Muslim is such a stereotype. It is basically the default race when people think of terrorism. Think 911. Islam is actually a very peaceful religion.It was against the bleak backdrop that eventually led to some peace loving Muslims to restore the image of Islam into the gentle , compassionate and forbearing religion that is to respect for a religion that was once celebrated for its contribution to progress and social development.

The Islamic Fashion Festival (IFF) was conceptualised and launched in 2006 with an overall objective is to win the hearts and minds of Muslims and non-Muslims alike to not hate or reject and see Islam as restrictive and uncompromising. Its aim: ““To build an updated visual and cultural reference from which Islam can be related to the modern world through the creative arena of fashion divorced from political, economic and social strife”.

H.E. Datin Seri Dato’ Zainab Abdul Kader (Photo via Jane Uymatiao)

I was fortunate to watch a preview of the Islamic Fashion Festival held at the Hotel Intercontinental upon the invitation of Dato Seri Dr. Ibrahim Saad (Ambassador of Malaysia to the Philippines) and H.E. Datin Seri Dato’ Zainab Abdul Kader (Spouse of the Ambassador of Malaysia to the Philippines). Being a witness to its fresh and artful style that breaks the myth of an outdated and ill-adapted faith is just a breath of fresh air from the usual mundane fashion shows.

I have never felt hate or fear towards my Muslim brothers despite all the news. There has always been that deep admiration towards the inherent beauty and diversity of Islamic fashion and culture. In fact, when the occasion called for me to wear a Filipiniana dress at the Malacanang Palace and the State of the Nation Address, I chose a Muslim attire. I love warm colors, the embroidery and the patterns.

The IFF tagline, ““Discover the Beauty of Modesty”, invites the audience to get to know, understand and appreciate the call for women to cover up in Islam. The strategic intent is neither to preach nor convert but rather, to deliver the simple message that there is beauty in covering up at every level of modesty from slight to full.

Creative expression and interpretation among the designers exemplified the versatility and viability of dynamic Islamic fashion. Let me show you some of the fashion collections of top Kuala Lumpur designers Dato’ Tam Abang Saufi and Melinda Looi and Bali-based Milo Migliavacca referred to as ““The Original Prince of Batik Couture” together with the designs of their Filipino counterparts, JC Buendia, Jun Escario and Veejay Floresca. Jane shows a more extensive write-up of the collections of 7 designers

While the fashion showcases modesty, the IFF also subscribes to promoting moderation in Islam, best summarised by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Rt. Hon. Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Abdul Razak:

I therefore urge us to embark on building a ““Global Movement of the Moderates” from all faiths who are committed to work together to combat and marginalize extremists who have held the world hostage with their bigotry and bias. We must, and I repeat, we must urgently reclaim the centre and the moral high ground that has been usurped from us. We must choose moderation over extremism. We must choose negotiations over confrontation. We must choose to work together and not against each other. And we must give this effort utmost priority for time is not on our side.” – (Excerpts from speech at the General Debate of the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, United States of America on 27th September, 2010)

It is quite interesting to see that the IFF is not just about fashion but promoting moderation in Islam and learning to appreciate its culture through the beauty of its culture and people.

How right he is. By focusing attention on its kaleidoscopic beauty, the message of Islam can be de-politicised and imbued with a gentler identity.

This brilliant multicultural tapestry of the Islamic diaspora needs to be shared with the international community to break down the negative Muslim stereotype.

Such gentle approach to the message of the beauty and gentleness of Islam through fashion. To see and experience the vibrancy of Islam is affirming my love for my Muslim brothers and sisters here and abroad.

Oh as an added bonus, Stephen Rahman Hughes crooned to everyone’s delight.

The journey continues. The Islamic Fashion Festival moves on to other countries as it brings together different ideas through its multi-religious and multi-cultural participants. Indeed, the Islamic Fashion Festival will provide a channel for meaningful exchange in celebration of the beauty in diversity.

About Noemi Lardizabal-Dado

You may contact Noemi (noemidado @ for speaking and consultancy services in the following areas: Parenting in the Digital Age (includes pro-active parenting on cyber-bullying and bullying) ; Social Business ; Reinventing One’s Life; and social media engagement. Our parenting workshop is called "Prep to Prime (P2P): Parenting in the Digital Age (An Un­Workshop)" P2P Un­Workshops are conducted by two golden women in their prime, Noemi and Jane, who have a century’s worth of experience between them. They are both accomplished professionals who chose to become homemakers. This 180­degree turn also put them on a different life course which includes blogging, social media engagement and citizen advocacy. They call their un­workshops Prep to Prime or P2P, for short, to emphasize the breadth of their parenting experience. They tackle different aspects and issues of parenting ­­ from managing pregnancies, prepping for the school years of children, dealing with househelp, managing the household budget, to maximizing one’s prime life and staying healthy through the senior years.

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