Muslim woman becomes UK’s first hijab-wearing judge

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A woman in the United Kingdom, who has become the first judge in the western world to wear a hijab, hopes to be an inspiration to young Muslims. Raffia Arshad, 40, who grew up in Yorkshire, north England, has wanted to work in law since she was 11. Ms Arshad, a barrister, was last week appointed a deputy district judge on the Midlands circuit.

She said her promotion was great news for diversity in the world’s most respected legal system.

Ms Arshad said the judicial office was looking to promote diversity, but when they appointed her they did not know that she wore the hijab.

‘It’s definitely bigger than me,” she told Metro newspaper. “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.” Ms Arshad, a mother of three, has been practising private law dealing with children, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and other cases involving Islamic law for the past 17 years.

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She was the first in her family to go to university and has also written a leading text on Islamic family law.

Although the promotion by the Lord Chief Justice was welcome news for her, Ms Arshad said the happiness from other people sharing the news was “far greater”. “I’ve had so many emails from people, men and women,” she said. “It’s the ones from women that stand out, saying that they wear a hijab and thought they wouldn’t even be able to become a barrister, let alone a judge.”

 

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