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Women's Issues

“My Hijab instils British values in schools”

Wearing my hijab as a school teacher educates my students about British values and other cultures and religions.

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As a secondary school science teacher who wears the hijab, I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of schools – including a state all-girls school, a Catholic all-boys school and a state mixed school. In every school environment I have worked in, I have always been met with respect by both colleagues and students.

Anyone who has worked in a school environment will know that pupils are always intrigued to know more about the personal lives of the teachers around them. This often helps foster a positive relationship in the classroom, and helps students feel comfortable and confident in class. I have been asked numerous questions about my age, my education, my marriage, and (being a visible, hijab-wearing teacher) my faith. I tend not to shy away from questions about my faith. I see it as an opportunity to teach students about the realities of Islam (which are misconstrued in the media). 

The school I currently work at, in Surrey in the UK, has pupils from a predominantly white working-class background. Some of these pupils have never had the opportunity to openly ask Muslims questions about their faith. Since working here I have been asked questions such as: 

“Why do you wear a scarf miss?”

“Do you wear the scarf at home?”

“Why do Muslims pray five times a day?”

“Miss, are you doing Ramadan?”

And my personal favourite was from a student who had picked up the word “Mashallah” (an Arabic word indicating praise or approval which means ‘as Allah willed’) from TikTok and asked me what it means.

Children, by nature, are curious about the world around them. As teachers, we are here to develop that curiosity and understanding. This job is not limited to the subject we teach. If we have a look at the National Curriculum Framework in England (for KS1-KS4), one of the key aims of the curriculum is to provide “pupils with an introduction to the essential knowledge they need to be educated citizens”. The Department for Education has also highlighted the importance of promoting British values within schools, which states that all schools “have a duty to ‘actively promote’ the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”

Giving my non-Muslim students a safe space to ask me various questions about my faith and personal life allows them to see that, despite being a hijab-wearing teacher, they can relate to aspects of my life, which shows that I am not that different to them. This helps build a bridge between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, develops social integration and fosters those British values (of respect and tolerance) within students.

Hijab wearing teacher helping student
The hijab has a positive impact of society and helps foster tolerance and understanding

Having a hijab-wearing teacher also has another positive impact on Muslim students within schools.

The girls’ school that I worked at was a very diverse school in London, which had a large proportion of young Muslim girls. It was evident that being represented within the teaching staff, and having a teacher “like them” had a powerful impact on confidence, motivation, and (as a result) attainment. I noticed the ‘shy’ girls coming out of their shells, and starting to raise their hand more in class. It was also evident that they felt more confident talking about their culture and faith around non-Muslims. This phenomena exists across the globe, with the Center for American Progress reporting that an increase in diversity amongst the public school teaching force enhances student performance amongst students of the same background.

The power of representation is well known across all sectors of society. There was a particular incident at school where one of my colleagues, who was in charge of creating resources for PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) days, had mistakenly included some false information about arranged marriages and the Islamic Nikah (marriage contract). Upon seeing this, I was able to educate this particular colleague about Islam and remove misconceptions. This led to the colleague asking me to fact-check all the information on Islam she decided to use in her presentations in the future. As a school community, this led to all students and teachers within the school receiving the correct information about Islam and my culture. It is evident that both adults and children reap the benefits of representation.

It would be naïve to assume that Muslims in the workplace do not struggle because of their identity. However, it is only through becoming visible ambassadors of Islam that we can open up avenues to have positive, and educational conversations with those around us. The hijab is my identity as a Muslim woman. Being free to express my identity at work has enabled me to build strong relationships with both pupils and colleagues, which has made me the teacher I am today. We have a responsibility to make sure that all students feel the same confidence regarding their religion, culture, and identity within schools so that they can reach their potential and become ‘educated citizens’ of the future. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Human Rights

How are three countries in the Global South dealing with increasing femicide rates?

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A woman or girl is killed by someone in her family every 11 minutes. The Global South have recently been experiencing a spike in femicide rates, this can be due to several reasons: better reporting standards, the COVID-19 pandemic, or even more awareness about the issue on social media. Pakistan, Egypt, and Mexico have recently experienced a number of femicides.

