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The Unwavering Thoughts of a Muslim in Media

My reflection as a creative on International Muslim Women’s Day

By Sania Ali

Much like the difficulty of holding hot coals in your hands, the Prophet (pbuh) said that there will come a time when holding onto your faith mimics this exact struggle.

Muslim Women’s Day is a day of celebration. It’s a day to put aside the political, personal, and social views society may hold of Muslim women and celebrate them for who they are. Despite the external and internal battles Muslim women fight at the hands of western society, they continue to be resilient and hold onto their faith in times of hardship. Muslim Women’s Day is a day to reflect, to share, and to find solitude in the unity our religion brings us.

As a Muslim woman set to graduate with a journalism degree this semester, I knew my journey in the pursuit of media as a visible minority would not be one free of hurdles. I vividly remember sitting down with my dad months before my undergrad began to have him share his genuine concerns on whether my hijab would stunt my capability to succeed in journalism.

I dismissed these concerns, hoping my love for speaking and standing on what I believe is one that would excel me in journalism and take away the focus from any preconceived notions an individual may find in me.

From the weather all the way to the outfits we wear, nothing is constant and my love for being a visible Muslim often varies. The most difficult part having to beat the stereotypical persona of visible Muslims being shy and conservative, which has never been a reflection of who I am. Usually, during the third conversation I have with someone, they mention “You aren’t who I thought you’d be.”

 In the midst of my four years of undergrad, I heavily pursued media and broadcast and found myself in front of the camera consistently. With this, I consistently trained myself to expect comments from individuals having an opinion about my hijab and the way I wore it. Although at the beginning I would obsess over the opinion strangers online had of me, over time I felt desensitized to it. It was difficult to know that no matter how much representation Muslim women could get, there will still be people who have their own biases and preconceived notions no matter what comes out of our mouths.

I found while working towards this degree that to some extent, my dad was right. I would have often noticed that I was the only hijabi in the room. This would lead to feeling the pressure to be louder and speak more, not only to be heard but simply to be seen. I always believed that I would create space for myself in areas that are not diverse, but through my time as a hijabi, I believe that space should be created for me. I should feel welcome in the areas I take space in and it shouldn’t be a consistent concern I hold for myself.

As time went on, I stopped entertaining spaces and people that made me feel like I had to overcompensate just to avoid fitting a specific mold. I pursued personal projects that fulfilled me and gave me the creative freedom and comfort to create professional experiences I knew would benefit me in the industry.

It brings a strange comfort to know I’m not alone in my experience of building my career as a hijabi. The concerns I hold unfortunately are shared amongst Muslim creatives who are navigating an industry that is not created with us in mind, in hopes that we will achieve something beyond performative and selective diversity, we persevere.

That being said, as time goes on Muslim women are finding ways to reflect their creativity in their own versatile ways. Representation is not only reflected through mainstream media but it is found in self-started businesses, in Muslim-led podcasts, Muslim creatives and in the women who walk the streets. 

Representation is the breath of relief a Muslim woman feels when she sees someone like her in a room that lacks diversity. Representation is when your non-Muslim manager sets up a prayer space for you because the last intern was Muslim too. As a media community, we view representation as the end goal, when it should be a way of life.

On this day, I reflect on the ways I’ve grown in the last four years of my degree. In the way I struggle to hold on to my faith but I inevitably do. In many ways, Muslim women, specifically visible, are set up for failure by society, but I refuse to write that story for myself. As the Quran taught us, “Surely with hardship comes ease” (94:5). On this day, a day that is meant only for Muslim women, we reflect on the journey it took to get there.


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