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Thursday December 13, 2018


'My America, too.' being different is a strength

Tahera Rahman has been a storyteller ever since she can remember. She had a passion for TV news and for years worked behind the scenes as a producer. Knowing she wanted to be on air, WHBF-TV gave her the chance earlier this month. 

After two years producing the station’s evening news, Rahman recently moved into an on-air role. She's "living her dream" and, in the process, she has become the first woman to wear a hijab while reporting full-time for a mainstream American TV station, according to the Muslim American Women in Media group.

“When people said it was going to be tough, I was just like, I know, but life is tough,” Rahman said. “People live in places where it is hard to even practice journalism in general. I live in America, and I was born and raised with the values of equality and democracy and hard work getting you to your dream, to the American dream.”

Even as Rahman built herself up, a small voice echoed in the back of her mind, Could they be right? But she never lost hope completely that someone would take a chance on her, and spent weekends shadowing reporters and methodically cutting and re-cutting new audition reels.

For Rahman, 27, her new title marks the end of that long period of rejection and, hopefully, the beginning of a new era for hijabis on television. “What I prayed for every night for years is to be able to soften people’s hearts and basically be a light for people in a scary world with a lot of misconceptions,” Rahman said.

“I knew there was no one who looked like me who rushed Greek life, but I did because I wanted to,” she said. “I would show up to formals and Panhellenic events and I would be the only one who wore a headscarf, but it never stopped me, and I still had fun and I still studied abroad and I still traveled with my sorority sisters to Spring Break."

As a child, the lack of people who looked like her on TV was evident, Rahman said. The dearth of representation became even more obvious as Islamophobic stories about Muslims grabbed headlines and airtime in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. 

The narrative back then centered on “who (Muslims) really are and what they really believe in and whose side they are on?” she said. “That’s when I realized they are talking about us, but there is no one who looked like us who can speak to it truthfully.”

Rahman is aware of the nasty remarks and threats, but she doesn't dwell on them. Instead, she’s taken to falling asleep reading the supportive notes she’s received.

“We want to offer you encouragement and hope you continue your successful journey complete with your convictions,” wrote a couple from Raleigh, North Carolina. “We know it is hard sometimes to be different from what other people consider ‘the norm’ but we have found that being different is a strength.”

For now, Rahman is trying to enjoy “living her dream” as much as she can.

Recently she's found herself marinating on one particular conversation from those years of rejection. A trusted mentor asked Rahman that if her dream job called with an offer, would she consider taking off her hijab? 

No, she answered definitively. In reflection, Rahman said she feels if she had wavered then and removed the scarf, her “victory would have been marred.”

“A small part of me feels like I am giving into the haters if I take it off,” she said. “Because that’s the first thing people say is, ‘Take that rag off your head and go back to where you came from.'"

“I want to be like I was born and raised here and I wear it, so I am where I belong,” Rahman said. 

“And you have to deal with it because this is my America, too.”

Source: Urdu News

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