“6 Questions with…” is an opportunity for women and girls everywhere to share something about their passions and lives. (It’s also a fantastic excuse for me to be really nosey and learn from of the some amazing women I’ve met.)
This week I’m putting Mahnoor Khan in the hot seat. Known as Noor to her British friends, or at least me because I couldn’t pronounce Mahnoor, she’s a practising Muslim studying English Literature in Sheffield. Somehow Mahnoor manages to do all this while dressing modestly, cooking for anyone who will let her, and figuring out why the British are a little crazy (my words, not hers). Here she answers a few questions about the challenges she faces…
1) Tell us a little about yourself and where you come from. Paint a picture of yourself.
If you see someone wearing a headscarf (which is probably black), trudging along parks, beaches and random pavements, that’s me. My name is Mahnoor Anees Khan and I am from many places. I was born in Oman but I am from Pakistan. But now, I am studying in Sheffield. So, it’s a lot of places which I identify with. If I had to paint a picture of myself, I would have to use very dark colors for my clothes but very bright ones for my constitution. I enjoy making people laugh ad I like being happy. I am an avid reader and I have always wanted to know more about the world we live in.
2) How have you found the move from Pakistan and Oman to Sheffield?
I was born in a tiny village named Ibri, in the Sultanate of Oman. It’s brown, dusty and is the smallest town you can think of. I moved from Ibri to Muscat – which is the capital of Oman. It’s a little advanced but holds the same essence of being brown and dusty. But it has beaches and its beautiful. It has beauty in its dusty spots. I used to visit Pakistan – the country my passport makes me the national of – twice or thrice every year. I have woken up almost every day, during my adolescent life, hoping to wake up in Pakistan and not Oman. It’s always been the place I’ve always wanted to be in. I have always wanted to identify with my nation. But I have always lived in Oman. And from there, I made up my mind to move to Sheffield. I decided to fulfill my dream of always wanting to study in the UK. I have found the move to be so very disorienting, that it makes me dizzy sometimes. Because I always hoped to know what nationality I would tell people I am. But I am always confused when they ask me where I’m from. And I tell them – I am from Pakistan but I’ve barely lived there. But now, I understand that I am more of a mixture. I am more of a healthy mixture of experiences and cultures. I am a proud Pakistani who identifies with Oman, Pakistan and now – Sheffield.
3) How does Islam impact your wardrobe and style on a daily basis?
It never did affect my fashion choices when I was younger. Then again – my mother was the only person who could decide what a clumsy and messy child could wear. As I grew older, and crossed puberty, it became obvious that I have parts I would need to cover up and not expose. But in that bridge between knowing the concept of modesty and implementing it – my wardrobe choices were mostly affected by my own comfort more than anything else. When I turned 17, a family friend of mine told me that the headscarf was compulsory for women of Islam. I didn’t know that before. I knew it was a thing women and girls did if they wanted to, but I never knew it was compulsory. I did my research and realized that it was compulsory for a reason. It didn’t repress women or subjugate them to something which they don’t want. The hijab isn’t for the woman who is oppressed. It is for the woman who believes that modesty is more important than revealing yourself. It is for the woman who wouldn’t want men to fall in love with her body but for her personality. It is for the woman who has more confidence in her own and wouldn’t want to depend on someone else’s opinion to validate her personality.
4) Why do you choose to dress modestly?
I choose to dress modestly because I know that the other step is easier. To be immodest and to have no limits with the opposite sex makes me feel weird. It makes me feel as if I am the easiest thing (and not a person) to achieve/obtain. I feel comfort in my modesty and I feel pride – that I can choose something not everyone can. It is not easy yet it is easy. I know I am not making much sense but what I can say is that dressing modestly is more powerful than the other way around.
5) What is your wardrobe must-have?
A black hijab because it makes me feel less conspicuous. It makes me feel like I don’t ask for attention with what I am wearing or what I look like but that I demand it through my manner of speaking and what I stand for. Also, maxi dresses and longline full sleeve button-down shirts which reach my knees. Oh, and obviously, headscarves of different colors and materials.
6) Charity, vintage or high street shops?
I haven’t had much experience with charity shops or vintage shops. But, the issue with high street shops has always been that I have had to dig and search for clothes that suit my needs. If I am a size 14, I have to wear clothes which are size 18 – just to fit “my modest concept” of clothes.
If you want to check out Mahnoor online, check out her Instagram. She’s pretty good with a camera. We may even have a collaboration in the works.
The post 6 Questions with Mahnoor Khan first appeared on CounterCultural. CounterCouture.