Sarah Ansari, CEO interviewed by Prof. Annelies Moors

Sarah Ansari, CEO was interviewed by Professor Annelies Moors of ISIM (International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern

The International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) develops, supervises, and engages in innovative, high quality research on social, political, cultural, and intellectual trends and movements in contemporary Muslim communities and societies. ISIM’s research approaches are interdisciplinary and comparative, covering a large geographic range that includes North Africa, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, South and Southeast Asia, and Muslim communities in Europe. Broad in scope, ISIM brings together the various areas of disciplinary expertise in anthropology, sociology, religious studies, political science, and cultural studies. ISIM’s work is grounded in solid empirical research and knowledge of local languages and contexts. It focuses on “Muslims” as social agents rather than on “Islam” as an abstract doctrine.

ISIM is an international research community and worldwide network. Academics the world over are attracted and inspired by the diverse community conducting research from ISIM’s Netherlands base. All their research is embedded in broad and diverse networks ranging from Muslim civil society grass roots to leading universities in the South and the North to prominent Muslim and non-Muslim thinkers on Islamic issues.

Professor Moors is the ISIM Chair at the University of Amsterdam. The interview, which lasted an extremely enjoyable hour, encompassed many topics ranging from the the history and mission of Artizara, to evolving patterns of Islamic dress in the West and integration of Muslim communities in the Netherlands and other European countries.

ISIM publishes the ISIM Review which carries research articles by scholars throughout the world, enabling its readers to follow trends in research and offering background information on current developments and events relevant to Islam and Muslim societies. This publication is available free of charge under the publications link at

Artizara Summer 2008 Exhibition Schedule

Don’t miss our booths at the following conventions this summer:

1. APPNA (Association of Phycisians of Pakistani Descent of North America)
June 26-29, 2008
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
2660 Woodley Road, Washington DC 20008
(202)328 2000

Bazaar Booths 506 &508 (open to the public)

Thursday June 26 10:00 am-6 pm
Friday June 27 8:00 am-6 pm
Saturday June 28 8:00 am-6 pm
Sunday June 29 8:00 am-1 pm

For more details click here

2. ISNA (Islamic Society of North America)
Friday-Monday August 29-Sep 1, 2008
Columbus Convention Center
400 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Bazaar Booths 221 & 223 (open to the public)

For more details visit

Loving and Leaving the Head Scarf

What does “hijab” mean to you? Thought provoking article from Slate magazine. Though wearing hijab is not quite the easy equivalent of getting a haircut or buying a Prius…

Would love to hear readers’ comments and insights…

Loving and Leaving the Head Scarf
What *hijab*’s revolving door says about the religious mobility of American
By Andrea Useem
Posted Monday, May 12, 2008, at 7:03 AM ET

For most teenage girls, rebellion involves a tongue piercing or sneaking out to a beer-soaked party. But Suraya Ali, the daughter of unobservant Muslim immigrants from India, shocked her parents and her classmates by donning a Muslim head scarf. “It was my way of flipping the world off, saying, ‘I can be what I want,’ ” says Ali, now 31, who grew up in a Chicago suburb.

But a decade and a half later, Ali had a “strange feeling” of no longer fitting in with her Muslim community; she was constantly set up with potential suitors who assumed her scarf symbolized a certain submissive attitude toward marriage; and her elite education had prompted her to question the traditional roles for men and women laid out in classical Islamic law. “I realized [wearing *hijab*] is not who I am anymore.”

Ali’s decision was visible only to those who knew her (and because of her family’s sensitivities, she did not want her real name used). But her experience reveals how very modern American Muslim life can be.* Hijab* in America is not a social norm of ages past, unquestioningly handed down;rather, it has become a tool of self-expression. Just as Americans frequently change jobs, marriages switch religious affiliations, American Muslim women choose to love, and sometimes leave, the head scarf.

When Yale anthropologist Carolyn Rouse studied African-American Muslim women for her 2004 book *Engaged Surrender*, observed that the *hijab* (and, in some cases, *niqab*, or face-covering) primarily about group identity. Many female converts, for example, started veiling themselves immediately—the two were
seen as inseparable. Wearing* hijab* “signified belonging to the *ummah*,” or the broader, idealized Muslim community, she said. But this voluntary expression of citizenship doesn’t always last. By the time Rouse wrote her epilogue, several of the women she had followed no longer wore the scarf. One convert, Rouse wrote, “believes she used *hijab* to prove to herself the
depth of her faith. Now that she feels more secure with her faith she does not feel she needs it.”

