A Case of Sexism and the Responsibility of Influencers: This Is Why Dina Tokio and Her Hijab Are at the Center of Debate

Dina Tokio, one of the most famous Muslim fashion bloggers and influencers, with more than a million followers on Instagram, has been at the centre of debate recently, after she announced that she will not wear her hijab anymore.

The fashion blogger wrote a letter to her fans through her Instagram page, to clear up her previous instagram posts, in which she called the hijabi community a ‘toxic cult’.

A clarification

“There’s been a lot of speculation and madness over the weekend regarding the way I’ve been wearing or not wearing my headscarf. I’ve always been very honest with you guys and so for me, sharing my recent decisions with you is just natural.

Just for context, this is all very new for me too. I’ve only recently started showing my hair over the past few months, every now and then whenever I have felt comfortable to do so. Some days I’m more comfortable covering my hair and other days I am more comfortable showing it. That’s just it.

Let’s get one thing straight, I still believe in headcovering as part of my modesty and as a part of me. It’s part of my heritage/ religion and culture… No ONE can take that away from me. I have just decided that the best thing for me personally is not to commit to it daily like I have done for the past 20 years. That is all.

To address my ‘hijabi community starting to become like a toxic cult’ comment; I’m referring to the onslaught of slander and insults I’ve received from a community that I was very much a part of and helped build amongst many, until it seems just last week. All because of my personal decisions to basically wear it when I want to and vice versa. I also find it odd that people are ostracizing me for criticizing a community that I’m a part of…I’m allowed to do that. I’m not an outsider…

I’ve heard people assume that I’ve used the headscarf for ‘fame and money’. If you know me you know that money and fame doesn’t motivate me… It never has. I started blogging and I was already wearing a scarf. I just wanted to enjoy fashion that I could relate to. I was doing me then (10 years ago) and now I’m doing me, again (ten years on). I’m a whole different person to who I was when I started. People change and that’s a great thing. It’s called progression.

If you feel you can no longer support me because I now show my hair, that’s fine. Thank you for supporting me until now. If you want me to stick around on my journey, then that’s great, thank you for seeing me for who I am past my headscarf. If you’re someone who is worried about the youth being ‘misguided’, because I’ve heard this comment a lot throughout the years. I think some time to reflect on what ‘misguidance’ is will be worth your while. Because it sure ain’t a mum of two who blogs fashion and lifestyle.

A woman who refuses to lie just to stay in the game either.”

There’s been mixed reactions on Dina Tokio’s posts

For sympathizers, Tokio’s posts on the toxicity within hijabi communities is a result of the years of critique she’s received because of her personal dress choices. A woman is free to wear whatever she wants, whenever she wants and nobody should interfere. For them, comments like ‘she built her fame on hijabi’s’ implicate that she owes her fans to be what they want her to be.

Critique

As someone who’s being followed by more than a million followers, critiques are saying that Dina Tokio had to take into consideration the consequences her words could have. In a time where Islamophobia is everywhere and hijabi’s are constantly being called oppressed, a Muslim role model bashing a whole community and calling them toxic, even though most of her fans are hijabi’s and have always supported her, is hurtful in many ways.

Whatever your opinion is on this situation, don’t forget that your words can be hurtful as well and that they shouldn’t be based on a sexist view, where ‘good’ women wear hijabs (in a ‘right’ way) and women who choose to take their hijab off are a bad influence or are less religious. I believe that the way she addressed her decision could have been better, I totally agree with her responsibility as a major influencer.

But let’s also stay honest in this debate. She, just like so many other women, has been getting critique for the way she dresses for ages. Everyone can snap. Maybe we can try to understand why she reacted that way, as someone who wore the hijab herself for many years.

Written by Mayada Srouji

Mayada Srouji

Mayada Srouji is a 23-year-old student Gender and Diversity at the UGent and has a bachelor in Arabic and Islamic Sciences, with a minor in political and social sciences. She is interested in women rights, philosophy, literature and history.