Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in Africa. Arguably, Islam is the single largest religion in Africa followed by Christianity. African Muslims (the followers of Islam) are majorly concentrated in the western, central, and northern regions of Africa with pockets of the believers scattered across the rest of the continent. Their influence on the cultural and religious development of the whole African continent is outstanding. Over time, African Muslim culture has dynamically progressed and developed into a new level (Akou 404). The progress has been due to the ease of mobility of Islam as a religion. The dynamism has enabled it to stay relevant in the wake of modernity and westernization. This essay gives an insight into African Muslim fashion culture and its influence as a tool of expression in the society.
Fashion has undergone a revolution; in the process, it has shed off the narrow view and approach of it as simply being a way of dressing. Instead, it has adopted a broader, more appealing, involving, and communicating face that has triggered a change in the way it is perceived. African Muslims have been in the frontline in presenting and marketing this new appeal through accessorizing with their attire not just for concealing their nudity but also for communication. The Islamic head veil is one of the examples. The manner in which the veil (also known as Hijab) is tied to the head speaks volumes about the origin of the woman (Chalfonte 42). Apart from being an accessory, it singles out the woman as a follower of the Islamic religion (Akou 409). It acts as a means of communication, a message and, more importantly, an ambassador of the Muslim faithful to the rest of the world.
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The face veil, also known as the Nikab, is a feminine accessory among African Muslims. There are no rules governing when, where or even who should wear it. It covers the face leaving room for the eyes only, and acts as a mask. Most female African Muslims wear it most probably to create an air of mystery around them; otherwise, it has no particular and determined role. However, the Nikab has attracted the attention of many people who claim to be involved in the war against terrorism. Women donning it particularly at the airports have frequently had unnecessary scrutiny and security checks as they were thought to be terrorists trying to conceal their looks. These elements of fashion used by females (the Nikab and Hijab) act as a form of non-verbal communication without employing the spoken word (Hansen 23).
Cultural values make the identity of a person, and they go a long way in helping people discover their roots and history. Without them, the people have no history to write home about, neither do they have a predictable future as one can only know where he/she is headed to if one knows where he/she has started out. African Muslim fashion culture remains an important tool of non-verbal communication particularly among the women.
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