Dina Tokio has become somewhat of a peculiar phenomenon. What started as a casual hobby online has turned into a full blown career for Dina, who began her journey on YouTube almost a decade ago. Feeling that the fashion realm was lacking any real modest inspiration and in fact, any representation of minorities and Muslims, Dina took to the internet and began blogging about how she wrapped her headscarf and styled her modest outfits. At the time of course, Dina was one of a handful of female Muslim bloggers who essentially paved the way for what is today, a monumentally dynamic niche in the social media space. Today, Youtube and Instagram are saturated with hijabi bloggers doing what Dina coined and popularized seven years ago.
What's interesting however, is the shift in perception with regards to Dina herself. At the beginning, Dina was hailed as some sort of saviour by young Muslim girls all over the world who were bored of tying their hijab the same, traditional way as was done by their mothers; the scarf was merely wrapped around the head in one perfect, tight loop. Dina encouraged girls to be creative, to not be afraid of colour, patterns, layers, accessories. She started what would become known as the notorious "hijab tutorial." Muslim girls everywhere were obsessed with Dina and her effortless style and ability to pair basic items of clothing together to create unique, yet modest looks that were unseen on a large social level before. This was at a time when social media was gaining momentum and ideas were easily spread. The Muslim consumer was eager and restless, she wanted to see herself represented online and she wanted to exercise agency in her style without compromising her faith.
Over the years, Dina began to be more active online, both on her blog and YouTube. She shared her trips back to her home, Egypt, and shared vlogs of her brothers, parents, and her British grandma, Judy. Eventually, she married her long time friend and media consultant Sid, had two children, released a clothing and lifestyle brand with her twin sister Tasneem "Toosy", and most recently, launched her best selling book titled, "Modestly."
The shift in perspective began happening two to three years ago as Dina's signature hijab style, began to change drastically. Fans became torn, with some openly vocalizing their disappointment with Dina's choice to don what is now the infamous "turban hijab", others remained loyal and expressed their own frustrations with the hijab they wear. With the political climate changing too, Islamophobia was on the rise, as was exclusion based on appearance, skin colour, gender, and religion. Many young girls mimicked Dina once more and opted to wrap their hijab in a more "trendy", less conservative style.
This marked the beginning of one of today's most problematic epidemics in the Muslim world. Or at least, it catalyzed the normalization of it in the public sphere. Women began "hijab-shaming" Dina and others who began wearing the hijab differently. A culture of judging and demonizing swept the online world. Muslim women and now men, were taking to their keyboards to "haram police" any woman they saw online who had a fly away hair, neck, ears, or bangs showing. Labelling these woman as "non-believers" and disrespecting them online was becoming rampant. It's absolutely disgusting the lengths some people will go to when they feel personally attacked.
Interestingly enough, Dina did not buckle under the heat and instead, boldly proclaimed her right to be herself. She began an important discussion that needed to be had. One that acknowledged the personal struggle each woman goes through when it pertains to her hijab or covering. One that acknowledged each woman's right to wear what she wants. One that discouraged people to judge others and feel entitled to give them advice in a disrespectful manner. Essentially, Dina spoke out about how the hijab was a personal journey, and as with Iman or faith, it will fluctuate and waver, but no one should treat another person with animosity ever. This is what Dina has been known for today. To be outspoken and honest when it comes to the difficulties Muslim women face in the world today. Dina herself remarked in a previous blog post
, "We’re always talking about modesty in terms of the way we dress but one thing I’ve started thinking about recently is what about the way we live, the way we consume?"
about Muslim men in particular, and their sense of entitlement on commenting about her personal choices.
"What does grind my gears is where opinions on the way I dress can sometimes come from. For some baffling reason, a lot of the time it just so happens to come from Muslim MEN. Why? Simply why? Why do a HUGE amount of Muslim men have this sense of entitlement to share their opinion on how a woman, who bear in mind has NOTHING to do with them, dresses. Let alone females related to them? I seriously don’t understand the logic. Actually never mind the logic, how about the utter disrespect not just to the strange women that never once asked for this irrelevant mans opinion on her hijab or ‘lack of it.’ But the disrespect towards the women in their lives? Some of these guys are married, with kids. You’d think with all the responsibilities that Muslim men have when they have their OWN family that they simply would not have the time to even THINK about another woman and how ‘acceptable’ her expression in clothing is? It’s actually absurd if you think about it. Without going into too much of a waffle, I’d just like to emphasise how horrified I would be if my husband was so interested in how a fellow modest blogger dressed that he went out of his way to address it to that woman, and on a public platform! FYI don’t be fooled either ladies by the positive tones that some of these guys may use and the fact that their intention is ALWAYS from a good place.. they’re just trying to save other ‘women from falling down the wrong path.’ I mean what is this God-like attitude that guys have when it comes to religion and the idea that they’re the saviour of the youth?? WHO ARE YOU KIDDING MATE?"
Dina went on to start a YouTube channel with Husband Sid in which they answer questions sent in by subscribers. The majority of these questions are from young Muslim women who ask the couple about a range of topics including issues in marriage, problems stemming from culture being enforced before religion, men's mistreatment of women and so on. Dina made the shift from exclusively showcasing fashion and hijab content, to more lifestyle related videos. Her vlogs depicted life at home with a toddler and newborn as raw, and real. Her battle with eating disorders and anxiety are both heavily addressed on her channel on multiple occasions. She does not fear being judged, she merely wants to normalize such topics of conversation so that women can feel empowered to seek help if they need it. After her daughter Hana was born, Dina suffered immensely from postpartum depression, something Muslim women do not openly talk about due to the stigma that is still attached to mental health in our communities. Dina penned an intimate and honest blog
post about how she felt and urged women to seek help if they were suffering.
"I found myself bursting into tears for most parts of the day for what seems like no reason. Every couple of hours or so and it would happen mainly when feeding baby. I ‘d look down at her and just be in shock coming to the realisation that I was responsible for this little human, yet she seemed so tiny and fragile, how would I ever know how to take care of her? Sometimes I’d cry just because Sid would ask me how I was feeling and I’d cry without a doubt every time baby cried. Baby’s first bath I cried because she cried, baby smiled in her sleep I even cried! I don’t know what I was feeling, I just know it wasn’t a happy feeling but not a sad one either. Maybe that’s just what shock feels like, a huge surge of overwhelmingness? It got to a point where Sid was questioning my happiness, why wasn’t I happy, we’ve just had our baby?! To which I’d reassure him that I was happy but the truth is I didn’t know if I was happy, and every time I was asked what was wrong I’d say that I simply didn’t know. Because I didn’t."
She ended her piece with a beautiful quote,
“LUCKY IS THE WOMAN, WHOSE FIRST CHILD IS A DAUGHTER”
Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم)
Dina has come a long way since her first few videos on Youtube. She is no longer the quiet young girl with thick framed glasses that just wanted to share her outfit. It seems Dina has become more confident in who she is as a Muslim woman, mother, wife, and entrepreneur. She has become loud, proud, and blatantly honest when it comes to all things, whether it be motherhood, or simply how Muslim women are still perceived by the mass media. Dina has inspired an entire generation of young girls who grew up watching her and who have now grown to be mothers, and wives themselves. Seeing a Muslim woman be so fearless despite the criticism she still receives, is refreshing and encouraging. Perhaps Dina is the catalyst Muslim woman had been waiting for to speak up for themselves and take back their agency when it pertains to their faith.