At a time when covering the head as a choice of practicing their religion by Muslim women is looked down upon as signs of oppression and pitied or caution, 40-year-old Raffia Arshad dented the image of Islamophobia by becoming United Kingdom‘s first hijab-wearing judge. After a 17-year career in law last week, the mother of three was appointed a deputy district judge on the Midlands circuit.Also Read - Beyond Pawandeep Rajan-Arunita Kanjilal! Indian Idol 12 Contestant Sawai Bhatt Struggling With Stability, Read on

Fearing that her ethnic minority background would be a major hindrance in the profession she had been dreaming of since she was 11, Arshad recalled how in 2001 her family dissuaded her from wearing her hijab to an interview for a scholarship at the Inns of Court School of Law. Speaking to news agency Metro, she shared, “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. So I did, and I succeeded in the interview. I was given a considerable scholarship. I think that was probably one of the most profound first steps in my career. It was a solid “yes, you can do this”.” Also Read - Scotland Detects 6 Omicron COVID Variant Cases, UK Total at 9

Arshad rose to have a successful career as a barrister and practiced in private law children, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and any cases with Islamic law issues while also becoming the author of a leading text in Islamic Family Law. She told the daily, “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. I’ve had so many emails from people, men and women. It’s the ones from women that stand out, saying that they wear a hijab and they thought they wouldn’t even be able to become a barrister, let alone a judge.” Also Read - Tamil Nadu Govt Issues Advisory to Districts Over Omicron Variant Threats

Narrating the incident where she was mistaken for a client or interpreter by an usher while in the courtroom, Arshad highlighted the prejudice and discrimination faced often, saying, “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.”

Adding another feather to her cap of success by creating history on becoming UK’s first hijab-wearing judge, Arshad revealed that she wishes to use her platform “to make sure the sound of diversity is heard loud and clear”. While her wealth of experience came to little help in battling ethnic discrimination, Arshad also feels that there is a lack of confidence hindering women’s growth. She opined, “I think one of the things that holds women back is Imposter Syndrome. There are many times I’ve been in a courtroom and I suddenly think: ‘Am I good enough?’”

However, claiming her own sense of responsibility to champion diversity while the judicial office is doing its utmost to promote inclusion, Arshad said, “‘Now it’s up to me to be that voice for them, to make sure the sound of diversity is heard loud and clear and that it gets to the appropriate places.”

Gushing over the newly appointed judge, the Joint Heads of St Mary’s Family Law Chambers, Vickie Hodges and Judy Claxton told the news agency, “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.”