When I first put on the head scarf eight years ago—starting off with a horrible tan-and-white polyester square I purchased before I realized *hijab * could be stylish —I felt that I was daring to follow my beliefs, come what may. What I believed at that moment, as I pinned the polyester beneath my chin, was that God wanted me to cover,
to simultaneously hide my beauty (such as it was) and proclaim my faith. I had become Muslim two years earlier while living and working in East Africa.

As a journalist and “honorary male,” I had mixed with more Muslim men than women in my travels and therefore gave little thought to *hijab* before converting. It was only when I returned to the United States for graduate school that I begin to notice my fellow *muslimahs* head scarves. Had I missed something?

A turning point came one day at a cafe (OK, it was Starbucks) in Harvard Square, when a scarf-wearing woman walked in. Some customers gave her uneasy glances, and I felt sharp regret that she had no idea a fellow believer was sitting right there, silently supporting her. After that, I researched classical Islamic law as best I could and concluded that covering everything but your hands, face, and feet was, indeed, “required” for believing Muslim women.

The Quran actually has just two verses dealing specifically with women’s dress. Chapter 33, verse 59, tells women to wear outer garments so they’ll be recognized as Muslims and left alone. A longer verse, Chapter 24, verse 31, instructs women to guard their modesty, to cover their breasts, and not to display their beauty to males except their brothers, husbands, fathers,
eunuchs, male slaves, etc. To the modern reader, the words can appear maddeningly ambiguous and painfully out of date, and they require not only translation from classical Arabic but a grasp of seventh-century historical context. Both passages are hotly debated. For *hijab *apologists, however, the verses, along with prophetic endorsement and scholarly rulings, prove
that full covering is obligatory. This opinion is mainstream among Muslims in the United States; according to a 2007
study, 51 percent of American Muslim women wear *hijab *all or some of the time.

” ‘*Hijab* is beautiful, *hijab* is what God wants, *hijab* is a Muslim woman’s duty’—that’s become a mantra among Muslim communities,” says Fatemeh Fakhraie, a graduate student, blogger, and co-founder of the Facebook group “Just Because I Don’t Wear *Hijab*Doesn’t Mean I’m Not Muslim.”

These theological arguments, while important in their own ways, sometimes seem little more than a patina atop more primal social urges, however. Wearing *hijab* or not wearing *hijab*—just like owning a gun or driving a Prius—says something fundamental about your beliefs and aspirations. And in America, at least, beliefs have a funny way of changing.

My own fervent attachment to the scarf gradually faded. Two years after first donning it, I was married and no longer needed the scarf to broadcast my unavailability to non-Muslim guys. I had also moved to a Persian Gulf country where *hijab *was not a personal choice but a cultural system of sex segregation: On the beaches there, men in shorts played soccer and swam,
while women in layers of black polyester dipped their toes in the water and shook sand from their shoes.

Like spouses who know they are headed for divorce but still go through the marital motions, many *hijabis *continue to wear the scarf in public long after its inner meaning has dissipated. They wait for a natural break in their lives to make the transition. I took it off on my return flight from the Persian Gulf to the United States. Ali removed it after finishing a summer internship. Another woman I know literally moved across the country to make the change, simultaneously leaving the tight-knit Muslim community
she felt was suffocating her and the scarf that pledged her allegiance to it. Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, author of the 2005 essay collection *Living Islam Out Loud ,* found that taking off *hijab* was about breaking up with not only her Muslim community but also her childhood assumptions. After she divorced an
abusive husband, Abdul-Ghafur found herself judged and isolated by her fellow Muslims. Feeling burned by community norms that rushed her into marriage with the wrong guy, she questioned the *hijab*. “Taking it off expanded my identity—it was exciting, like a new haircut,” she says.

But if you start pulling at the thread of doubt, how do you keep the whole sweater from unraveling? When religious scholar Karen Armstrong left her convent
the late 1960s, she proceeded to leave Catholicism, and today she says the label of “freelance monotheist” feels restrictive. Ali still prays five times a day, fasts for Ramadan, and remains attracted to a somewhat-traditional religious outlook. “I don’t think Islam is untrue in any way. But I did get very stuck in a way of looking at things that made Islam feel untrue, and I had to separate those things.”

