Mipsterz: a space for Muslim hipsters

Mipsterz break cardinal hipster rule
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Story highlights

  • The term "Mipster" originated in 2012 with a small group of friends in New York
  • The group drew attention with a video of women in hijabs skateboarding and doing other things young people do
  • Some Muslim parents say Mipsterz helps their kids feel good about their identity

(CNN)Ever heard of "Mipsterz"?

The term originated in 2012 with a small group of friends in New York who jokingly called themselves Muslim hipsters. Though they hesitated to form an official group -- "hipster rule number one: never self-identify as a hipster" -- Mipsterz quickly evolved into an online community, and the group has garnered international attention.
Much of that attention came in the form of a heated debate in 2013, amid the huge popularity of one of its videos featuring women wearing hijabs.
The video, shot in Los Angeles and New York, shows young Muslim women taking selfies, skateboarding, fencing and eating ice cream -- doing all the things that young people like to do. Layla Shaikley, the video's art director and one of the women prominently featured in the video, says it was meant to serve as a "self-biography" for people outside of their community.
The response to the video was passionate on both sides. Supporters applauded its depiction of young Muslim women expressing themselves. Detractors shamed the women for participating, saying the video objectified them, according to Abbas Rattani, producer of the video and co-founder of Mipsterz. Others argued that the video just showed Muslim women trying too hard to fit in.
"We're so incredibly obsessed with appearing 'normal' or 'American' or 'Western' by way of what we do and what we wear that we undercut the actual abnormality of our communities. ... And in all of this, we might just lose that which makes us unique: our substance," Sana Saeed wrote in The Islamic Monthly.
Despite the controversy -- or maybe because of it -- Mipsterz eventually made it out to the suburbs. Parents of Muslim children started reaching out to the group, Rattani says. Their kids felt foreign at times, the parents said, but after the video went viral, their classmates saw that being Muslim could be cool. Some even wanted to be Mipsters themselves, Rattani remembers hearing.
"Mipsterz has created a space where young Muslims can have open discussions, share their experiences and not be ashamed of who they are," Shaikley says.
Though the group's goal is not to address Islamophobia, "in a way, we are sort of combating Islamophobia by just being ourselves," Rattani says.
Thousands of Muslims and people of other faiths have joined the online community, which exists as a Facebook group and a group email list. But they don't all agree on the definition of a Mipster.
Shaikley describes a Mipster as "a young Muslim American just trying to find a space for themselves unapologetically ... reconciling multiple identities and doing it like a rock star."
Rattani is less comfortable committing to one definition, calling it "abstract."
"We don't take ourselves too seriously, and we love individuality."