KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Muslim designer who created a rainbow “pride hijab” hopes it will become a symbol of inclusivity and spur more gay and transgender people to embrace their identity ahead of Australia’s 40th Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
The headscarf, created as part of a campaign to push for same-sex marriage in Australia, sold out days after it was launched in October, Australian-Sri Lankan Azahn Munas told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
The designer said he was relaunching it for the Australian city’s famous festival on March 3 to “celebrate life and love”, and highlight the struggles of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
“We have had such a great response including from countries in the Middle East and East Asia. People were so happy that we acknowledged their identity but not in a negative way,” said Munas, who founded the Melbourne-based label MOGA in 2016.
“They live in fear and persecution, they can’t live a free life because of where they live - we want to do this as a way to support them.”
Australia legalized same-sex unions in December after a national postal survey overwhelmingly endorsed marriage equality.
A growing number of businesses and brands around the world are stepping up to promote diversity and LGBT rights.
Munas, a Muslim born in Sri Lanka who moved to Australia as a child, said he hoped the design could help spark discussion on LGBT issues, even among conservative followers of Islam.
“It’s unfair to say every Muslim is anti-LGBT or homophobic ... We didn’t want to hurt or offend anyone, we want to start a conversation,” the 24-year-old said.
Munas said he had received orders for the 45 British pound ($63) pride hijab from Australia and abroad but declined to divulge the number sold.
The brand has previously used its designs to highlight social issues including a 2017 headscarf made from raw meat to protest the objectification of women, with a share of profits going to charities that empower rural women and girls.
Munas said his designs will go black in his next collection in June to support the anti-sexual harassment #MeToo movement.
British luxury brand Burberry said earlier this month it was dedicating its next collection to the LGBT community, giving the brand’s signature checks a colorful makeover.
“There has never been a more important time to say that in our diversity lies our strength, and our creativity,” its outgoing head Christopher Bailey said in an earlier statement.
Despite gains, advocacy groups say gay and transgender people struggle with persecution and discrimination in many parts of the world.