Pakistan

The Pakistani Government came severely under pressure for the treatment of women throughout 2021 and that continues in 2022. Early this year, Aneesa and Arooj Abbas who lived in Spain were allegedly murdered by their husbands, uncle, and brother after they were forced to marry their husbands last year in Pakistan. The investigating officer said that “both the sisters were killed in the name of ‘honour’.” But this is not new to Pakistan. In 2016, Qandeel Baloch one of Pakistan’s first social media stars was murdered by her brother, Waseem Azeem, as he believed she brought dishonour to family because she would post photos and videos that broke strict social taboos within Pakistan.

At the time of Baloch’s case, a perpetrator’s sentence could be pardoned by their family. Even though Azeem was not pardoned by his family, this law was risky as it opened the gap for a murderer to walk free when most honour killings are agreed upon by the entire family. That same year, in October an anti-honour killing bill passed which guarantees a mandatory 25-year sentence for the perpetrator and removes the right of families to pardon the perpetrator. However, if the perpetrator is sentenced to death, then the family can pardon his sentence, but they will still need to serve a mandatory 25-year sentence.

Despite good progress within the country, much still needs to be done to protect women from violence and it starts with attitudes towards these issues. During the ‘rape epidemic’ last year, the Prime Minister at the time, Imran Khan was accused of being a ‘rape apologist’  because he said “If a woman is wearing very few clothes it will have an impact on the man unless they are robots. It’s common sense.”

Egypt

Like Pakistan, Egypt is no stranger to the poor treatment of women and the recent murder of 21-year-old university student, Naira Ashraf in Egypt proves that. Ashraf was murdered in broad daylight in front of her university by a classmate, Mohamed Adel because she had rejected his marriage proposal several times. Adel received a death sentence on 28th June 2022.

However, the situation would be very different if they were married. According to Egypt’s penal code Article 237 says “whoever surprises his wife in the act of adultery and kills her on the spot together with her adulterer-partner shall be punishment with detention instead of the penalties prescribed in Articles 234 and 236” meaning, husbands who kill their wives are sentenced, but their punishment is less severe than if the two were not married. Whereas, if a wife kills her husband, she will be given full sentence. This could have meant that Adel could have gotten a less severe punishment if he was married to Ashraf.

Therefore, severe improvement needs to be achieved in Egypt as it is an injustice for married men to face a less severe punishment if they murder their wife, this leads to women being exploited and not possess the ability to fight for justice. Human rights lawyer, Nehad Abo Komsan said: “As long as we do not take the complaints of young women seriously, and as long as we say that those fighting for women’s rights are emboldening girls and causing trouble, this will be the result.”

Mexico

Approximately 10 women are killed every day in Mexico and one of them on 9th April was Debanhi Escobar, an 18-year-old who was sexually abused and murdered. Her body was found later in a motel in Nuevo León. An initial government autopsy concluded that Escobar’s death was an accident, that she fell into a water tank and died from a single blow to the head. However, an independent autopsy concluded she was sexually abused and murdered. Mario Escobar, Debanhi Escobar’s father, requested the findings of the independent autopsy due to his distrust within the Mexican Government’s findings. No one has been sentenced until this day.

The Mexican Government have been accused of not handling this case well when the Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that the discovery of Escobar’s body in a motel “shouldn’t worry” Mexicans as it “happens everywhere”.

There is a lack of trust by the public as they believe femicide cases will not be taken seriously by the Mexican authorities. Mario Esobar stated “My daughter is dead and I don’t know what to do…I’m angry at myself for trusting the authorities of Nuevo León. I made a mistake.”

The current Mexican Federal Penal Code (CPF) makes femicide illegal (Article 325) by sentencing the perpetrator forty to sixty years in prison. However, as Mexico is split into 32 states, states can individually regulate and classify crimes as they deem appropriate.

Furthermore, the President of Mexico has been criticised for not doing enough to protect women from violence before they could potentially face murder as he cut the national budget for the federal women’s institute in 2020 by 75%. Alongside this, the President proposed to stop funding all together towards women’s shelters. He has also been criticised for calling most of the domestic violence phone calls – the Mexican hotline receives – as “fake” however, he has not presented any evidence to support his claims.

