Tuesday, September 26, 2017

At women-only salon in New York, Muslim-Americans prepare for Eid

  • >> Reuters
    Published: 2017-06-24 19:24:13 BdST

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Farah Ibrahim (centre), a 25 year old Palestinian American Muslim, watches as henna is applied on the hands of a customer ahead of the Eid al-Fitr Islamic holiday at the Le'Jemalik Salon and Boutique in Brooklyn, New York, US, June 21, 2017. Reuters

Nevien Shehadeh, 19, was one of many Muslim women who chose Le'Jemalik Salon and Boutique in New York's borough of Brooklyn on Friday to prepare for the Eid ul-Fitr holiday.

The beauty salon, designed by owner Huda Quhshi to cater mostly to Muslim women, opened in January in the Bay Ridge neighbourhood of Brooklyn.

"I actually only started wearing the hijab one year ago," said Shehadeh, an undergraduate studying math and economics at Fordham University in New York.

"I always wanted to, but I wasn't ready. It was actually during Ramadan last year, one week before Eid that I had this feeling to wear the hijab."

Shehadeh, a Palestinian-American, was with her two sisters, Shireen, 26, and Nisrien, 18, and aunt, Najah, 37. They reminisced about meeting Quhshi two years ago when the beauty entrepreneur was hired to do make-up at a family wedding.

Quhshi, 37, said that as a Yemeni-American whose cultural norms often barred women from the workplace, she did not think creating a space where conservative Muslim women could receive beauty services in a comfortable environment was possible.

Henna is applied to the hands and arms of a Muslim female customer at the Le'Jemalik Salon and Boutique ahead of the Eid ul-Fitr Islamic holiday in Brooklyn, New York, US, June 21, 2017. Reuters

Henna is applied to the hands and arms of a Muslim female customer at the Le'Jemalik Salon and Boutique ahead of the Eid ul-Fitr Islamic holiday in Brooklyn, New York, US, June 21, 2017. Reuters

Between Wednesday and Friday, Quhshi said she received 48 customers for Eid services.

"Most salons aren't all women," said Shehadeh, who plans to celebrate Eid on a Staten Island beach with her family on Sunday, marking the end of Islam's holy month of Ramadan. "Here we feel comfortable. We're not paranoid of someone walking in."

About 3.3 million Muslims live in the United States, according to Pew Research Center data, many of whom will celebrate Eid, one of the two most important festivals of the Islamic calendar.

"The beginning of Ramadan was really quiet. It was so slow. It was to the point that I thought of closing for Ramadan," Quhshi said.

"Then, all of a sudden, we got so many bookings that we have had to turn people away."

When women arrive at the salon, they are invited to sit on a circular, ivory couch studded with jewels.

Saloon doors lead to a private space where customers post-up for pampering in peach and white chairs.

Some get their hair cut and coloured. Others have their make-up done or hijab styled by Quhshi and her staff of six. A pedicure station operates as a henna haven.

Shehadeh admired her haircut and blow-out in the ornate mirror.

"We're here to get pampered for the holiday," Shehadeh said. "Even though we don't show our hair, it feels good to do it for yourself."