Forget Brexit, there’s a new British royal baby on the way

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visit the New Zealand High Commission to sign a book of condolence on behalf of the royal family, in London on March 19, 2019. (Ian Vogler/Pool via REUTERS)
Updated 29 March 2019

Forget Brexit, there’s a new British royal baby on the way

  • Prince Harry and his American wife Meghan’s first baby is set to provide some welcome light relief
  • There has long been fascination with the British royal family, particularly in the United States
LONDON: For Britons wearied by the endless contortions of their country’s exit from the European Union, the impending birth of Prince Harry and his American wife Meghan’s first baby is set to provide some welcome light relief.
Even though the child will only be seventh in line to the British throne, such has been the interest in the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as Harry and Meghan are officially known, that his or her birth is set to grab headlines across the globe.
“There will be huge interest in Harry and Meghan’s baby,” said Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine. “It’s another potential grandchild for Diana, it’s the mixture of Harry and Meghan and it’s less than a year since they were married so the interest is going to be enormous.”
There has long been fascination with the British royal family, particularly in the United States, and the younger members such as Harry, 34, his elder brother William, 36, and their spouses are regularly greeted by large crowds and feted like film stars.
Some two billion people were estimated to have watched the 2011 wedding of William to wife Kate and tens of millions tuned in to see the marriage of Harry, son of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his late first wife Diana, to US actress Meghan at Windsor Castle last May.
Their union, bringing together royalty and celebrity, has proved an irresistible combination for the world’s media.
“I think people really fell in love with their love story,” said Laura Hills, Assistant Editor (Features & Royal) at OK! Magazine.
“The fairytale of ... the prince falling for the American actress and for sort of the Hollywood side of her life, the fact she was on a Netflix TV show and now ... she’s attending royal engagements so I think that definitely creates a wider interest.”
During an event in January, Meghan, 37, revealed that she was six months pregnant and she is not expected to carry out any more official engagements before the birth.
“It’s all very exciting,” said Rosie O’Dea, 25, as she walked across Westminster Bridge near parliament. “It’s showing that the royal family is a little bit more progressive than maybe thought before, with Meghan from the States and a bi-racial baby and everything and that’s brilliant.”
“You know I think they kind of need to show that they’re in keeping with the times as well,” she added.

Changed perceptions
Leon Campbell, who was skateboarding near the London Eye ferris wheel, said the couple had helped change perceptions about the royals.
“I’ll be more interested in this (royal baby) because Harry is the cool one, ... he’s the wild card, he’s the ginger one,” he said.
Veteran royal editor Robert Jobson from London’s Evening Standard newspaper said it would be a very special baby whose arrival would match the excitement generated by the birth of Prince George, William’s first son and a future king.
“The reality is Meghan — American, divorcee, bi-racial, marries Prince Harry — their child is going to be an incredibly important child in terms of the monarchy but also in terms of America. You know she is very much America’s princess,” he told Reuters.
“I have not seen this much interest in anybody, not even Kate when she married Prince William.”
However, in the same way many Britons have complained of Brexit boredom and the incessant media coverage it generates, some are hardly thrilled by the prospect of the another royal.
“Everyone has babies ... so frankly I don’t care,” said Donna Smith, sitting a cafe at an east London market.
But for those whose job it is to document the royals, there is no doubting the interest the new baby will generate.
“It could be 27th (in line to the throne) — it’s Harry’s baby, Harry and Meghan are the big story now,” said photographer Arthur Edwards, who has covered the royals for the Sun tabloid for more than four decades.
“He is much loved here by the people. There’ll be huge crowds at the hospital when they bring the little baby out.”

College golfer in hijab out to blaze trail for Muslim girls

Updated 19 April 2019

College golfer in hijab out to blaze trail for Muslim girls

  • One of the top junior golfers in Northern California coming out of high school, Ahmed was a starter in her first year at Nebraska and the No. 2 player most of this spring
  • She is believed to be the only golfer at the college level or higher who competes in a hijab