The laws of these three countries inadequately protect women from violence. To decrease femicide rates you need to have adequate laws to protect women from violence before they face murder. Without sufficient laws, women are not properly protected. However, achieving protective laws can take time to attain, the first step is to change attitudes of those who are in power.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

The End of Roe v. Wade Has Dangerous Consequences for Women’s Health

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When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, they did not just steal bodily autonomy from women, but also their future health. By overturning Roe, the Supreme Court has now put pressure on physicians prescribing life saving medications to women.

Abortion has now been banned in six states, and that number is likely to rise swiftly to 16 states. Twelve states have passed trigger laws. Some states have not completely banned abortions, however they have implemented gestational age limits on abortions. While other states have not decided whether or not to ban abortions, the courts and lawmakers will be deciding the fate of women. Only 20 states have abortion protections in place.

These new bans have also brought into question the future of birth control. Will states begin restricting or even outlawing birth control? Although Republicans have dismissed concerns about banning birth control, Democrats have been warning that it is a distinct possibility. Indeed, after Missouri’s strict new ban on abortion went into effect, one major hospital system in Kansas briefly stopped providing emergency birth control, even to victims of rape. 

But the potential healthcare ramifications of these laws do not end there. Many drugs cause birth defects in pregnant women, which raises the question: If women cannot legally terminate a pregnancy, can these drugs legally be prescribed to women of child-bearing ages in states with abortion bans?

“I believe that prescribing is going to become much more defensive and conservative,” rheumatologist Mehret Talabi told Medscape. “Some clinicians may choose not to prescribe these medications to patients who have childbearing potential, even if they don’t have much risk for pregnancy.”

Teratogens are medications which can cause birth defects. Many teratogenic medications include treatments for acne, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

“Doctors are going to understandably be terrified that a patient may become pregnant using a teratogen that they have prescribed,” Talabi said. “While this was a feared outcome before Roe v. Wade was overturned, abortion provided an escape hatch by which women could avoid having to continue a pregnancy and potentially raise a child with congenital anomalies.” “

Other physicians also shared their fears that doctors would now be wary of prescribing many medications, some of those with little data on pregnancy. 

Dr. Megan Clowse, a Duke University rheumatologist who works with women who are or wish to become pregnant, told Medcape: “Women who receive these new or teratogenic medications will likely lose their reproductive autonomy and be forced to choose between having sexual relationships with men, obtaining procedures that make them permanently sterile, or using contraception that may cause intolerable side effects..”

Dr. Clowse noted that many drugs commonly prescribed to patients with rheumatic diseases, including methotrexate, mycophenolate and cyclophosphamide, are linked to birth defects and loss of pregnancy.. 

“I am very concerned that young women with rheumatic disease will now be left with active disease resulting in joint damage and renal failure,” she said.

One of these drugs, methotrexate, is an effective cancer treatment and many rheumatic conditions, but has also been used to cause abortions. “If legislators try to restrict access to methotrexate, we may see increasing disability and even death among people who need this medication but cannot access it,” Dr. Talabi said.

Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist Dr. Sunanda Kane told Medscape she feared that several of the teratogenic medications used in her field to treat viral hepatitis, constipation and inflammatory bowel disease, would now be affected. While she said doctors in her field generally only prescribe medications with high teratogenic potential to women of childbearing age when they use multiple forms of birth control to prevent pregnancy, she noted that doctors may be less likely to prescribe such drugs if abortion is not available as a legal option. 

“The removal of abortion rights puts the lives and quality of life for women with rheumatic disease at risk,” Dr. Clowse added. “For patients with lupus and other systemic rheumatic disease, pregnancy can be medically catastrophic, leading to permanent harm and even death to the woman and her offspring. I am worried that women in these conditions will die without lifesaving pregnancy terminations, due to worries about the legal consequences for their physicians.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Women's Issues

In Overturning Roe v. Wade, Is America Ushering in a New Era of Political War?

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The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned its long-standing 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion and leaving millions of American women  with no legal access to the procedure. 

Roe v. Wade, which had been functional for the last 50 years, made abortion legal  nationally for pregnant American women in their first trimester. The Supreme Court’s new decision has removed this federal protection on abortion rights, giving states the sole right to allow or restrict abortions. 

Already, more than 12 states have passed trigger laws banning abortions. Another 20 states have plans to introduce new restrictions.

