Naqshab Nisar

Ghazala Ahmad, a final year Mass Communication at Aligarh Muslim University was denied a job as a news anchor at a Delhi-based Hindi media channel. The decision was taken not because of her qualification or her eligibility for the job but because she donned the religious headscarf, Hijab.

Everything was going smooth for Ghazala as she cleared her telephonic interview after which she was told she would have to remove her Hijab or else she would not get the job.

If we recruit anyone with Hijab, the channel would be shut down

The 24-year-old received a call from the Hindi news portal on clearing her telephonic round. The process was taken ahead, salary and other formalities were discussed after which Ghazala decided to inform them that she wore the Hijab.

A long silence lasted for a couple of minutes after which Ghazala was left in a dilemma as to why there was no response from the other side. Finally, the representative said,  aap samajh nahin rahin hain. Badhe badhe channels nahin rakhte. Hamara to chhota sa portal hai (You’re not understanding. Even big media channels do not hire. We are only a small portal). This comment was referring to her hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women.

Ghazala went on to say how her Hijab has never posed a problem in her professional life as she has interned with NDTV and The New Indian Express and her choice of religious covering never came in between her productivity and professionalism.

The representative of the news portal further said that this is India and no broadcaster has ever hired a Hijab-wearing person. He told her to understand his situation because if he recruits anyone with a Hijab, his channel would be shut down. He also asked her to try writing for a paper instead.

Ghazala said, “I hung the call saying you please keep your job I will definitely find something which will let me work with my identity. Thank you. And to my surprise, the recruiter was a MUSLIM.”

Disappointed that all her experience was reduced to a piece of cloth, Ghazala was shocked as to how her qualifications and job experience was negated because of her Hijab.

‘I believe in the ethics of respect and inclusivity’ 

On speaking to International Business Times, India, Ghazala expressed, “I am not here to bash any news outlet but I am here to say that this notion of discrimination on the basis of identity shouldn’t exist in our society. There should be no hindrance inspite of being qualified for a job.”

“I have been an elected cabinet member in Aligarh Muslim University, interned with several media agencies but I was judged on the basis of my identity this time.” There have been several incidences in the past with friends of mine from various other sectors not just in media. This notion prevails everywhere and has been normalised.”

“As a journalist, I believe in the ethics of respect and inclusivity. However, Islamophobia and sexism are so rampant that even in this profession, women and Muslims have so many barriers to climb.

“Even the constitution allows us to practice and propagate our religion and bars any discrimination at any workspace. However, gender and religion have always been parameters for restrictions in the media. I am just having the opportunity to raise my concerns.”

“Article 25 of Indian Constitution gives freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. Where are your constitutional values now? Where is secular Bharat? Why a piece of cloth is bothering you so much?”

This story first appeared in the ‘International Business Times’ on September 4, 2020 here.