Mariam Chami spreads her hands in front of the camera, drawing a rainbow. He smiles and explains that he does not bathe with the hijab, the Islamic veil that covers his hair. Then, the 30-year-old Brazilian starts dancing. “Just like you don’t bathe in your clothes,” he wrote.
With humorous videos like this, Chami talks about Islam to his 370,000 followers on Instagram. He does not discuss dogma or quote passages from sacred books. Instead, it emphasizes the similarities between religions. The message, in short, is that she is Brazilian like the others. “Information that will shock: we showered naked!” He jokes on the page.
Chami is the daughter of a Lebanese migrant and a minor who converted to Islam. She lives in Florianópolis with her husband and son. After graduating in nutrition, she became a businesswoman and owns the Lambuzza ice cream parlor – a play on the Arabic word “buza”, which means ice cream.
She started talking about Islam when she realized that she was gaining more and more followers on the social network. Most of them were not Muslims and were curious about the life of a woman who follows Islam in a predominantly Christian country.
Chami answers questions in funny, sometimes sarcastic videos. Much of the doubt concerns the veil. Followers want to know why she is covering her hair, if she can take off her veil in front of her husband and if she can shower with him – hence the video.
There is no intention to convince or convert anyone, he says. “The goal is to demystify, to explain what Islam is.” Halfway through, eliminate some of the stereotypes that still hurt women like her. “People think that the Muslim woman has no voice, that she cannot study, that she is submissive, that her husband is sovereign,” she said. She suffered from it herself. He says, for example, that he struggled to find a job after graduating because he wore the Islamic veil.
She became a businesswoman and an influencer. He found a space on Instagram to talk about taboos. In this network, Chami says that he rarely deals with virtual attackers, the so-called “haters”. “People are very loving, polite. They want to learn. Deconstruct yourself. “
Shadia Salamah is another who shares the routine with her followers – there are 235,000 on TikTok. She is, in fact, related to Chami, the wife of one of her cousins. At 18, Salamah had to convince her parents to let her use social media so much while preparing for the college entrance exam. “It was a little hard to get my dad to understand the importance of what I was doing, which wasn’t just for me. Then he saw that I could also study.
Like Chami’s, its audience is almost entirely non-Muslim. For this reason, part of his publications is didactic. He recently explained why women tend to pray behind men. Out of respect, he said. The Muslims bow, put their heads on the ground, their knees on their chest. “Can you imagine having to be in this position in front of men you don’t know?”
The focus of Carima Orra, another Brazilian Muslim in the networks, is different: in her posts, she hardly touches on religious themes. “I prefer to show day in and day out, because that’s what people want to see. They want to know if everything they hear is true, ”he says. She is the mother of three boys and has 158,000 followers – 90% non-Muslims, according to her account. “I am not an expert, I am just religion. So I’m even a little afraid to say anything, because I represent millions of Muslims to this audience, ”he explains.
She says she has been the target of religious intolerance, but that on social media, the attacks are much less intense. “At the time of September 11, it was very bad. They called me a suicide bomber. Today, I feel that it has decreased, people have less prejudices, ”he says.
Besides Chami, Salamah and Orra, another Brazilian Muslim has attracted followers on the networks: Alagoas Iris Cajé, 32, who lives in Saudi Arabia. But she has a more reserved approach. On YouTube and Instagram, he talks less about his life. Focus on Saudi customs.
Two years ago, she says, she noticed that there were several YouTube channels about the Middle East, focusing only on negative issues like terrorism and religious extremism. “I thought: why not take advantage of the fact that I am here and can I speak properly from day to day?”
Cajé has lived in Mecca – Islam’s holiest city – since 2014. He had met a Saudi during an exchange in New Zealand. He left law school, converted to Islam, married him and had two children. He says the conversion was not due to his influence, but to a friend, another Brazilian. He had had a Catholic education.
Like the others, Cajé says that one of the channel’s goals is to change the way people think about the lives of Muslim women. “I want to end this thing that the Saudi woman is just a decorative object, that she can’t do anything,” she said. And she does it in a very good mood.
In a recent post, she shows a photo of her husband in traditional Saudi dress. Imitating a video that went viral on the internet, she says she even said “you won’t drink this water” when she met him. Next, she shows footage of herself veiled in Saudi Arabia. “I drank water, I drowned in the water, I showered in the water, I live on a continent submerged in water, I bought a swimsuit and I told my friends to call me Aquaman now. “