Fatima Manji has been a reporter for Channel 4 News for some time. Now she is apparently the first hijab wearing woman to present the news – as an anchorwoman – on a major UK channel. It seems entirely positive that her choice has not impeded her career – just as it is positive that other Muslim women – Mishal Husain for example – can achieve similar success but choose not to cover their hair. Responding to controversy over the lifting of the veil ban in Turkish universities Norman Geras wrote:
To restrict the rights of women who do not wear a headscarf would certainly not be defensible, and secularists should oppose it as vigorously as possible. They should oppose it, however, for the same reason they should oppose the ban on women wearing headscarves in universities and other public places. Secularism is not the same thing as compulsory atheism, and secularists shouldn’t be wanting to forbid others from wearing religious insignia; if secularists believe, as they widely profess to, in freedom of expression and belief and in the right to one’s own identity, they should be happy to let people dress however they choose. They may object to women being coerced to wear religious insignia; but, by the same token, they shouldn’t themselves then seek to force others not to wear these.
Whereas religious headcoverings are restricted in France and indeed in some Muslim majority countries, British secularism is characterised by a greater degree of flexibility.
A brief glance at Twitter following Manji’s first stint as a presenter demonstrates that initial responses were entirely positive – friendly warm wishes from both Muslim and non-Muslim viewers. Then 5Pillars decided the story was worth covering, and posted a brief article quoting Mohammed Shafiq expressing approval of Manji as a positive role model for young Muslim women.
Attention below the line was almost immediately focused, not on Manji’s achievements, but on her appearance. One commenter exclaimed:
I do not really know if it’s because of wearing hijab or that thight top! With this damn deadly combination you do really INSULT Islam!
There were plenty of irritated (and mostly Muslim) readers to chide him, but over on Facebook the responses were still worse.
that top is so tight that it reminds me of the Hadith about the signs of day of judgement when women will be dressed but they will be naked,
Disappointed in you Bilal, she should learn the meaning of modesty and covering in Islam, the headscarf is irrelevant if you wear figure hugging clothing
And presenting yourself to millions of viewers is not the place of religieus muslima.
One reader – a Muslim woman I think – offered this well-earned riposte:
I don’t see u with a beard
But the negative comments continued.
Shame on this girl
This “hijabi” has been put there for a purpose by the media….she’s indirectly education girls that, this is how you should wear hijabi and be on display for perverts
Sexy Islam, made in Europe.
And so it went on – and on – and on.
In some ways this was almost the most annoying, if not the most lurid, comment
My question is who allowed her to represent Muslim and Islam the way she dress is a disgraceful
She does not ‘represent’ Muslim or Islam – she is a journalist. And judging by those overwhelmingly positive comments on Twitter 5Pillars doesn’t represent Muslims/Islam either.