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Fashion show features world cultures

By | May 03, 2012 | Special Sections

The Punjab Sikh Awareness Society and the Muslim Student Association hosted an interfaith/multicultural fashion show at Fresno State on April 27 as a part of diversity awareness week.

The show displayed a variety of fashions representing different religious and cultural backgrounds. Fashions from India, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Vietnam and Laos were included in the show. The different religions represented included Sikhism, Islam and Hmong animism.

Each garment was distinctive; embroidery and various head coverings were seen in outfits from the Middle East while the Indian fashions showed a wide range of color and beading. On the Hmong clothing hung silver coins, and from Vietnam, patterned silk.

Anhad Gujjar, a 21-year-old biology student and president of the Punjab Sikh Awareness Society, helped come up with the idea of the fashion show as a way to bring together different ethnic groups.

“We wanted to use fashion as the theme that will help people better understand different faith groups,” she said. “It’s a fun and entertaining way for people to understand that people are different. Clothing shows that.”

She also said that using Fresno State student volunteers as the models allowed the audience to appreciate this diversity not just globally, but within their own campus as well.

Shireen Mohammed, a 21-year-old liberal studies student at Fresno State, chose to model customary Palestinian clothing that day.

“I was excited to represent my culture,” she said. “I did it because I have pride in my tradition.”

Mohammed and 24 other models walked the runway to traditional Indian, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian music.

Mohammed said the music brought life to the show’s various cultures.

After the show, Rahuldeep Gill, assistant professor of religion at California Lutheran University, spoke about the cross between religion and culture and his own experiences as a Sikh American growing up in Boston. He said the fashion show emphasized the ideas of embracing diversity and breaking stereotypes.

“It’s a really efficient way to make the point that it’s impossible to stereotype a certain group of people — religious or cultural  — because of all the beautiful diversity within any of those groups,” he said.

Gujjar agrees.

“We hope that people will realize after the show that being different isn’t a bad thing, and that we all have to come together to respect and appreciate those differences,” she said.

Dr. Gill also said that the fact that both Sikh and Muslim clubs worked together to put on the event is significant.

“It is an important statement to make on a public university campus like this,” he said. “To say, ‘hey, we’re here. We’re going to work together — Sikhs, Muslims and others to put on a beautiful event.’ That’s very important.”

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