“I have been Muslim now for over 7 years, Alhamdoulillah. And yes, even though I am sharing a picture of myself without my headscarf, I am still Muslim,” Grout affirmed.
Rabat – Muslim American singer Jennifer Grout shared a lengthy statement with her followers on Monday, accompanied by a photo of herself not wearing the hijab. She used the post to express her feelings about social media pressure and to affirm that she is a Muslim even when she leaves her hair uncovered.
Published on Facebook on July 13, the over 400-word-long post tackles the issue of “unrealistic expectations” enforced by social media.
Jennifer Grout, a publicly Muslim singer who is known in the Arab world for singing in Arabic and for her sensational Quran recitations, began her post by acknowledging the controversy that her writing might cause.
“I know I’m probably going to get a lot of unfollows, bad comments, and hate messages for this post. But I have made peace with that,” she wrote.
“I had to take a break from social media for the sake of my own sanity. One of the reasons social media weighs down on me so hard is because I feel that I am constantly trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations of the community, and this has, on more than one occasion, led to me losing myself entirely,” the American singer continued.
Jennifer Grout attached a photo where she does not cover her hair — unlike the majority of her recent online appearances where she wears a hijab — and expressed her rejection of being seen as a Muslim role model simply because of her Quran recitations.
“I have been Muslim now for over 7 years, Alhamdoulillah. And yes, even though I am sharing a picture of myself without my headscarf, I am still Muslim,” she clarified.
“I am certainly not trying to discourage any woman from wearing [the headscarf]. But at the same time, it crushes my being every day to try to present myself as something I’m not, just because people are expecting me to be a role model, because I have a nice voice when I recite the Quran,” she continued.
The singer said she is honored to have been blessed with a “nice voice” and the ability to recite Quran. However, Grout stressed that the recitations do not define her and that she has other interests that she would like to share with her followers.
“I also feel the need to let my audience know and understand that the ability to recite does not define me… I have many other interests, for example I love to sing and write poetry, I love language, sports, dancing,” she wrote.
Jennifer Grout then expressed her unwillingness to treat social media platforms as a business and only adhere to the online community’s expectations: “I could treat this platform purely as my business, and stay in the box which I’ve let myself get trapped in. But that’s not my reality.”
“I am also an artist, a whole multi-faceted person, and this is the medium through which I am able to express myself and communicate,” she added.
At the end of her post, Jennifer Grout said that she hoped her words do not offend her followers: “I love you all and do not want to offend anyone; I remain Muslim to my core.”
“You may see me some days as you would like to see me. Other days you may see me as something you did not expect. I am very much imperfect, may Allah forgive us all,” the singer wrote.
Grout also urged people to stop defining people by how they appear without really knowing them, and reminding her audience that “the words of the Quran transcend whoever is reciting it” and that she is “merely a vessel, nothing more.”
Social media pressure antecedent
Jennifer Grout became a sensation in the Arab world in 2013 when she auditioned for the talent show “Arabs Got Talent” and reached the finals. After taking a break from singing, the singer made headlines in recent years thanks to her Quran recitations, earning the praise of hundreds of thousands of Muslims.
The reactions to her ascent to fame, however, were not always positive. In 2014, after posting a photo with her Moroccan husband, Grout received thousands of negative comments about her partner.
While many congratulated her, others criticized her husband’s physical appearance, saying that he was not a “good fit” for her and that she deserves someone who “looks better.”
The superficial criticism prompted a response from Grout. The singer shared a video speaking in Darija (Moroccan dialect), calling on people to see people beyond their appearances.
“If only people could see souls instead of faces, what would they see? If you could look into a mirror and see your soul, what would it look like? Remember we all grow old, we all die, and Allah is not fooled by makeup or fancy clothes,” she said.
“Muslim brothers and sisters, Moroccans, get over the idea that physical appearance is all that matters,” she added.
Today, the American-Moroccan couple live in the US and have one daughter named Qamar, the Arabic word for “moon.”