LINCOLN: Noor Ahmed outwardly lives her Muslim faith, and even growing up in a state as diverse as California she says she encountered hostility on the street, in school and on the golf course.
One of the top junior golfers in Northern California coming out of high school, Ahmed was a starter in her first year at Nebraska and the No. 2 player most of this spring. She is believed to be the only golfer at the college level or higher who competes in a hijab, the headscarf worn in adherence to the Muslim faith.
Arriving in Lincoln two years ago, Ahmed sensed hesitancy from teammates mostly from small Midwestern towns and unaccustomed to seeing a woman in a hijab. She didn’t feel embraced until an unfortunate yet unifying event roiled the campus midway through her freshman year.
A video surfaced of a student claiming to be the “most active white nationalist in the Nebraska area,” disparaging minorities and advocating violence. The student, it turned out, was in the same biology lecture class as Ahmed.
Teammates offered to walk with her across campus, and one who would become her best friend, Kate Smith, invited Ahmed to stay with her. She didn’t accept but was heartened by the gesture.
“That,” Smith said, “was when she realized how much each and every one of us care for her on the team, that it wasn’t just like, ‘Hey you’re our teammate.’ No, it’s ‘We want you to be safe, we want you to feel at home here.’“
Having grown up in the post-9/11 era, Ahmed, like many Muslims in the United States, has been a target for bullying and verbal abuse. She began wearing the hijab in middle school.
On the course, in an airport or even walking across campus she can feel the long stares and notices the glances. She said she has never been physically threatened — “that I know of” — and that most of the face-to-face insults came before she arrived at Nebraska.
Much of the venom spewed at her now comes on social media. She has been the subject of several media profiles, and each sparks another round of hateful messages. She acknowledges she reads but doesn’t respond to messages and that an athletic department sports psychologist has helped her learn how to deal with them.

Hijabi golfer Noor Ahmed. (AP)

“I’ve been called every racial slur in the book,” she said. “I’ve been told explicitly that people who look like me don’t play golf, we don’t have a right to exist in America, you should go home. It would definitely faze me a little bit, but it never deterred me. I’m really stubborn, so I’m going to prove you wrong, just wait. When people think they’re dragging me down, it kind of fuels the fire in me that I’m going to be a better golfer, I’m going to be a better student, I’m going to keep climbing up the ladder.”
The daughter of Egyptian immigrants is from a close-knit family in Folsom, California, and she steeled herself for the cultural adjustment she would have to make at Nebraska.
She dealt with loneliness and anxiety, especially her freshman year. She had difficulty finding a support network. There is a small Muslim community on campus, but she didn’t immerse herself in it. The demands on athletes are great, and they are largely segregated, eating and studying in facilities separate from those used by regular students.
Nebraska coach Robin Krapfl said she was initially concerned about how teammates would react to Ahmed. Krapfl remembered meeting with her golfers and telling them about her.
“I could tell by a couple of the looks and maybe even a comment or two that they weren’t 100 percent comfortable with that,” Krapfl said. “A lot of our girls come from small-town communities that are very limited in their ethnicity. It’s just the fear of the unknown. They had just never been exposed to being around someone from the Muslim faith.”
Krapfl said she saw a golfer or two roll their eyes, another shook her head. “I overheard, ‘Why would Coach bring someone like that on the team?’ “
“Luckily when she got here people could see her for who she was and the quality of person she was,” Krapfl said. “It took a while. It really did. You’ve got to get to know somebody, who they really are and not just what they look like.”
Smith said she sometimes cringes when she and Ahmed are in a group and the conversation turns to politics, immigration or even fashion, like when someone innocently or ignorantly tells Ahmed that she would look good in a short dress or a certain hairstyle.
“She can never wear a short dress, so why would you want to depict her as that?” Smith said. “You have to respect her beliefs and why she’s doing it. Also, I think a lot of things are connected to women’s beauty standards and how people don’t think she can look beautiful when she’s covered. I think she’s a really beautiful girl no matter how much skin she’s showing.”
For all the challenges Ahmed faced, there have been positives. Some people have complimented her for living her faith as she sees fit, a Muslim teen who golfs in a hijab and lives in the United Kingdom wrote to says she draws inspiration from her, and a player for another college team approached her at an event to tell her she recently converted to Islam and just wanted to say hi.

She started playing golf at 8. (AP)

“I remember going and crying and, wow, I’m not alone out here,” she said.
Ahmed said she’s naturally shy and a bit uncomfortable with the attention, but she hopes Muslim girls coming up behind her are watching.
“I grew up never seeing anyone like me,” she said. “Honestly, I didn’t realize how much grief I was carrying, having never seen an image of myself or someone who looked like me in popular American culture. It’s a big deal.
“Why are basketball and football so heavily African American? If I were black and I saw people who looked like me competing in that sport, that’s probably the sport I would choose. I think it’s really important when we’re talking about trying to make golf and other sports and other areas in American culture diverse, how important it is to see someone who looks like you and how it will fuel other people’s interest.”
Ahmed started playing golf at 8, and her parents encouraged her to take the sport to the highest level possible. Wearing the hijab has never interfered with her game and she has never considered not wearing it on the course.
“I think Muslim women who choose to observe it or choose not to observe it have the right to exist in any space they want to be in,” she said, “and I would feel like I would be sending a message that the hijab doesn’t exist in this place or it shouldn’t, and I don’t feel comfortable with that.”