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Proud to break barriers says UK’s first hijab-wearing fire-fighter

18th Jun 2021

(Photo courtesy of Notts Fire and Rescue)

Elham Asaad Buaras

The UK’s first hijab-wearing firefighter said she is “proud” to be a barrier breaker and called on other Muslim women to follow in her footsteps.

Fire chiefs sourced a special fire-proof hijab for Uroosa Arshid to wear under her breathing apparatus. Arshid, a firefighter at West Bridgford Fire Station, joined the service two years ago.

In an interview with The Muslim News, the 27-year-old from Aspley, Nottingham, said it was “quite surreal” discovering she is the country’s first hijab-wearing firefighter.

“I didn’t know that I would be the first. I just knew that I wanted to be a firefighter. But as time has gone on I’ve realised that for some reason my story is having a positive impact on people and encouraging them to pursue their goals. I do feel proud that I have broken down a barrier for people and shone a light on an opportunity that they might not have seen or considered before.”

Being the first of her kind means being on the receiving end of confused looks from the public. “It’s always funny to see people’s reaction when they first see me coming out of the truck in my kit, they are generally surprised and confused,” said Arshid.

Unfortunately, she concedes, “There has been some negativity and questions raised about why I’m doing this and if I am capable however, the positives far outweigh the negatives.”

However, she is loving being in her dream job – and wants more women to join up for the fire service. Her advice to any inspiring Muslim firefighter is to “talk to people that are already in the job and get true insight. If it’s something you want to pursue, knuckle down, study and train hard and you’ll get there”.

Arshid says she was first inspired to join the fire service at primary school when firefighters came to do a fire safety talk. “From then I was inspired to be a part of a team that was so focused on saving lives and helping the community. I think a stereotype still exists for firefighters and it’s not a career choice that is given to Muslim women for various reasons such as the danger, risk, working with mostly men, a lack of knowledge of what the role involves and mostly because it is not commonly done or seen!”

As for family and friends, Arshid says they were initially “surprised and probably didn’t take me seriously.” However, “once they understood what the role involved and the reasons for my choice, they have stood by me, encouraged, and supported me the whole way, Alhamdulillah.”

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service said, “We are extremely privileged and honoured to be able to say we have the UK’s first hijabi firefighter”.

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