If you’ve never heard the term “mipsterz” before, you’d probably assume it was the name of an early file-sharing service, or perhaps a mid-90s fad toy. But the term describes a thriving subculture of American Muslims, who are trying to uphold traditional mores while embracing modern style.
According to the Daily Beast, mipsterz, or “Muslim hipsters,” are a group of young, Muslim men and women, who marry traditional Islamic values with a contemporary Western aesthetic sense. A Facebook page, “Mipsterz-Muslim Hipsters,” defines a mipster as “someone at the forefront of the latest music, fashion, art, critical thought… and all forms of obscure everything.”
Although the term itself originated as a joke on a private list serv—the punchline: “Wait a minute, people hate us because we’re Muslims? I thought they hate us because we’re hipsters”— it has since evolved into a full-blown social movement. Last month, mipsterz received national attention when a music video, “Somewhere In America #Mipsterz,” (set to Jay-Z’s “Somewhere in America”) went viral on YouTube.
In most respects, mipsterz aren’t that different from other so-called hipsters: as seen in the above video, they skateboard, shop vintage, and wear ironic t-shirts quoting mid-90s children’s movies like The Sandlot. Unlike most vintage-buying, slogan-sporting, beanie-wearing, organic latte-chugging Brooklynites, however, mipsterz self-identify as observant Muslims, with most of the women wearing hijabs.
“Too often, Hijabi women are placed in categories of expectation,” says Yasmin Chebbi, a mipster who stars in the “Somewhere in America #Mipsterz” video. “The stereotypes of being meek, submissive, backward, and bland have been projected onto me far too many times.” The aim of the mipsterz is to dispel the Western notion that wearing a hijab, and other traditional Muslim practices, are oppressive or archaic.
Although the “Somewhere in America” mipster video, not to mention the concept of a mipster itself, have received a fair share of criticism (a “fluffed up version of hijab,” one blogger wrote of the women in the video) many mipsterz see themselves at the forefront of a broader movement to blend new-world style with old-world values. Does that mean we’ll start seeing droves of women in hijabi and ironic tees ironically Razor-scootering down Atlantic Avenue anytime soon? Likely not… but maybe it means a group can break out side of the stereotypes assigned to their culture.
Or at least trading in for a new one.
H/T The Daily Beast | Photo: Screengrab, YouTube