Yes, You Can Be a News Reporter And Wear a Hijab

I wear a hijab.

If Kelvin MacKenzie had his way, this would mean I should not be allowed to report the news on TV if the news had anything to do with extremist violence. He would also consider me enslaved as my hijab was a sign of oppression by a “clearly male-dominated and violent religion”.

Let’s backtrack, I am sure you are all confused.

Last Friday, after the tragic Nice attacks, Fatima Manji, a British Muslim correspondent, was doing her job and covering news on Channel 4 that evening. The next Monday, former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie published a column in the Sun asking why a Muslim journalist, particularly one who wears a headscarf, was allowed to cover on the Nice terror attack for her job at Channel 4 news.  

“Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?” he writes, obviously very concerned.

By Tuesday morning, over 800 complaints had been submitted to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) about the article, many relating to discrimination and harassment. The number had risen to 1,400 by Tuesday evening. Channel 4 News released a statement in support of their journalist.

In her own words :

“Kelvin MacKenzie has attempted to smear 1.6 billion Muslims in suggesting they are inherently violent. He has attempted to smear half of them further by suggesting they are helpless slaves. And he has attempted to smear me by suggesting I would sympathise with a terrorist.

In response to this, I have received kind messages from friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even those I have never met, expressing solidarity and anger at his words.

The truth is I always pride myself on journalistic integrity regardless of who I’m interviewing or what story I’m covering.

That is my mission at Channel 4 News. I will not be deterred in this mission by the efforts of those who find the presence of Muslims in British cultural life offensive.”

Manji’s response shows a strength in conviction and lack of intimidation in the face of blatant bigotry. This is an example of the xenophobia rising in the UK and Europe (and that is mirrored in the US). But, more cheerfully, this is an example of thousands of people rising up against such bigotry, at least in refusing to let it slide. After terror attacks such as in Paris, Beirut, Ankara, Medina and Nice, we are all left feeling unsafe. But sometimes we are feeling so for different reasons. The backlash against all Muslims after terror attacks is real, and very scary. The good news is that many are realizing that terror attacks target Muslims as much, if not more than anyone else (take a look at the cities just listed, or the sheer number of  Muslims that ISIS have violently hurt, killed, or displaced). But also, people are beginning to stand up against anti-Muslim rhetoric. Though that rhetoric is on the rise, so is rhetoric imploring for unification. And that is room for hope.

Lastly, Fatima Manji handled this fiasco like a professional, kickass woman and I am truly inspired. That is all.

Written by Sara Halimah

Sara is a student at the University of Minnesota, studying Global Studies and Anthropology. She enjoys readings that challenge assumptions, good pens to take notes with, and snacks for the discussion along the way . Reading Suggestion: Palestinian Women by Fatma Kassem