While the question of abortion’s legality is framed as a binary political issue to be fought between “pro-life” and “pro-choice” activists, abortion is ultimately a medical procedure, making it a decision that should be made by a pregnant woman and her medical care team informed by the health of a mother and child, current medical knowledge and the choice of the pregnant woman. This decision should strictly be maintained as an individual’s own right, rather than being used as a political football to gain votes. 

While many conservatives are rejoicing and celebrating the ruling — which marks the culmination of a decades-long effort by the so-called Religious Right to overturn Roe — women’s rights advocates across the country have been left distraught over the loss of abortion rights. Many protesters have taken to the streets, holding up signs and rallying against the ruling in cities from San Antonio to Boston.

With these new restrictions in place, many women might have to travel across state borders to get an access to abortion. They may also resort to the option of ordering abortion drugs online, even if it is considered illegal. Others may not be able to access abortions at all, even when medically necessary for a life-saving procedure. Indeed, abortion rights advocates fear the ruling may lead to an increase in maternal mortality, especially among low-income women.

In December 2021, the Supreme Court first heard the case that led to the justices tossing out Roe. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concerned the legality of a pre-viability ban on elective abortions in Mississippi.

The 1973 ruling was challenged by Mississippi’s Republican Attorney General, Lynn Fitch, who sought to uphold her state’s extreme ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy—even in cases of rape or incest.

According to Ms. Fitch, the 1973 ruling has “made women believe they had to pick: family or career, not both.” She framed the effort to overturn Roe as a fight of  ‘women’s empowerment’ which would give women the “option in life to really achieve your dreams, your goals, and you can have those beautiful children as well.”

The court ruled to uphold Mississippi’s ban with a vote of 6-3 by the conservative-majority court. It was ultimately a political ruling: Among the nine judges, six were appointed by Republican presidents. 

Three of the judges disagreed with the decision, asserting millions of American women have “lost a fundamental constitutional protection” today.

Democratic members of Congress have decried the decision made by the Republican-controlled Supreme Court as “cruel.” President Biden, too, has called on Congress to “restore the protections of Roe” through legislation. He argued that the court’s ruling takes the country toward an “extreme and dangerous path” and has urged the people to act with their vote, stressing that “this is not over.”

“This fall, Roe is on the ballot, personal freedoms are on the ballot,” Biden said. “The right to privacy, liberty, equality, they’re all on a ballot.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

From witch-hunting to testimonies: Gambia’s transition to democracy 

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52nd Independence Anniversary Celebrations and Inauguration of His Excellency Mr. Adama Barrow President of the Republic of The Gambia Saturday 18th February 2017 scaled

Transitioning to a democracy can be a difficult move particularly for a country that has experienced a violent past. For 22 years the Gambia was ruled by President Yahya Jammeh, known for human rights abuses, gender-based violence, harassment, torture and in particular, witch hunts, but was finally toppled by Adama Barrow in 2016. 

Witch hunting started in 2009 when President Jammeh claimed that the cause of his aunt’s death was witchcraft. As a result, several witch hunts took place throughout the country. Those who were suspected of witchcraft were forced into detention centres where they would be stripped naked and beaten until they would confess that they had carried out murders using witchcraft. Additionally, they were forced to drink a herbal concoction which caused many to fall sick and some to even die. The elderly who were mostly suspected of witchcraft faced the worst of the beatings.

However, it was not just witch hunting that defined Jammeh’s leadership. Human rights abuses, the lack of freedom of press and harassment of political opponents shaped a significant amount of his leadership. Deyda Hydara, editor of the daily The Point newspaper, had previously spoken up against the dictatorial regime. In 2004 Hydara was killed in a drive by shooting. Despite many pointing their fingers at Jammeh, he denied any link to the murder of the respected journalist. But in 2019 as part of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), Malick Jatta, a member of the Junglers – a death squad known to have done the ‘dirtiest work’ for the former President – confessed to Hydara’s murder at the behest of Jammeh.

When the former President lost the 2016 election to Adama Barrow, a property developer who achieved a 45.5% majority compared to Jammeh’s 36.7% Jammeh refused to accept the result. However, he was forced into exile to Equatorial Guinea. 

