Ghazala Ahmad, a 24-year-old final year student of Mass Communication at Aligarh Muslim University was told that she could not be accepted as an anchor at a Delhi based Hindi Media Channel because she wore Hijab.
After clearing the initial selection process over a telephonic interview, she was told that she would have to remove her Hijab, the headscarf that Muslims wear to cover their head, or else she would not get the job.
Ahmad told Maktoob that she had applied for the position of news anchor on a Hindi News Portal (name withheld on request of the student) a few days ago. On 30 August, she received a phone call from a representative congratulating her for her selection. After she was cleared and some formalities such as the salary and the starting date were being discussed, she informed the interviewer that she wore a hijab and inquired if that would be a problem.
“The line went silent for a couple of minutes”, she said, “and I kept asking if someone was still there or not. After about three minutes, he 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 (hijabis). We are only a small portal)] .”
Ghazala told the recruiter that she had worked in the media industry for a while now, having interned with the New Indian Express as well as NDTV and that her religious covering would have no bearing on her journalistic integrity or productivity, however, all of her concerns were dismissed by the interviewer.
“He told me that this is India and no broadcaster has ever hast a Hijab-wearing person. He told me to understand his situation because if he recruits anyone with a Hijab, his channel would be shut down. He asked me to try writing for a paper instead,” she said.
Ahmad is disappointed that her worth as a journalist is reduced to a piece of cloth, as well as the fact that she is not allowed to assert her religious identity, else it might cost her profession.
“As a journalist, I believe in the ethics of respect and inclusivity,” says Ahmad. “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.”
“He was a Muslim, and yet he disappointed. Rejection hurts, but I will continue towards being a journalist”, adds Ahmad.