Sports Illustrated features first burkini girl

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A Somali-American supermodel has become the first Muslim model to appear in Sports Illustrated wearing a burkini.

Halima Aden is featured in its annual swimsuit issue in the swimwear which covers the entire body except the face, hands and feet.

“Young girls who wear a hijab should have women they look up to in any and every industry,” she told the BBC.

Halima Aden grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp, moved to the US aged seven and began wearing the hijab shortly after.

“We are now seeing politicians, business women, television reporters, and other successful hijabi women in visible roles and that is the message we need to be sending,” she said.

“The response has been incredible and I’m so honoured that Sports Illustrated has taken the step to showcase the beauty that modestly dressed women possess.”

Sports Illustrated, which has featured Tyra Banks and Beyonce on its front pages, is an American magazine with a predominantly male readership, and there was mixed reaction to the news.

One Twitter user commented: “If you’re going to wear the hijab and cover your skin – whether you think our religion calls for it or you want modesty – it is completely counterintuitive to strike a sexy pose in a magazine known for objectifying women.”

Another comment read: “I would get it if it were for a swimsuit catalogue for women to buy. But for a magazine specially made for men. It beats the whole purpose of the hijab.”

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On Instagram the cover generated more positive comments: “Amazed every year by the inclusivity efforts of the issue. This year is a new level.”

Another comment simply read: “Breaking boundaries baby!

 In 2017 Halima Aden became the first hijab wearing model to appear on the cover of a major US magazine

In a BBC interview in 2017 the model described her hijab as her “crown” and explained how designers were reacting to a woman’s right to choose: “It’s almost surprising we haven’t seen a hijab-wearing model. It should be normal, it shouldn’t be any different to any other model.”

That same year she became the first hijab-wearing model to appear on the cover of a major US magazine.

The editor-in-chief of Allure, Michelle Lee, told the BBC the magazine was intensely proud of Halima and its July 2017 cover.

“America is, and always has been, a melting pot. The picture of American beauty is so diverse today, and Halima has an incredible story.”

The burkini was originally designed by Aheda Zanetti, a Muslim Australian. Ms Zanetti said the intention behind the garment was to allow Muslim women to participate in the Australian beach lifestyle.

Image caption ‘Burkinis’ have been worn by lifeguards in Australia

“I wanted my girls to grow up to have that freedom of choice,” she said.

But the burkini remains controversial particularly in France where authorities in several French towns have proposed banning the garment, arguing it defies laws on secularism.

Reacting to the burkini controversy in France Ms Zanetti said: “What is it that they are trying to control? Why haven’t they given them the rights to go out and live a normal lifestyle?” she said.

“I should thank these people that have an opinion without actually listening to what women really want, and that is choices.”

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