As a Deborah Orin Scholarship winner, I was recently invited to the Annual White House Correspondentsâ€™ Dinner. This experience was possible because of the grace of Allah and my work as a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
It was truly a humbling experience, Alhamdulillah. I was able to enter a VIP room before the event where I met Sean Penn, Jon Hamm and Seth Meyers – Hamm even complimented me on my hijab. I was able to take pictures with President Obama and the First Lady. I talked to the President about the horrendous traffic in Chicago every time he visited, and it made him laugh.
After dinner, the program began with the award ceremony. As my name was called, I walked confidently across that stage. I did not feel nervous; rather I was proud to wear hijab on national television and represent Muslim women. It was great to show the world that Muslim women are smart and educated, and not oppressed. Islam has always given women the rights to vote, be educated, work, and be an integral part of society. It is so beautiful how the Quran has a whole chapter called Surat An-Nisaa (Chapter of Women) dedicated to women
Meeting the President and receiving an award in journalism was wonderful, but the highlight of my night was to show what Muslim women can do. Being the only one wearing a hijab made me very recognizable and that was a good thing. Many people including journalists, congressmen and women and even some celebrities congratulated me. I believe my hijab is empowering, and a blessing.
When employers look at my work, they can judge me based on my talents and not the way I look. The important thing is to be proud of the hijab, and proud that the United States gives us the freedom to be who we are. Now it is our jobs to give back as active citizens. We need to vote and be involved in the community on every level.
I left the event with many business cards and contacts. However, what was even better was leaving knowing that I represented Islam for what it really is. Alhamdulilah, I never once felt uncomfortable about who I was as a Muslim. I hope that Allah gives me the strength to excel as a journalist and I hope I can inspire other young Muslim girls to be proud of their identity and to know that anything is possible.