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Pakistani-American lawyer Zahra Cheema refuses to stop wearing the headscarf

Zahra Cheema is a Muslim American lawyer who refuses to abandon wearing a headscarf, as part of her hijab.

“Every time I walk into the room, the first thought is, ‘There’s a Muslim,’ ” said Ms. Cheema, 25.  “I worry that essentially the hijab will override all my other merits.”

Zahra Cheema, a female Muslim layer born to Pakistani immigrants in the United States, does not compromise on her religious principals. When faced with the dilemma of wearing a headscarf that covers her head, hair and body or wear a long, American-style skirt. Her dress is taken as conservative and obviously attracts attention to her as a  distinguished personality, particularly in the workplace.

One law firm manager asked flat out whether she was Muslim or not. “Yes, I am,” Ms. Cheema recalled telling her.

Another manager gestured at her clothing and asked, “How does that affect things?”

“It hasn’t up to now,” she said.

Though she is proud and happy to don the clothing that portrays her as a Muslim, there are some drawbacks that come with her dressing as well. As an undergraduate, she did not opt for secretary jobs or those jobs which required her to deal with the general public. As some bosses did not want to place a hijab clad Muslim woman in front of clients.  “No secretary jobs,” said Ms. Cheema, ticking off the non-options. “No receptionist jobs.”

Cheema, born to Pakistani immigrants in the United States, grew up in a predominantly white area in Long Island. Her secular family was questioned her decision to wear a hijab when she first decided to pursue the dress mode. “They were like, ‘Who’s going to hire you?’ ” she said, recalling her parents’ concerns and her determination to prove them wrong.

Starting from this month, Zahra Cheema started her very own firm that specializes in immigration and family law. She has the support of her family and her ex-boss Mr.Kapoor (who is providing her with office space and referrals).

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