Greetings of peace,
My Dress, My Image, My Choice is a women's only event that uses fashion, food and conversation to create dialogue, break down barriers, and facilitate positive engagement between Muslim women and women of other faith backgrounds.
Saara Sabbagh created the project in 2001, in response to a growing distrust of Muslims and Islam that was particularly targeted at Muslim women in the streets due to world political events.
The parades are accompanied by contemporary Islamic songs and music, and an integral part of each event involved a halal meal where women could talk informally together. These meals were found to be just as important in breaking down barriers between women as the formal speeches and parade of clothes, providing a personal environment where women could ask questions freely and meet each other when otherwise they might not have had the opportunity to meet in the wider community.
We had little expectations for the first show, and were pleased if 50 women turned up to this new cross-cultural initiative. We were pleasantly surprised by the hundred women that lined up at the door! The next show saw 200 women line up, and the success and interest in the program only increased with time.
Reasons people gave for whether attending the events had changed their understanding of Islam indicated a range of beliefs about Muslim women and their clothes, and particularly the headscarf. A number of non-Muslim women believed that Muslim women are oppressed, forced to dress the way they do, and that they are not friendly towards non-Muslim women.
In most cases, the event changed the views of women who held those beliefs, and the understanding of Muslim dress as an expression of faith rather than a form of female oppression was highlighted as an important learning from the events.
The program has received overwhelming success both within Melbourne and across country Victoria, and has successfully toured Australia for the past 10 years.
As the community has evolved and now has a good understanding now of Islamic dress and Muslim women's choices, it is time to move onto deeper discussions that effect us all - such justice, ethics and spiritual growth.
The curtain will be closed on the show for the very last time on Friday May 4th. Join us in celebrating the 10 year finale of a very special community initiative.
Peace & Prayers,
The Benevolence team