Raffia Arshad becomes UK’s first hijab-wearing judge

LONDON: A Muslim woman has become the first hijab-wearing judge in the United Kingdom and hopes to be an inspiration to young Muslims.

Raffia Arshad, a successful barrister is appointed a deputy district judge on the Midlands circuit last week following a 15-year career in law. 

Ms. Raffia, now 40 grew up in Yorkshire, north England, started dreaming of a career in law since she was 11.

The mum-of-three was the first in her family to go to university and has also written a leading text on Islamic family law.

For the past many years, Ms Arshad has been practising private law dealing with children, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and other cases involving Islamic law.

Raffia says about herself

“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. It’s odd because it’s something I’ve been working towards for a number of years and I always imagined I’d be absolutely ecstatic when I found out.  I was happy, but the happiness I’ve had from other people sharing this is far greater. 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.”

No hijab at interview

Ms Raffia told Metro newspaper that once a family member advised her to not wear a hijab at an interview for a scholarship but she valiantly wears the headscarf and succeeded in the interview.

 “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. It was a solid ‘, yes, you can do this’.”

Ms Raffia shows that Hijab is not an oppression but it provides strength and dignity.

Discrimination not yet over

Ms Raffia said that she is discriminated when walking into a courtroom and still gets mistaken for an interpreter because of her choice to wear the hijab.

“It’s definitely bigger than me, I know this is not about me,” she told Metro. “It’s important for all women, not just Muslim women, but it is particularly important for Muslim women….

Way for Muslim women

The joint heads of St Mary’s Family Law Chambers said they were ‘delighted to hear of Raffia’s appointment.

“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,” Vickie Hodges and Judy Claxton said.

‘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.’

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