While many American Muslims dwell contentedly within the limits of modern Islamic orthodoxy—miniworlds where *hijab* can be taken for granted—others avoid it or pass through en route to more spacious destinations. *Andrea Useem is a freelance religion writer and editor. Her Web site is*

Article URL:

Copyright 2008 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

Scarf Tying, Artizara Style

Here is the scoop on how our models tied their scarves:

The scarves that are worn “turban style” (Leyla Jacket) are tied as follows:

1. Place the scarf on your head with ends draped equally on both sides 2. Cross the ends of the scarf behind your head at the nape of you neck and pull fairly tight
3. Bring up the ends of the scarf above your head and tie in a knot on top of your head and slightly to the side.
4. Fluff the ends of the knot into a bow

The scarves that are worn “hijab style” (Rima Shirt) are draped as follows:

Start with a longer scarf (at least 20x 70 inches)

1. Place the scarf on your head with ends draped equally on both sides 2. Cross the ends of the scarf behind your head at the nape of you neck and knot fairly tight, leaving your earlobes visible (this allows you to wear earrings, if you wish)
3. Bring the corners of the scarf forward over each shoulder and cross to the opposite side of the head (left scarf corner to right side of head and right scarf corner to left side) and then lift to the rear top of your head. Secure both corners at the rear top of your head with a pin. One corner of each short edge of the scarf will be free to cover the knotted scarf at the nape of your neck.

Hope this helps!

Stay Tuned for the Spring Summer Collection!

We’re excited!

Our Spring Summer Collection begins its debut this March, and we hope you’lll love it as much as we do!

This season’s collection is all about easy fabrics, soft and feminine silhouettes and lots of fresh color. Coordinated scarves have been designed with every piece, and we’ve put together many ensembles, for those of you who’d rather not spend time putting together that “put together” look! We design each piece with the goal that it should never hang in your closet; you should get lots and lots of wear out of it, dress it up or down, wear it for work and play, at home or at a night on the town.

Don’t forget to check out the new jewelry line! These are not just baubles, but inspirational pieces. From far off places like Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan, this is jewelry making in traditions many hundreds of years old. Many pieces have engraving and calligraphy and make meaningful and cherished gifts for that special occasion or that special someone.

Any questions, comments, special requests…call us! We are here 9:00 to 6:00 Pacific Time and will help you in any way that we can. We promise to delight you with our friendly service :)

Site Enhancements at Artizara!

Hello all!

Lots has been happening at Artizara!

So caught up have we been in all the new happenings, we clear forgot to keep you folks posted on them :)

We hope you like the new look, feel and navigation of our store. We recently upgraded to a new more robust and more secure e-commerce platform…which is a fancy way of saying that the shopping experience should be smoother and safer for you all. We also added Hacker Safe Certification, which scans the site daily and identifies any security threats. Research indicates sites remotely scanned for known vulnerabilities on a daily basis, such as those earning HACKER SAFE certification, can prevent over 99% of hacker crime. So you can rest easy when shopping at Artizara!

We would love to get your feedback on the new layout of the store, so drop us a line or pick up the phone! We’re listening..

Artizara at ISNA, Chicago 8/31/07-9/03/07

Artizara will be exhibiting at the Islamic Society of North America Convention in Chicago from 8/31-9/3/07.
This year we will be in booths 1618 & 1719, with brand new fashions and a fabulous new line of Islamic jewelry in Sterling Silver set with semi precious stones.

Artizara e-mail subscribers take 10% off you entire order at ISNA (no minimum, one per customer). Mention Coupon Code ISNALIST when you visit our booth.

Don’t Miss It!

Calling Creative Spirits: Design the Artizara Fall/Holiday Collection

Salaams to you Creative Spirits out there….

We are in the middle of designing our Fall/Holiday Collection and need creative inspiration from YOU!

Have a favorite shirt that you look at and say “If ONLY this was full sleeve so I didn’t have to wear layers under…”

or a pretty skirt that “Would be perfect if it was a few inches longer”

Well, we are all ears!!

Tell us what styles, colors, fabrics, cuts, trims you want to see in the fall/holiday Artizara collection.

Is it tough to go Back-to-School shopping for your teens? What things are specially hard to find?

Eid is right around the corner …What do you want to wear? (and are there any styles you wouldn’t be caught dead in??!)

Let those creative juices flow and help us make your dream outfit a reality…..

