Halima Aden wearing a hijab, burkini on Sports Illustrated cover shatters stereotypes
- Sports Illustrated and Halima Aden have shattered boundaries with their new swimsuit issue cover
- In 2016, Aden became the first contestant in Miss Minnesota USA to wear a hijab and burkini, reaching the pageant's semi-finals
- She's now the first model to wear a hijab and a burkini on the cover of Sports Illutrated
- "Growing up in the United States, I never really felt represented because I never could flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab," she said
Sports Illustrated has gone one step ahead in helping shatter stereotypes of the modern Muslim woman with their recent cover star Halima Aden in a burkini and hijab. At a time when the world is cracking down on Muslim women wearing a fully covered swimsuit or 'burkini', the Sports Illustrated cover has gone one step further to empower young Muslim women who chose to wear a hijab.
The burkini was first created by Australian Muslim designer Aheda Zanetti in 2016, quickly becoming the the subject of a global debate. French cities along the Riviera started banning the burkini. While French officials argued the burkini represents Islam’s inability to assimilate to France’s values, the idea behind it however was completed the opposite. The burkini was designed to allow Muslim women to participate more in Western culture.
At the time Zanetti, told Politico: "I created [burkinis] to stop Muslim children from missing out on swimming lessons and sports activities," she said. "I hope the French prime minister and the mayors see that they should find out how to combine communities, how to work around issues, instead of harming the community, taking the beach away from some people and punishing them. That’s just hatred."
Echoing Zabetti's sentiments, in a video for Sports Illustrated, Aden called the opportunity to become a "burkini babe" for the magazine a dream come true.
"Growing up in the States, I never really felt represented because I never could flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab," she said in a Twitter video.
The locations for the photoshoot was Watamu Beach on the Kenyan coast with fashion photographer Yu Tsai and it was one heck of an emotional journey back for Aden.
"I keep thinking (back) to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp," Aden told the magazine. "So to grow up to live the American dream [and] to come back to Kenya and shoot for SI in the most beautiful parts of Kenya -- I don't think that's a story that anybody could make up."
The model told the BBC: “Young girls who wear a hijab should have women they look up to in any and every industry.
“We are now seeing politicians, business women, television reporters, and other successful hijabi women in visible roles and that is the message we need to be sending.
In January this year, Emirati influencer Khalid al Ameri and his wife Salama decided an entire episode to 'How Muslim women swim" and called it "just a big swimsuit".
While a step in the right direction, Aden and Zanetti's sentiments are sure to face challenges in the future. A 2016 survey, for example, found that nearly two-thirds of French citizens - and nearly half of Britons - support burkini bans.
In the meantime, Aden and Zanetti, along with millions of Muslim women around the world will keep championing the cause.