This Muslim Fashion Blogger Was Told She Doesn't Sound American During an Interview

Hoda Katebi is a Muslim-Iranian blogger based in Chicago. On her blog JooJoo Azad, which Katebi says is a place for "unapologetic identity reclamation," she combines politics and fashion to make powerful statements.

Through an anti-capitalist and intersectional-feminist perspective, she wants to challenge Orientalism and mainstream portrayals, and integrate ethical fashion and activism. Her blog includes articles on politics of fashionhow fashion can help us claim our space, boycott list of brands that violate human rights and use child labour, ethical stores you can shop at instead, and how you can be an ally to name a few.

Katebi was invited to WGN to talk about her new book Tehran Streetstyle for an interview that was eventually never aired. She shared the interview on social media to the response of numerous people messaging her with support.

During the interview, which you can watch here, she can be seen facing micro-aggressions and Islamophobic comments. Katebi, who studied international relations and Middle Eastern politics at the University of Chicago, answers each question eloquently, taking time to educate the hosts despite being ridiculously questioned in a hostile interview environment.

The interview starts off with the hosts asking Katebi what her childhood as a Muslim girl was like in the dominantly white state of Oklahoma. The hosts must find the experience so absurd because they laugh for painfully long seconds after posing the question. Katebi, in turn, shares her traumatic experience in facing violence because of wearing the hijab and how that helped shape the ideas that caused her to start her blog.

Then they flash photos of women in Iran before and after the revolution and ask Katebi if she would like to go back to that, an interesting question to ask someone that they invited to discuss the release of her book, but Katebi keeps her calm and provides a well-informed response. After saying that these photos are decontextualized out of their context, she explains how education levels of women have actually exceeded the ones of the times of the miniskirts. 

And she adds: "So if you want to talk about women's rights, let's talk about their social and economic status rather than just what they're wearing."

This is when things get even more blatantly racist. One of the hosts says in response: "Let's talk about nuclear weapons."

Even the other host can be seen looking at him in slight disbelief at as he goes on to add: "Some of our viewers may say we cannot trust Iran. What are your thoughts?"

Katebi later broke the questions and her responses down in a blog post on her website and she said of this moment: 

"I honestly should have just stopped him right there and questioned why he thought it was okay to make this ridiculous comment and pose it as a question (I think I was too excited to answer the question than question his premises). Nothing to do with what we are talking about and yet, I'm forced to take up a role as an expert on all things related to Iranian politics -- a position I know other POC/Muslims have found themselves in if they have ever been the token Muslim on a panel or interviewed about their work. The title they gave me on the show was "fashion blogger," yet here I am being asked about nuclear weapons. Would they ever bring on a white chef to their show and then ask him about Brexit or his thoughts on the rise of white supremacy?"

During the actual interview, Katebi has to laugh off the comment. Then she says: "I don't think we can trust this country" and goes onto address the legacy of imperialism and colonialism, and the violence US created and also created the capacity for in the Middle East. 

To which one of the hosts reply with: "A lot of Americans might take offense to that. You’re an American, you don’t sound like an American when you say this.”

Katebi said of this comment later in her Instagram post:

"What an incredibly loaded statement to say to a visibly Muslim woman on live TV, pushing every stereotype of "other", "foreign", and "incompatible with America" that Muslims are so systematically characterized as--and therefore used as justification to commit violence against, both here and abroad."


During the interview, she wasn't having any of it either. She replies with: "That’s because I’ve read" and explains how it's important to look beyond simple narratives we are told, "whether it’s about Muslim women or the legacy of the country knowing that this country was literally built on the backs of Black slaves and after the genocide of indigenous people."

The hosts' questions and demeanor are a mess where they insist on a narrative that hurts people's lives and it also represents a reality faced by people every day in which they are forced to laugh off such micro-aggressions. Katebi shouldn't have to face such questioning but her well-informed responses resonate with us. 


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