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March 14, 2002 Wearing their religion on their sleeve, a clothing line by Muslims



Muslim Gear

The Muslim Gear entrepreneurs, left to right, are Ahmad Hussain, Mubashir Jamal, Ali Meral and Suhail Niazi.

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Sigalit Hoffman

Five young Muslims are using fashion to spread awareness about Islam and to give something back to their community.

Concordia students Ahmad Hussain and Ali Merali joined up with Concordia graduates Khurum Ullah, Mubashir Jamal and Suhail Niazi to launch Muslim Gear, a new clothing line of T-shirts, sweatpants, sweatshirts and toques. But the company’s main purpose is not to get another new brand name into an already crowded market.

“It’s not just a logo; there’s a message behind it,” said 27-year old political science student Ahmad Hussain.

The group is trying to spread the message of Islam through its apparel. It prints phrases like “Islam, more than a religion, a complete way of life,” and “The hijab: oppression or liberation, I’ll decide” on its T-shirts, which cost $15. A hooded sweatshirt costs $30. Despite the clothing’s distinctive message, the five insist the line is geared to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

“We’re open for everybody to buy it,” said political science student Ahmad Hussain. “We don’t want to restrict it to Muslims.”

So far, the demand for Muslim Gear seems to be high. The entrepreneurs made $2,000 on February 2, the day they launched the new clothing line. The group sells their product at booths during school events, and is planning to donate their profits to the Montreal Muslim youth group.

“It doesn’t go into our pockets, it goes to the youth community,” Hussain said.

Though the young entrepreneurs launched the company just over a month ago, they already have plans for expansion.The men want to start manufacturing religious wear like the hijab, the headscarf worn by Muslim women, and they are also hoping to tap into the women’s market. They have already formed a committee of women to help steer the design of women’s apparel.

The company is a bold move for the students, most of whom do not have business background. Dawson student Mubashir Jamal is an exception. He runs Al Amin Entreprises, his own food distributing company. Suhail Niazi works as a systems administrator in the West Island.

The five tried to launch the company in 1997, but a lack of funding and experience forced them to put the project on hold. Despite their amibition to expand into different markets, and even different cities, they are proceeding with caution.

“We want to take baby steps. We don’t want to take big steps and fall,” Hussain said. This time, the group spent about seven months making sure the company would get off on solid footing.

“We had to do a lot of marketing,” Hussain said. “We had to design a logo that would be appealing to the crowd.” Ultimately, the company is a testament to the seven-year friendship between the five men.

“We do have a tight friendship,” Hussain said. “It’s not just a business relationship.”

Inquiries about Muslim Gear
can be directed to Mubashir Jamal at 582-3439.