Adama Barrow’s win has been a turning point for the Gambia. He was the first President to start the country’s transition to democracy and freedom after Jammeh. Barrow was a favourite and was easily re-elected in December 2021 with a 53% majority. Under his Presidency, Barrow established the TRRC and hearings began in January 2019. It was set up to seek justice and a sense of peace for the victims of Yahya Jammeh. The commission included a large number of testimonies with hundreds of victims and perpetrators stating their personal accounts on what had taken place under the 22 years of the dictatorship. 

Alongside the TRRC,, the UN has supported 2,000 victims through the Victim Participation Support Fund. The fund provides ‘psychosocial support and essential medical interventions’. Furthermore, approximately 30 people who testified during the TRRC were provided with witness protection. The TRRC concluded on 28thMay 2021 and was a way to close the door on Gambia’s traumatic past. Despite the conclusion of the commission, many Gambians to this day live in fear as the reward promised for those who confessed to crimes under Jammeh and who were previously part of the Junglers, was release from jail. This decision not only stops victims achieving justice but also gives them a life where they will continually live in fear. Many of Jammeh’s ‘henchmen’ remain in positions of authority in the Gambia including in the army, the Government and the national intelligence service ensuring victims remain uneasy. Yahya Jammeh may have left and lost his power over the Gambia, but the harsh impact of his rule still lingers within many people today.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

World Watches as the United States Supreme Court Abolishes a Woman’s Right to an Abortion

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  • The United States’ top justices voted to eliminate the constitutional right to an abortion, a law that had been in place for over 50 years.
  • The closely watched decision was heralded by some and derided by others, depending on their position on the controversial concept of a woman’s right to choose for her own body.
  • With the abolition of the constitutional right, it is expected that many states in the U.S. will implement near total bans of abortion rights, while other states such as California, Oregon and Washington have reaffirmed their commitment to preserve the right to an abortion.
  • Planned Parenthood, the advocacy face for abortion rights, is mobilizing around the country to bolster and increase services in those states that will preserve the right, and engage voters in those states that plan to abolish the right.

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All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Women's Issues

10 Successful Muslim Women Who Wear The Hijab

For centuries, successful Muslim women have pioneered systems and institutions while wearing the hijab, and they still do so today.

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The Hijab, or the Muslim head covering is always met with hostility and scrutiny. Oppression and illiteracy is what it represents, according to the common stereotype against it. But successful Muslim women around the world are smashing those tropes!  

For centuries, successful Muslim women have pioneered systems and institutions while practicing their faith-prescribed veils. For example, the first ever university was built by a Hijab wearing woman, Fatima al-Fihri, in Fez, Morocco.

For many successful Muslim women the Hijab isn’t an obstacle in their paths, but it is the veil which keeps them safe as they break the proverbial glass ceiling. In fact, many Hijabi Muslim women who have made it to the height of their success continue to speak passionately about protecting the rights of Muslim women everywhere who choose to wear it in schools and workplaces. 

Here are 10 of those women changing the world.

Nusrat Sharif, Pfizer Senior Scientist

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Muslim Hijabi scientist, Nusrat Sharif, works as a Senior Scientist at Pfizer 

Towards the end of 2020, after the height of the pandemic, the release of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine seemed to be just the light we needed to return back to a normal life. Working with Pfizer as an inflammation & immunology specialist, a Muslim Hijabi scientist, Nusrat Sharif, serves as a Senior Scientist. 

In aiding the world with her research, her Hijab has never caused her to perform less successfully than her peers — nor has her performance ever declined because of her choice to wear a Hijab.

In a one-on-one interview with AnalystNews, Sharif, who topped her class in her PhD program, said: “I think the Hijab empowers me everyday to be a strong leader”.

Upon moving to the United States from India, Sharif went to visit many university campuses to decide on her higher education. She recalls one of the male students on campus yelling to her as she took a tour: “Take off your Hijab!” She says that in the heat of the moment, the only response that registered in her mind was to yell back was: “Never!”

She knew there and then that if people would try to make the Hijab a challenge for her, she would conquer it.

Sharif described her interview process with Pfizer, saying, “He [the director] was so impressed that a Muslim woman in a Hijab came so far.” She then had the opportunity to explain to him the true meaning of her religious garment.

