British Woman Becomes First Judge In Western World To Wear Hijab
A woman in Britain has become the first judge in the western world to wear a hijab.
Forty-year-old Raffia Arshad, from Yorkshire, has risen through the legal ranks to become a deputy district judge on the Midlands circuit, and now hopes to use her success and platform to inspire more young Muslims.
Arshad has pursued a career in the law since she was 11, and has worked as a barrister before moving up to the bench.
She said that while the judicial office was looking to appoint someone to promote diversity, they were unaware of her choice to wear the hijab when she got the job.
Speaking to The Metro, she explained: "It's definitely bigger than me, I know this is not about me.
"It's important for all women, not just Muslim women, but it is particularly important for Muslim women."
Mrs Arshad has been in the legal practice for 17 years, working in private law. During that time she's specialised in Islamic law and dealt with cases involving children, forced marriages, and female genital mutilation.
The mum-of-three was the first member of her family to go to university, and has also written a well-regarded and influential text on Islamic family law.
Her appointment has been welcomed by the Lord Chief Justice, but Mrs Arshad said that the support and good wishes that she's received from other people has been 'far greater' for her to hear.
She continued: "I've had so many emails from people - men and women.
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"It's the ones from women that stand out, saying that they wear a hijab and thought they wouldn't even be able to become a barrister, let alone a judge."
During her career, she's been the victim of prejudice based upon her appearance, too.
In fact, she said that she's recently been asked by a court usher if she was a client, or an interpreter, and - bizarrely - if she was on a work experience placement.
She added: "I have nothing against the usher who said that but it reflects that as a society, even for somebody who works in the courts, there is still this prejudicial view that professionals at the top end don't look like me,"
Even her family have asked her not to wear her hijab for interviews because of the prejudices and attitudes that it provokes in some people.
Despite that, she's proud to wear it, and has refused to bow to pressure to take it off.
She explained: "I decided that I was going to wear my headscarf because for me it's so important to accept the person for who they are.
"And if I had to become a different person to pursue my profession, it's not something I wanted."
The joint heads of St Mary's Family Law Chambers spoke of their 'delight' at Mrs Arshad's appointment.
They said: "Raffia has led the way for Muslim women to succeed in the law and at the bar, and has worked tirelessly to promote equality and diversity in the profession.
"It is an appointment richly deserved and entirely on merit, and all at St Mary's are proud of her and wish her every success."
Featured Image Credit: St Mary's FLC