Her battles with alcohol and drug abuse have been well documented by the press – I hope she’s found peace and calm through Islam
While the rest of us are spending Ramadan carrying on with our tedious daily tasks and trying not to let the hunger make us bitch out at our family members, Lindsay Lohan is observing Ramadan on a yacht in the south of France – and I am so here for it.
She’s made headlines in recent years for her growing interest in Islam, as documented on her social media, and has addressed it herself in numerous interviews (without explicitly declaring herself a Muslim). Two years ago she was photographed walking down a street in Brooklyn carrying the Qur’an, which sparked a flurry of criticism in America where Lindsay states that she was “crucified” by the press.
I’ve been a fan of Lindsay since I was a kid, fangirling over her questionable British accent in The Parent Trap and later memorising her every iconic line in Mean Girls, so naturally it was pretty exciting and unexpected to hear that she may now share the same religion as me, and that her Arabic accent is better than mine.
I feel genuinely happy for her – Lindsay’s past battles with alcohol and drug abuse as well as depression have been well documented (some might say exploited) by the press and I think it could be a beautiful thing if she has finally found some peace through Islam. In an interview with Turkish media, Lindsay spoke of how she had been through a lot over the last decade and when her friends gave her a copy of the Qur’an, she stated that “it opened doors for me, spiritually” and that reading the Qur’an gives her a sense of calmness.
It is not uncommon to see people who have struggled with these complex issues seeking solace in religion or spirituality, finding fulfilment in some sense of a higher purpose. Traditional Eastern practices like yoga and meditation have become increasingly popular in the West for their therapeutic value. Yet Islam is rarely seen as an ‘acceptable’ spiritual path in the way that Hindu and Buddhist teachings often are (probably due to our pretty bad PR image nowadays).
Don’t get me wrong, I am glad of the fact that Islam isn’t cool and hasn’t really been appropriated by culture yet, other than a few mistranslated Rumi quotes. I’m not sure how I would feel walking into Urban Outfitters and seeing verses of the Qur’an written on the back of a bomber jacket.
Nonetheless, it is a shame that most young people in the West often cannot comprehend Islam as anything other than a dogmatic set of rules and regulations that serves only to control it’s adherents, rather than the essence of the religion which I believe is centred around the tranquillity of the heart and overcoming the ego through kind deeds and remembrance of God.
It’s also clear that some of the heightened criticism of Lindsay most likely relates to the fact that she is a white, privileged Western woman who has chosen to express her appreciation for a religion widely perceived to subjugate women. We are constantly presented with this dichotomy of liberated white Western women versus oppressed brown Muslim women. Many people find it hard to swallow the idea of anyone transcending this stereotype, and Lindsay doing so on such a public platform is bound to have pissed off some Islamophobes.
“Many people find it hard to swallow the idea of anyone transcending this stereotype, and Lindsay doing so on such a public platform is bound to have pissed off some Islamophobes”
The reality is that these days many people in the West are embracing Islam in large numbers. The growing trend of educated, white Western women converting to Islam is a narrative that is largely ignored – however as a study published in the Independent shows, out of 5200 Britons that converted to Islam in 2010, over half were white and 75 per cent were women, with the average age of these women being 27.
I mean, is it really that surprising? Society in general and indeed the industry Lindsay has grown up in is dominated by the hyper-sexualisation of women and the commoditisation of women’s bodies. I can understand the benefits many women derive from adhering to Islamic principles of modesty and the notion of sexuality being something private – rather than the basis for our public identity.
Speaking on her visit to Turkey last year where she also visited Syrian refugee camps, Lindsay stated, “In Turkey you have free will as a woman if you want to or you don’t want to (wear a headscarf)… that’s why it’s amazing here, you can choose want you want and it’s accepted. Whereas I’m in America holding a Qur’an and I’m the devil.” She has also mentioned how she felt “unsafe” in America after being seen holding the Qur’an, and was profiled whilst travelling while wearing a hijab.
It’s nice to see somebody as well-known as Lindsay bringing awareness to issues like the refugee crisis and increasing Islamophobia in the West – issues that many governments and politicians fail to address. Her love and appreciation for both Islam as a religion and the plurality of Muslim cultures is touching for those of us who are so used to navigating through spaces that are hostile to our traditions and beliefs.
“Her love and appreciation for both Islam is touching for those of us who are so used to navigating through spaces that are hostile to our traditions and beliefs”
Representation is important, especially for young people. For little Muslim girls growing up in a Trump-stained world where bigotry is celebrated and their very identity is seen as a threat, maybe seeing a famous actress speaking positively about Islam and wearing hijab might have an encouraging effect on their own self-esteem. Or, she might encourage others to open their minds in regard to what they have been told to think about Islam or Muslims.
I welcome Lindsay to the faith if she chooses to embrace it, or perhaps if she has chosen to already. I would love to take her hijab shopping in Whitechapel (6 for £10 habibti) or to have shisha in Edgware Road, for the authentic London hijabi experience.