As part of research for our trend report “The New Muslimah: Southeast Asia Focus,” The Innovation Group and J. Walter Thompson Kuala Lumpur interviewed young Muslim women entrepreneurs, musicians and influencers on video. They speak frankly of issues around identity and perception, how they view themselves and how the world views them, and who should get to decide.

This is a generation that is highly connected, ambitious and travels widely. Unlike their mothers, the majority of whom went bareheaded in their youth, the vast majority today wear the hijab, or Muslim headscarf, as society in this part of the world—taking its cue from the Arab world—moves to a more conservative form of Islam.

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Sarah Shah Nor

So they are more conservative than older generations, while at the same time more cosmopolitan as consumers. These two trends—more global, more Islamic—are playing out across sectors from food to beauty to fashion to banking to technology and travel, presenting opportunities and challenges to brands.

The young women in our video spoke of busting stereotypes, the pressure to conform and the role of social media. They also spoke of entrepreneurial opportunities brought about by the rise of “modest” Muslim fashion and beauty.

“Our statement is that you can be a Muslim, but you also can be fashionable, you can still be beautiful, you can still wear make-up, you can still be a career woman,” says Dahlia Nadirah Juhari, founder of online beauty retailer Solek.

They also spoke of the challenges in pursuing non-conventional paths.

Takahara Suiko, founder of the electropop band The Venopian Solitude, says fans often do a double-take when they see what she looks like after listening to her music.

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Takahara Suiko

“People don’t expect this kind of music to come from someone who wears a tudung [hijab],” says Suiko, who uses a Japanese pseudonym and often performs with a toy xylophone. They expect, she says, “a quirky person like Bjork.”

Then there are the rebels. Maryam Lee, an activist who recently stopped wearing the hijab she had worn since she was a young teen, talks about the backlash she encountered and questions why society should judge a woman’s honor by whether her hair is covered or not. “There’s just so much value being put on this piece of cloth,” she says.

Here are two edited segments:

Muslimah Speak: On Identity

Featuring: Sarah Shah Nor, founder of Modvier, a modest fashion boutique; Dahlia Nadirah Juhari, founder of online make-up retailer Solek; Izrin Ismail, managing director of fashion house Innai; Takahara Suiko, indie musician and activist.

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Muslimah Speak: On the Hijab

Featuring: Sarah Shah Nor, founder of Modvier, a modest fashion boutique; Dahlia Nadirah Juhari, founder of online make-up retailer Solek; Izrin Ismail, managing director of fashion house Innai; Takahara Suiko, indie musician and activist; Maryam Lee, activist.

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These entrepreneurs and influencers are also featured in our trend report “The New Muslimah: Southeast Asia Focus.

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