Britain appoints first hiijab-wearing judge

Grigory Matyunin 27-May-2020
Raffia Arshad speaking at BYU's Law and the Family Lecture Series ( Wikimedia Commons/ Raffia Arshad )

Raffia Arshad has become the first hijab-wearing judge to be appointed in the UK. She will now serve as the deputy district judge in the Midlands circuit after practising law for nearly two decades.

“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,” she stated in an interview with the Metro.

Since training in London, she has specialised in aspects of Islamic law including issues relating to marriage law.

She has complained of having suffered discrimination, frequently being mistaken for a client or an interpreter. She has consistently feared that her working-class upbringing and ethnic minority status would disadvantage her in the legal profession.

“[E]ven for somebody who works in the courts, there is still this prejudicial view that professionals at the top end don’t look like me,” she said.

She also stated that an important moment in her life was when she was advised by a relative to remove her hijab for the duration of an interview for a scholarship. She did not act upon the advice maintaining that her faith was important to her.

Nonetheless she has spoken of the warm reception she has enjoyed upon her appointment.

“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,” she told the Metro.

She became the author of a highly prominent text on Islamic Family Law. She has expressed a firm commitment to expanding diversity within the legal profession.