Over the past decade, everyday hijabis have become sensationalized influencers, enthusiastically becoming representatives of hijab and Muslims. Without revealing identities, prominent influencers have benefitted from the perks of the limelight—cultivating successful businesses and amassing a generous following—then publically removed the hijab, while some even proclaimed it as a mere choice, rather than a commandment of God.

This begins as a slow process wherein the influencer’s once graceful loose-fitting clothing becomes more form-fitting and revealing, while her headscarf begins to show her neck and a few harmless strands of hair. Soon, her videos have licentious background music and she begins to collaborate with organizations that are incompatible with her once firm convictions. Take a moment to ponder the subconscious effects—confusion, misperception, questioning of faith—this sort of behaviour arouses in loyal followers, particularly young girls already starved for female Muslim role models.

For the record, removing the hijab is not the issue. Someone who removes it today may choose to wear it again later in life and someone who struggles with the decision for many years may discover she is more prepared at a different stage. Hijab is a struggle for many girls as we live in an era that is constantly redefining beauty and pushing boundaries to fit sexualized, narcissistic, and capitalist agendas. Both hijabis and non-hijabis should feel empowered, confident, and safe despite the pressures they face in schools, workplaces, individual communities, and on social media. However, a word of caution to girls who are thinking of becoming influencers: purify your intention, educate yourself, and prepare for both valid and invalid criticism.

No doubt, demanding perfection from hijabi influencers is unfair. However, when hijab is limited—even exploited—to being just a mere head covering, thus absolving the behaviour and attitude that follows, it exacerbates dissension and spreads warped ideas about what the hijab is within Muslim communities. Hijab, like any tenet of faith, has its fluctuating lows and highs. Sometimes, influencers portray hijab with expressions of what culturally, socially, and personally feels acceptable and fashionable, as opposed to authentic Islamic guidelines. During these instances, they must understand the criticism they receive is imbedded with concern and well-being, not only for them, but for their impressionable followers and overall representation of Islam. In defence, sometimes, we hear slogans like “only God can judge me.” Ironically, this should serve as a reminder that God will indeed be our judge.

Appearance and conduct has and remains a touchy topic pertaining to Muslim girls and women. Muslimahs are under intense pressure and scrutiny to be both unapologetically themselves and represent 1.3 billion Muslims. In the process of fitting in with everyone else, we are losing the essence of what makes Muslimahs beautiful in the eyes of God—righteousness, piety, modesty, and steadfastness. To my sisters: whether you are the one following or are being followed by others, be wise.