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Challenging Hijab & A Young Kashmiri Muslim Girl

YASMEEN KHAN

Mother says that from an early age of 4, I used to pull her headscarf and wear it on my own head in an inappropriate manner. Taking out all her dupattas and wrap them on the head of my toys was a routine thing. It was not something unusual but a significant reality that I witnessed from the very first day of my birth. I always saw my mom, aunt and all other ladies in my hometown in proper hijab.

Something that had been a part of culture as per my knowledge soon became part of my life after being sent to a leading Islamic school of Kashmir valley. It was not something unusual for me because living in a Muslim dominated state won’t make you feel odd for wearing a hijab.

The idea of wearing hijab was so common that nobody in Kashmir debated on topics like “Hijabi Muslim Girl”. After I completed my bachelors degree in Journalism from Kashmir, I worked for many news organizations with zero degree of compromise on my dressing code.

Within few months, my fate landed me at Jamia Millia Islamia for Masters Degree in Mass communication. I saw a different environment in Delhi but managed the balance. People were good but there misconceptions were not. After two months of struggle and busy schedule, I along with a female friend of mine went to a mall in Delhi for shopping.

The frisking method in Delhi was so biased that my friend passed in with a formal check and I was frisked twice only because of my hijab.

After moving a bit further, my friend cracked a joke and asked me that I should have told them the famous dialog “I am a Muslim but not a terrorist”. I gave her a smile and tried to cut short such discussion as being advised by the elders.

“You look more beautiful without hijab” was a daily comment I heard from people in the campus and passing a sarcastic smile at them was a routine. I met lot of people who were of the ideology that wearing hijab makes you low. Some even argued that hijab is mostly done by poor class and people wearing hijab do not fit in modern societies.

After my semester exams were over, I went to a big news organization along with a freelancer friend of mine. I met few renowned people there and we exchanged our ideas and thoughts. The major heartbreak came when a very famous correspondent called me and told me that you are experienced but no news channel will hire you because you are a ‘hijabi’. Soon after this, my whole world started falling apart. It felt like all my dreams were crushed by this cruel reality.
For a week, I was thinking about the same thing. To clear my mind, I called a journalist friend of mine and narrated her whole incident. She was of the opinion that hijab will make you struggle a lot if you want to work in Delhi only. After such a disappointing statement, I tried to cut short the conversation.

With lot of insecurities in my head, I gave a thought to a basic thing being taught during journalism that a journalist can never be biased. The question on my mind was can media organizations be biased?

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