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There's a reason Muslim women struggle to make their voices heard

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Zesha Saleem is a young, hijab-wearing freelance journalist at the start of her career. Like all young journalists, she has developed a tough exterior in order to be able to weather the unpredictability of work and the sting of rejection. But when she is successful and her work is commissioned and published, she has to contend with another obstacle: online abuse.

“Whatever I write, there will always be people forcing me to justify things that have nothing to do with the piece,” she says. She is frequently asked if she has been forced to wear the hijab, questioned on what her views are on women being arrested in other countries for not wearing it, and told that she can’t be taken seriously on matters of science if she believes in Allah. Her parents worry about how long she can carry on in her chosen field if this is the reception that accompanies her hard work.

Or take Lena Kamal (not her real name), a screenwriter, who told me of an experience she had with a broadcaster that burned her badly. “I took part in what I was told was a comedic piece about microaggressions,” she says, “and the way it was edited and distributed left me open to horrific online hate, which has put me off interacting with media for life, really.” Saleem and Kamal are among many British Muslims who may feel cautious, sceptical or even hostile to the idea that there is value in participating in Britain’s mainstream public sphere.

These experiences are part of a longer story about Muslims in this country, who have for decades been portrayed not as ordinary people, as fallible as anyone else, but as a problem, a........

© The Guardian

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