Sophie Ashraf has recently shot to fame in and beyond her native India as The Burqa Rapper. This 21-year old Muslim wordsmith is to all intents and purposes making a rather revealing statement with her art. Let’s take a quick look at how this feisty young Indian woman’s donning of the “burqa” while rapping has placed Islam on centre stage and right at the heart of her art.
As Sobia points out in her wonderful article on Ashraf in Muslimah Mediawatch, watching Sophie proudly sport her headscarf in her pics and vids, one’s first reaction might be:
“Wait a minute: that’s not a burqa!”
See for yourselves here.
A Veil, but Not as They Know It
I’m with Sobia – there are two feasible explanations for Sophie Ashraf’s choice of headwear that spring to mind. The first could be that she’s making a point about what she perceives to be the world’s largely inaccurate and generic notion of the burqa.
The second, more plausible possibility is that she’s wearing a Middle Eastern hijab and abaya, both of which have been recent imports into South Asia. As the word abaya is a foreign term, and burqa a native one, so it stands to reason that foreign clothing may have been tagged with a familiar name, in order to make it more appealing to locals.
However you translate it, as far as Sophie’s concerned, she’s covering herself in her faith:
“It’s like when you really like a band, you wear T-shirts of that band, Well we really, really like Islam, so we wear the burqa.”
Comfortable in Her Own Skin
Ashraf’s music and lyrics brim with her Muslim identity. The burqa, universally understood as an Islamic symbol, and her rapping have become inseparable. In her own original way, it appears that this extraordinary rising Indian star is working to dispel some of the stereotypes about Muslim women and destroy misconceptions by working with and not against her faith.
“People tend to think that someone who tries to be different and someone who breaks the rules are the same. I work within the rules, but I find those little loopholes that allow me to do my thing.”
The Star of India
We’re not talking about a young woman who’s making a controversial fashion statement: Sophie seems from what I’ve read of her, comfortable, confident, self-aware and all wised-up about Islam.
As unconventional as it may be, her desire to defend and celebrate Islam is music to our ears here at LoveHabibi.
“When you see me / Is this all you see? / Oppressed coz I’m dressed as my creed has decreed” – Sophie Ashraf