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Banana Republic hijab stirs debate among some Muslims

Halima Aden on importance of uplifting women

Banana Republic is broadening its offerings to offer work and casual wear staples to people of different faiths by selling its own versions of a hijab, often worn by Muslim women. 

The retailer's "rectangular hijab" is available online only and on Thursday was marked down to $20 from its original price of $25. It's offered in black and leopard prints, while the fashion company also sells a "soft satin square hijab" in two colors for $16.

Online reviews of the items were mostly positive, however one customer noted that the styles were limited and pricey.  

"It is nice to see options for hijabis but we deserve natural fabrics and more options especially for these prices. Keep working on it and improve please, it is already getting noticed among hijabis!" a user named Lily Lily wrote. 

Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the council on American-Islamic Relations, sees the move as both a smart business decision and a positive sign for his community. 

"Retailers react to the market, and obviously people want to buy that particular product, or that's what Banana Republic believes," he said. "I think it's a healthy sign of inclusion and recognition of the growing American-Muslim market and it's a positive sign."

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A model wears one of Banana Republic's hijab designs. Banana Republic

Not everyone was happy with the collection, though. 

"While I LOVE that hijab is becoming more mainstream and applaud @bananarepublic for their efforts in inclusivity... I have to pause at the way it's portrayed," said Melanie Elturk, founder of high-end hijab retailer Haute Hijab, according to Emirates Woman.

At least one shot of the product showed a dark-skinned model wearing the hijab over a short sleeve shirt, showing her arms as opposed to covering them. Elturk suggested Banana Republic should have sought advice from a Muslim brand or group on how best to present the headscarf. 

Nike already sells a performance Nike Pro Hijab designed to be worn by Muslim athletes.

It makes sense for retailers to consider Muslim consumers: They are expected to spend $373 billion on apparel by 2022, according to the Global Islamic Economy report.

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