Sharif had been working at Pfizer for some time, when she had an encounter with a new colleague who was an Arab Muslim woman. The woman told Sharif: “You can’t survive in a corporate world in purdah (veiling)”. The stereotypes around Hijabs not only impact societal perception of Muslim women, but the perception of Muslim women about themselves.

Sharif realised that not only did her Hijab dispel myths for non-Muslims, but it could also re-empower Muslim women who feel distraught when they have to pick between two identities (corporate vs religious). Her identity shows that you can be both, but more importantly, be great at both.

About the nature of the French Hijab ban, she says it has the opposite effect on trying to create equality in society. She also says forcing the Hijab makes no sense either. “Extremists on both sides are not good. Muslim women should have the freedom to decide that they want to do.

Khola Hübsch, Journalist

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Khola Hübsch on a German political talk show

A common misconception about the Hijab is that it prevents Muslim women from being free to communicate and make public appearances. But for Khola Hübsch, a German journalist, her Hijab actually helped her succeed in her career. The Hijab never got in the way of her success — in fact, she is most often known as the face of Muslim women in Germany, and that could be accredited to how her Hijab has made her visible.

For her, the Hijab never impeded on the quality of her education either. Khola feels that in many instances, her choice to wear a Hijab was guided by her Islamic faith. For some women, it is not just about opportunities, but the freedom to practice their faith. Keeping that choice for Muslim women is essential.

Munazza Alam, Astronomer

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Munazza Alam giving a presentation for National Geographic Education

One such example is a National Geographic Young Explorer, and renowned astronomer, Munazza Alam. The Harvard Graduate has worked on projects like the observation of atmosphere on exoplanets. It means she gets to work closely with large teams, and advanced equipment like the Hubble Space Telescope, one of the world’s most versatile telescopes. 

In an interview, while commenting on her Hijab, Alam says, “I have operated telescopes at national observatories, presented at conferences, and met with Nobel Prize winners in my full purdah [veiling] in venues all over the world.

“I do not shake hands with men and I have found this practice to be especially effective for setting a physical boundary from the start with the non-related men I meet. I have met some people who believe that doing purdah or refusing handshakes might disadvantage women from opportunities in their careers, but I have not found this to be the case in my experience. I have never felt that doing purdah has hindered my ability to be a professional scientist in any way. In fact, many people have told me that they admire my courage and respect me more for doing purdah even though it sets me apart in professional settings.”

Throughout her education and practice, the Hijab has served as a mark that sets her apart from her colleagues, and is something she is admired for, thanks to the acceptance of those around her.

“We live in a world today in which society is moving toward being more inclusive of people from all different backgrounds, which includes Muslim representation in STEM and other fields. Moreover, we have a right to dress in our purdah as Muslim women and discrimination against it is illegal. We should not be afraid to show the world who we are.” 

The challenges she faces don’t come from the Hijab itself, but by bullying and discrimination because she chooses to wear it. Alam shared with Carnegie Science that, “Once I visited an institute to give a research seminar and at the end of the talk, I was approached by a faculty member who harassed me about my headscarf.” The situation was later settled, with the woman understanding why her reaction was uncalled for. But the Hijab itself never became a factor that dimmed the light of Munazza Alam.

Nusrat Haq, Lawyer

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Purdah has always been a part of my outward image”

Muslim women have also successfully ventured deep into the field of law, proving that their Hijab does not get in the way of pursuing prestigious fields. Oxford alumni, Nusrat Haq graduated with a degree in law and now practices Corporate Law in Melbourne, Australia. While sharing her thoughts in an interview, Haq said that, “At the end of the day, purdah [veiling] doesn’t hold you back from anything in my view.”

“Having started purdah in my early teens, it feels as though purdah has always been a part of my outward image. Perhaps that brings with it a sense of confidence in wearing purdah, but I consider the ease with which I view purdah to be another one of the more fortunate aspects of my life.

Personally, I see purdah as one of the easiest forms of religious compliance. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s just the ease that comes with it. At university, I just put on my niqab and coat and run out of the door to the library or lectures!”

For most successful Muslim women, the support that they receive in their decision to wear the Hijab, from their peers and colleagues is ultimately what helps them on the journey of success.

