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History Made: First Hijab-Wearing Muslim Woman Appointed as Judge in UK

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CurrentEurope

History Made: First Hijab-Wearing Muslim Woman Appointed as Judge in UK

“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. 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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“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. 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”.

Raffia Arshad, 40, has become the first Muslim woman wearing hijab to be appointed as a judge in the UK, making history.

Appointed as a deputy district judge on the Midlands circuit last week, Arshad has a 17-year career in law. After training to be a lawyer in London, Arshad was called in 2002 and joined St Mary’s Family Law Chambers in 2004. She also authored one of the leading texts in Islamic Family Law in the field of legal practice.

Speaking to news outlets, Arshad stressed that while she realizes this is a historic win for women, she hopes, in particular, to inspire young Muslim women as well:

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…[we need] to make sure the sound of diversity is heard loud and clear.”

Despite her success and now her historic appointment, Arshad has had her share of discrimination and judgement – she explains that she is often mistaken as the client or interpreter in the courtroom.

Arshad explains that this kind of discrimination “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”. Dealing with even personal experiences of family members encouraging her to take off hijab for better opportunities has been part of Arshad’s journey:

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.”

The Joint Heads of St Mary’s Family Law Chambers has praised Arshad’s tireless work towards promoting diversity within the legal profession, stating that: “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.

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”.

Let us hope that Muslim women like Arshad continue to inspire and pave the way for other Muslim and ethnic minority women to get the recognition they deserve – and to stay true to themselves no matter the odds.

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