Melanie Elturk, a Wayne State alumna and the CEO of Haute Hijab, stopped at WSU on her college tour, “The Next Generation of American Muslims: Defining our Role & Reclaiming our Faith,” on Nov. 28.
She has been touring colleges all around the United States and giving speeches on the topic of activism and balancing identities.
She said the goal of Haute Hijab goes beyond providing women with modest fashion.
“We started the company with a much broader vision, which is really to empower Muslims- Muslim women in particular,” Elturk said. “We wanted to be that light out there to combat all of the negativity, to say ‘No, actually, [Muslims are] super confident people, and we love being Muslim… We’re not oppressed, we’re actually very empowered.’”
She said that this generation of Muslims has the opportunity to diversify their individual contributions to society, and doing this requires students to diverge from the path which they are expected to follow.
“You have to figure out for yourself what your path is based on your own skills, talents, and core competencies,” Elturk said. “You have to know who you are, what you bring to the table.”
She addressed the recent election and said it is the defining moment for all Muslims. She said rather than being discouraged by the results, students should be motivated to become active.
“I hope that after the dust has settled, things are still unknown, but at the very least, you all are now seeing this as a true opportunity and you are truly seeing the silver lining,” she said. “We needed this wake-up call, and we needed this to happen to light a fire underneath us.”
Elturk said WSU is one of the best urban institutions in the nation, and she hopes students take advantage of Detroit’s entrepreneurial and socially active environment.
She said she carries the city and the mentality she gained from growing up in Detroit with her no matter where she lives.
Arshi Siddiqui, a junior majoring in biology and the Muslim Student Association’s vice president, said, “It's so important for us as Muslims to get active within our communities post-election because our work is definitely cut out for us. It’s time for us to break out of our comfort zones.”
“We should be at the forefront of our communities, creating those intersections and doing our part to really bridge those gaps; because we are targeted at this point in time and we need to speak up to educate those around us.”
Soundousse Zouani, a freshman engineering student, said owning her identity as a Muslim is crucial because it’s constantly being defined as a weakness in America.
“I see myself as a person who can strengthen this country because I bring so much to the table in terms of skills and diverse identities,” Zouani said. “To make sure those around me see these qualities as strengths, I need to represent myself in a confident and self-assured way.”