Asked whether she faced and difficulties because of the hijab, she said:

“No, I haven’t faced any challenges at work or work events due to purdah and I’d echo my comments from your earlier question. There is so much awareness and training given to people at work these days, hiring and senior managers in particular, that I think it’s easier than ever for Muslim women to participate in the workforce and work events. It’s well understood that, ultimately, it’s to the employer’s benefit to ensure an inclusive workplace.”

Ayesha Noor Rashid, Entrepreneur

For some successful Muslim women, like Ayesha Noor Rashid, the Hijab is not just a tool of self-empowerment, but also a way to empower others. Rashid runs a small business, Equal Entrance, where she sells scarves, among other apparel, with quotes meant to give the wearer a boost of empowerment.

She says about the Hijab ban in France that, “Muslim women will either be forced to let go of their values or will gradually vanish away behind the closed doors of their homes.” But as a Hijabi herself, she believes Muslim women breaking the barriers is important because “representation matters.” To change the outlook of a whole new generation, Hijabi women must not be afraid of rising to the top because of what society makes them believe.

Amnah Khan, Bone Cancer Researcher

Amnah Khan, a bone cancer researcher, has had experiences with the Hijab where she feels as though the Hijab never got in her way. She has pioneered a method of bone cancer treatment that aims to use products found in insects to age the cancer cells and allow them to die naturally. 

Khan says that the results are promising, for a future where bone cancer becomes easier to treat once identified. Her motivation for her work comes from Islam itself, and while adorning the veil, she has been met with many great opportunities, thanks to how accepting everyone around her has been.

Ilhan Omar, Politician

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Ilhan Omar is the first Hijabi woman in the U.S Congress. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

Breaking through barriers as the first Hijabi woman in the United States congress, Ilhan Omar says that her Hijab allows her to be a representation for her faith. In an interview with Vogue Arabia, she said, “To me, the hijab means power, liberation, beauty, and resistance.” To her, it is a celebration, not a form of oppression.

For women of all walks of life, and for Muslim women whose choices are often taken control of by society, Omar says, “We are deserving and we don’t need permission or an invitation to exist and to step into our power.”

Maria Mensah, Construction Designer Manager

Muslim women not only breakthrough in the maths, sciences and laws, but they’ve also made a mark in construction. From the Islamic Golden Age, Queen Amina of Zaria is known for building the fortified walls that protected her country (current day Nigeria) from danger. 

Maria Mensah pursues another field of construction — creative design — that allows her to bring uniqueness to urban buildings, while wearing the Hijab. Mensah has always felt as though her Hijab added to her recognisability in the industry, helping propel her forward instead of drag her back.

She says: “At University, I had the room to grow based on the Islamic principles I wanted to live by but had found difficult to adopt earlier. I also saw University as a test run to the ‘adult’ world and I am glad that I made the decision to go with it. Wearing the hijab was a constant reminder that I am an Ahmadi Muslim and therefore needed to behave like it. It helped me a lot to navigate the university social life and have fun while sticking to my principles.”

Her latest project is working on the Marylebone Square in London, England.

Raffia Arshad, Court Judge

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The first Hijab-wearing judge in the United Kingdom – Credit: St. Mary’s Family Law Chambers

Raffia Arshad made headlines when she became the first Hijab-wearing judge in the United Kingdom. That barrier she broke was for all the Hijabi women who society has convinced that their Hijab could not allow them to attain success.

She says, “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.” There is nothing Hijabi women need to change about themselves, but instead it is society that needs to change its perceptions on them.

Amani Al Hosani, Nuclear Scientist

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Photo Credit: Dean Calma / IAEA

A United Arab Emirates nuclear scientist, Amani Al Hosani, achieved everything that she did while wearing the Hijab. But her status as a Hijabi never stood in the way of her status as an asset for her nation. 

Her slogan to dream big carried her to great heights, and the Hijab always served as her rope forward and never as something that tied her down. 

In a society that is quickly evolving, successful Muslim women have pioneered many advancements themselves. But one thing that is leaving society stuck in the past is the judgment it is so quick to pass on women who choose to have control over what they wear.

The Hijab, to successful Muslim women globally, is a symbol of their commitment to their God and to their religion.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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I am a student from Ontario, Canada, and an aspiring journalist. I enjoy reading, writing and learning about the world around us - the issues with it and how we can make it a better place.

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