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Model Halima Aden quits the runway over religious beliefs

(REUTERS): Halima Aden, the Somali-American model is stepping back from fashion and quitting runway shows entirely after feeling pressured to compromise her religious beliefs.

The 23-year-old has appeared on the cover of British Vogue, Vogue Arabia and Allure. Aden, the first model to wear a hijab and burkini, posted a series of Instagram stories describing the difficulties she has faced as a Muslim woman in the toxic mess called fashion.

In the post, she said the coronavirus pandemic had given her time to stop and think about what her values are as a Muslim woman. “Being a ‘hijabi’ is truly a journey with lots of highs and lows,” she said.

Talking about accepting modelling jobs that went against her religious views, she said, “I can only blame myself for caring more about opportunity than what was actually at stake.”

She also praised Rihanna for letting her wear the hijab she wore to set, writing, “Rihanna let me wear the hijab I brought to set. This is the girl I’m returning to, the real Halima.”

She blamed the system as a whole and the fact that she was “a minority within a minority”, adding, “What I do blame the industry for is the lack of Muslim women stylists.”

She further said that she’s compromised her religion many times as part of her job – including missing prayer times set out in the Islamic faith or agreeing to model without a hijab on, using another item of clothing to cover her head.

She added that she had sobbed in her hotel room after shooting some campaigns over not speaking up about what she thought was right. “The truth is I was very uncomfortable. This just ain’t me,” she added.

Last year, the model appeared in Sports Illustrated’s popular swimsuit issue as the first model in the magazine to wear a hijab and burkini, the magazine had said on its website. Aden, who is Muslim, was born in Kenya at a refugee camp and moved to the United States at age 7.