By Mariam Sobh
WeNews guest author
Sunday, September 25, 2011
A lack of job opportunities makes Mariam Sobh wonder if her hijab, rather than skills, is to blame. An excerpt from her story, from the book "I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim."
Oddly, the news director never asked me about my skills or my professional experience. Instead, he wanted to know if I had a boyfriend, what holidays I celebrated and if I could really survive the cold weather.
Maybe this was my opportunity to prove just how American I was: "We celebrate all holidays, I don't have a boyfriend and I'm from Colorado, so winter means nothing to me."
"I'll give you a call at the end of the week and let you know what we decide."
The phone call came and I was devastated. "I think you're too good for this place. You need to go to a bigger town. You wouldn't like the winter here, anyway."
My self-esteem took a huge hit. Was it my skills, or was it my scarf? I doubted whether anyone would ever tell me it was my scarf, but at the same time, no one was mentioning anything about my skills, either.
This was the beginning of what would be many similar experiences in which I would be asked personal questions that had nothing to do with the job being offered. I found myself pondering my situation. Since television has expanded in the past decade, we now see all kinds of people on the air: skinny, plump, homely, beautiful and ethnically diverse. There is still, however, a lack of representation for anyone who happens to wear their religious identity openly.
Certainly, I understand the argument that you can't show your religious affiliation on television because people might start thinking you're biased a certain way. My response to this argument is, isn't it better to know someone's background up front? Doesn't reflecting one's religious identity mean we'll hold those journalists up to a higher standard because they must ensure their work doesn't reflect any personal bias? Knowing my religious identity, don't you think I would hold myself to a higher standard? Furthermore, why the assumption that wearing a headscarf means I want to report on religious issues? I'm perfectly content reporting on education, entertainment, health and environmental stories.
In my naivete, I had believed in "the American system," only to start noticing through my own experiences that parts of it were reserved for those who fit into the mold. And I knew deep inside that if I took my scarf off, I'd be welcomed with open arms.
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Mariam Sobh is the founder and editor in chief of Hijabtrendz.com, a fashion, beauty, and entertainment blog for Muslim women. Her journalism career includes working for a variety of media outlets as a news anchor, political reporter, traffic editor and reporter. She currently resides in Chicago.
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