, my mind has been flashing to the number of women wearing hijabs that are being shown in ads, movies, shows, and even music videos. Even though L’Oreal’s campaign is based in Paris, all I thought about was that Trump’s hatred and behavior toward Muslims is the reason behind this. In my mind, Trump’s hatred fuels the notion that that with a greater attempt to spread hatred, you’ll find; more support toward what you’re hating on.
Let me begin by giving some examples. Grey’s Anatomy, a show that’s been on for almost 13 or 14 years now has only recently started showing hijab-wearing nurses and in the latest season, there is an intern wearing a hijab. Prison Break, when it came back for a short fifth season last year, they showed two sides of Muslims. One side were the “true Muslims,” moderate, tolerant, and helpful. Then, there are the so-called Muslims: the extremists and terrorists. I remember in one of the episodes when a woman wearing a hijab encountered an ISIS soldier, he praised her for wearing the hijab, saying something similar to, “I see you’ve finally found your way to God” and in response, all she said was “Not your God.” I was so fascinated to see this on screen, knowing that it never happens in Hollywood, to show that Muslims aren’t just terrorists. There was a music video for John Legend’s “Surefire” which portrayed a story of a hijab-wearing woman, who falls in love with an immigrant at risk of deportation. Huge campaigns by Cover Girl and Nike have starred models wearing hijabs as well. There are many other forms of media portraying Muslims as, not terrorists, not extremists, not dangerous, but as regular humans living their lives.
Through the Media and Politics course that I took at UTM, I learned that everything we see on screen or read has a message, whether intentional or unintentional. With that in mind, you’ll start noticing how everything has a political message incorporated within it. From animated movies to novels, there’s an embedded political message within these art forms.
Since Trump was elected, he has been spreading hatred toward other religions and cultures, particularly Islam. He espouses islamophobic ideologies. At first, it really worried me that the entire U.S., if not the entire world, would follow in his footsteps and do the same. However, I’m noticing that the opposite is happening. When Trump tried to ban seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. last year, protests happened across the world in support for these people, claiming that Trump was aiming to execute a Muslim ban. When Trump associates Muslims with terrorism, instead of people agreeing with him, they began to include Muslims even more by portraying Islam in Hollywood movies, shows, songs, and ads. Groups around the world are now fighting against Islamophobia.
A simple rule that I believe in is that the more you attempt to oppress people, abolish an idea, or spread hate, the more backlash you’ll get. People don’t like being oppressed. Even if they don’t publicly speak about it, there is a great chance they are waiting for any opportunity to join others and voice their opinions.
Oppression leads to freedom—eventually. So maybe the hate that one of the biggest countries in the world is trying to spread right now, will actually result in more support. Although it’s very possible that Muslims continue to be stigmatized by news, maybe hope will still persist with the many forms of entertainment media currently portraying the positive sides of Muslims. Maybe these positive messages will end up being stronger than the negative voices of the news and prominent politicians.
You can’t succeed at spreading hate. If you want, you can mobilize and find people who hate like you do. However, there will always be waves of support for the oppressed.