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Hijab Cosplayers Finding Balance Between their Passion and Islam's Boundaries

By Johnson Ge
Aug. 12, 2022 updated 07:20

Cosplay participated an important role in the ACGN subculture. The enthusiasts dressed like the fictional characters with makeup and customized outfits to show their love. Normally, it is easy to participate as a cosplayer. But in many people’s minds, it could be extremely hard or even impossible for muslin girls due to the religious boundaries.

In areas with stricter requirements, female Muslims must cover their bodies with black robes; in areas with looser requirements, wearing a headscarf named “Hijab” covering hair and neck is the basis.

It seems cosplay is impossible for them until someone invented “Hijab Cosplay”.

Photo of a Hijab cosplayer cosplayed Rem and Ram. Photo of a Hijab cosplayer cosplayed Rem and Ram.

The Hijab Cosplay is a bold attempt that first appeared in 2010. The idea of Hijab Cosplay is a special method of cosplay that try their best to imitate the character without violating religious restrictions. Since the hair color and hairstyle are key appearance features of an anime character, a proper wig plays an important role in cosplay.  However, the Hijab cosplayer is using a modified Hijab to imitate the character’s hair instead of wigs. 

At first, the Hijab Cosplayers were simply wearing Hijab of different colors. And due to other restrictions like they are not allowed to expose skin except their hands in public. The best they could do is try to mimic the character “roughly similar” and ignore many details. 

A photo of a comparison between the Hijab cosplayer and the original character. A photo of a comparison between the Hijab cosplayer and the original character.

Years later, with their skills improved, some Hijab Cosplayers became popular. 

They were using their Hijab in more creative ways. For example, using it to imitate long hair.

A photo of a cosplayer named Yuihara cosplayed Amiya from Arknights. A photo of a cosplayer named Yuihara cosplayed Amiya from Arknights.

Or warp it into twin tails.

A photo of a cosplayer named Ayunura cosplayed Itsuka from Date A Live. A photo of a cosplayer named Ayunura cosplayed Itsuka from Date A Live.

Furthermore, experienced Hijab Cosplayers shared their skills online and made guides for others. As a result, many people started to know the Hijab Cosplay and it has become popular among Muslim anime enthusiasts.

Several photos of Hijab cosplayers in multiple anime events. Several photos of Hijab cosplayers in multiple anime events.

In April 2017, there was a Hijab cosplay event held in Malaysia, and around 20 Muslim cosplayers participated in the event. Hijab cosplayers showed more frequently at other anime conventions as well. 

A young Indonesian Muslim cosplayer was dressed as the Kamen rider Gaim in a hijab cosplay eventA young Indonesian Muslim cosplayer was dressed as the Kamen rider Gaim in a hijab cosplay event

At this moment, the female-only cosplay group Hijabcosplay.com or Hijabcos has over 200 members in total. They listed several rules of the Hijab cosplay so that the cosplayer will not go against the Islamic way of life. For example, the cosplayers should cover the complete body except for the face and the hands up to the wrist, and they should choose a white color instead of skin color to avoid resembling the body. Those basis and cosplay guides helped the cosplayers seek their personal interests while not violating the Islamic way. 

The basics of Hijab Cosplay are shared by Hijabcosplay.com.The basics of Hijab Cosplay are shared by Hijabcosplay.com.

Ad Diena Islamy Haq, a female cosplayer from Indonesia, said something similar in an interview: "Usually, I cosplay the characters I like. So before cosplaying, I study the characters, research their various costumes online, then I choose the most covert costume and make sure that there are no religious or ambiguous attributes, such as a cross or shapes resembling a cross." 

A photo of the Islamic Otaku Community (IOC), an online community of Muslim anime enthusiasts. A photo of the Islamic Otaku Community (IOC), an online community of Muslim anime enthusiasts.

Though these Hijab cosplayers tried their best to balance their interests and religious boundaries, their actions are not fully accepted by many people. In 2016, an Indonesian researcher did an online survey of various Muslims ages 36 to 19 years old. 72% of the surveyee knew about Hijab cosplay and 40% of them did not agree with it. The disagreeing group mentioned that hijab cosplay is not by sharia or Islamic instruction on women’s clothes. Furthermore, they stated that hijab cosplay is only ruining manga and anime characters because of the way the hijab cosplayer appropriate hijab is perceived as not suitable.

That is the contradiction every Hijab cosplayer will face.

Thankfully, in recent years, the restrictions on religious clothing have been loosened in some regions. It gives Muslim cosplayers more freedom to enjoy their interests on social networks like Tik Tok and ins with others. They also hope they could help other Muslims, especially the ones in restricted regions, have the chance to enjoy similar freedom in the future. 

A gif from TikTok shows a cosplayer played as Aniya with Hijab. A gif from TikTok shows a cosplayer played as Aniya with Hijab.

Matsurikara, a popular Muslim cosplayer, encouraged other girls in an interview: “Cosplay is for everyone, regardless of race, age, and so on. Cosplay does not belong only to any one person, so anyone can do it.”

A photo of one of Matsurikara’s cosplay works shows she played as the Minion.A photo of one of Matsurikara’s cosplay works shows she played as the Minion.

Source: YYS