Leave comments, send us pictures, whatever….

We are all ears!!

On Faith, Fashion and Finding Common Ground

We are pleased and excited that the work of Sarah Ansari, CEO, was selected to appear as part of the Imagining Ourselves online exhibit at the International Museum of Women (

The work will be featured in the Image and Identity exhibit, under the subtheme of
Fashion Undercover, which launches 19 July, 2007.

We are counting on you to help us spread the word! Please tell all your friends
about the exhibit featuring our work; you can visit the exhibit at:

It is only through your help that we can connect young women around the world in a conversation for positive change.

Islamic Clothing: The ISNA Experience

The year was 2004.

We had just launched our fledgling Islamic clothing venture,, and decided to premiere it at ISNA (The Islamic Society of North America) convention in Chicago. Having never been to ISNA before (never even to another big convention, unless you call Eid Prayers a convention), we didn’t know quite what to expect. We stayed up all night packing and caught an early morning flight, with husband, two kids (aged 6 and 8 months) and ten huge suitcases full to bursting with specimens of our prized new Islamic clothing line.

We arrived at Chicago airport in the evening to a warm Midwestern welcome complete with flashing signs: “Chicago Welcomes Delegates of the Islamic Society of North America”.
“Wow, is this a great country or what! Welcoming 40,000 Muslim Americans with open arms to one of its finest cities, not long after the tragedy of 9-11.” Our hearts were filled with gratitude and pride. Little did we know that the ISNA convention had been taking place in Chicago for over FORTY years!

We rented a giant van, got lost, wandered around in downtown Chicago for a few hours, and finally got to the Convention Center. Boy, this place was colossal! Couldn’t figure out where exactly it started and where it ended. It.seemed to just go on forever!
Found our tiny 10×10 booth, nicely located adjacent to “Hair Back”, a company marketing a miracle cure for male baldness replete with large glossy posters plastered on all four walls, outlining the “treatment plan” .

We really took our time setting up our booth. Both of us are kind of big on decorating so our muslim clothing had to be displayed to the best advantage. The booth was embellished with silk greenery and floral carpeting. Sparkling beaded shawls were draped on the walls (thankfully obliterating “Hair Back”). The result was, well… like Asra’s living room: very cozy and very inviting!

Next came the task of displaying our Islamic clothing fashions to perfection. Long tunic tops were all the rage and we had designed a dozen in our first clothing collection. We had paired them with coordinating long skirts and long pants and finished them off with the perfect finishing touch – coordinating hijabs. And most prized of all were our Islamic evening gowns, complete with matching wraps; sort of a crossover between a Western gown and a jilbab.

Our fashions were hung up on the nicest hangers we could afford, all neatly arranged by color and size. Out came the steamer to iron away every last crease and wrinkle. The plume of steam from the contraption billowed up, up, up.. all the way to the ceiling. Pretty soon we had gathered a crowd!

Women of every description swarmed our booth, touching, feeling, rummaging through racks. With oohs and aahs all around, it was like a party!

We engaged everyone in conversation, asked questions, and made many new friends. The most inspiring to talk to were the new Muslim converts, sharing what motivated them about their new faith, while at the same time shopping for a new Muslim clothing wardrobe. We asked people what they liked (and did not like) in our clothing line and got great ideas from them on new clothing styles.

We also paid close attention to what people wore and got lots of creative inspiration from folks dressed in all manner of Islamic clothing, from every corner of the globe.

There were the Syrian and Jordanian ladies in western style skirt suits with coordinating hijab in stripes and florals. There were Moroccan and Algerian sisters in long traditional caftans called galabiyas and takshitas. Indonesian and Malaysian sisters came wearing tailored long tunic jackets called kebayas and and ankle skirts called sarongs. Chinese women came wearing elegant pant suits with beautiful Mandarin collar jackets. Nigerian sisters came in bold, colorful print robes and coordinating turbans. Pakistani sisters showed up in all varieties of salwar kameez, a knee length tunic and loose gathered pants. Indian sisters arrived in the traditional Indian sari modified with a modest blouse and the dramatic pallu (or decorated end of the sari) draped over their heads. And of course… the American sisters came in pretty loose tops and blue jeans.

What an uplifting experience to be surrounded by so many confident, exuberant women!

All different, all beautiful, all in their unique styles of Islamic clothing.

All upholding their common values of modesty

and all rejoicing in their great, shared faith