Last week, Jama made history, and became the first woman to compete in a Miss Universe pageant, and not wear a bikini. Instead she wore a kaftan, and the fact that the pageant allowed her to is a victory for anyone who believes a woman has the right to choose what to wear. But more than that, Jama’s victory shows that modesty does not necessarily mean hijab and it highlights the diversity within the Muslim community. She refused to where a bikini because of her religion! After seeing this, and being so proud that she stood up for what she believed in, I wondered if there were other women in her shoes would they have done the same thing or would they (the contestant) have stepped down. Would the judges not have considered it if she didn’t stand her ground? These were all of the questions going through my head.
There was not a single moment where Jama felt she would need to compromise her personal beliefs for the sake of the pageant, and that’s what feminism should look like. For her, empowering women means giving them the choice to do what they want with their body — at all times. She was inspired to take part in the pageant by her late grandmother, who encouraged her to apply. “She was intelligent and driven; a fearless woman, I believe that’s where my mum got it from. She inspired me to go to Somaliland last year,” said Jama. She wrote in an interview “I am Muslim, I am British and I am proud. I practice my religion the best way I know how,” said Jama. “I’ve never worn a bikini and I have no intentions to either. It was important to me to be understood.”
After being accepted into Miss Universe, Jama made clear she would not wear a bikini and requested a cover-up — and she was heard. “I respect Miss Universe for understanding and accepting me to wear a cover up during the swimwear round,” she said. “And just as I chose to wear whatever I did — I shared the stage with women who also made the choice to wear what they wore.”
She said that she had no idea that she would actually inspire anyone and that she is going to stay true to herself!