For social and financial gain, four University students mixed religion and culture into a $10,000 T-shirt business run out of a campus apartment.
Last summer Taqee Khaled, AbdulAziz Al-Salim and Rommy Ahmed started MuslimTees.com, a T-shirt company that aims to marry western fashion and Islamic messages while centering design and business practices around Muslim values.
MuslimTees uses original designs as well as licensed slogans. It screen-prints its T-shirts and then stores them at Al-Salim’s apartment until they are shipped.
Alumnus Khaled said he wants MuslimTees to be “socially profitable and financially profitable.”
“We are shooting for a wide demographic in terms of Muslim practices but want to remain innovative,” he said.
The shirt designs play on cultural and religious “idiosyncrasies” but are careful to not be offensive or violate religious values, Khaled said.
“We will lose a segment of customers if we don’t take Islam seriously and if we don’t take style seriously,” he said. “But we still want to carry a voice.”
The shirts cost around $16 and the company offers free shipping.
“We are trying to help our people,” finance senior Al-Salim said. “Making an honest profit is essential.”
Neuroscience senior Malaak Moussa bought her younger brother Zeyaad Moussa several shirts as a gift during Ramadan.
She had never seen anything like them, especially in Minnesota.
“They hit home in a good way by incorporating peaceful and good messages into the designs,” she said.
Malaak Moussa said the slogan “Bead It” was an effective coupling of American pop culture and the Islamic tradition of prayer with a string of beads.
The use of humor and edgy designs are important, said Khaled El-Sawat, a political science senior and marketing manager for MuslimTees.
For Muslim youth in the United States, it can be difficult to balance western and Islamic culture.
“The hardest struggle that American Muslims have is assimilating but not giving up their religious and cultural values,” Malaaka Moussa said.
Zeyaad Moussa said the T-shirt “Make Chai Not War” helps him to be proud of his identity during a period when Muslim Americans are often negatively depicted in the media.
“I am proud of who I am Ö a Lebanese American,” he said.
Second-year University medical student Muhamad Elrashidi said clothing is important to a culture that can be tailored to fit the Islamic faith.
“To be a Muslim doesn’t mean you have to dress like somebody that’s lived their life in the (Persian) Gulf states,” he said.
Some Muslims choose to express their Islamic identity in every aspect of their life, including how they dress, Elrashidi said. And for those who want to express their faith outwardly, MuslimTees offers a comfortable medium to bridge that gap and own “fabric for your faith.”
MuslimTees plans for its line to grow, expanding beyond short-sleeved T-shirts and creating long-sleeved shirts and styles for women based on demand.