Tributes paid to the Muslim journalist who shot to fame for her hijab

The 27-year-old journalist was born in Somalia in 1992. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 October 2019

Tributes paid to the Muslim journalist who shot to fame for her hijab

  • The news resonated in the Muslim community, who was supportive of Yusuf’s career because of her advocacy for Muslim women
  • The 27-year-old journalist was born in Somalia in 1992 and emigrated to Europe at a young age

DUBAI: Tributes have been paid to the BBC journalist Hanna Yusuf, who shot to fame for publicly defending headscarf-wearing Muslims.

The BBC journalist's family broke the news of her death on October 1, saying they were “deeply saddened and heartbroken,” but gave no further information on her death.

“While we mourn her loss, we hope that Hanna’s legacy will serve as an inspiration and beacon to her fellow colleagues and to her community and her meaningful memory and the people she has touched for many years lives on,” her family said in a statement.

In 2015, she made a video for British national daily the Guardian defending the use of a headscarf, dispelling misconceptions of the hijab as a form of oppression.

In the video she said people should not assume that every woman who wears the hijab had been forced into it.

Andirachid Fidow, a Somalian activist who attended the Yusuf’s funeral in London, along with 6,000 others, tweeted: “Beautiful soul gone to soon, may her soul rest in peace.”

British Muslim journalist and author Hussein Kesvani said Yusuf was a “dear friend” to him, and posted a link to a fundraising campaign created following her death.

According to the Go Fund Me page, the money raised will be donated to a charity in Yusuf’s name, which will serve as her “Sadaqah Jariyah,” a form of ongoing charity usually given after a Muslim’s death.  

UK-based non-profit organization Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks (Tell MAMA) also paid its tribute on Twitter, saying: “This is such a big loss.”

Muslim-focused blog Muslim Girl published a story remembering Yusuf’s work as an investigative journalist, including her stories on the violence in Somalia and her recent investigation into labor conditions at Costa Coffee stores in the UK.

The media industry was equally shocked by the news, and her colleagues quickly paid tribute to Yusuf, who worked her way up from a researcher to a television presenter.

The BBC’s Editorial Director Kamal Ahmed said: “Hanna Yusuf was sharp, witty and allowed us all to understand the important stuff a little better.”

The 27-year-old journalist was born in Somalia in 1992 and emigrated to Europe at a young age. Before her stint at the BBC, she wrote for other British publications including the Independent, the Times, and Muslim-focused news organization Muslim News.


‘What’s a UN journalist?’: New film on Syrian refugees sparks ire for lack of Arab casting

Updated 26 September 2020

‘What’s a UN journalist?’: New film on Syrian refugees sparks ire for lack of Arab casting

  • ‘The Newsroom’ actress Olivia Munn selected to star in drama ‘Aleppo’
  • Many online users are concerned that the film will center on a Western journalist, while the Syrian refugee will simply be seen as an extra

DUBAI/LONDON: “What is a UN journalist?” asked the Twitterverse on Friday after the announcement came that actress Olivia Munn would be playing a UN reporter alongside a Syrian refugee in the feature film titled “Aleppo.”

It’s been announced that US actress Olivia Munn is set to play the lead in the feature drama, a story about a Syrian refugee and UN journalist (Munn), who are brought together by their escape from war-afflicted Syria. 

Many online users are concerned that the film will center on a Western journalist, while the Syrian refugee will simply be seen as an extra - given that the job of a UN journalist simply does not exist and will ironically be played by an actress known for her role as a journalist in Aaron Sorkin’s hit show “The Newsroom.”

“Jesus Christ. Firstly, there’s no such thing as a ‘UN journalist’; secondly there was no UN in those last terrifying months of Aleppo, and the only journalists around were Syrians,” Human Rights Watch researcher Sophie McNeill tweeted.

“How any film about Aleppo can centre anyone but brave Syrians is insane. Who writes this s***?”

Nada Homsi, a Beirut-based Syrian reporter and producer for NPR tweeted: “Hello Hollywood I’m Syrian and a journalist and would love to become a movie star, so would many other Syrians, also ‘UN journalists’ aren’t a thing. Hire us!”

Others weren't pleased with Munn’s casting, and have taken to social media to express their discontent.

“The onslaught on Aleppo was one of the most traumatic events for Syrians in Syria and for the diaspora,” wrote one user on Twitter following the news. “Spinning the tragedy to center it around some hypothetical journalist for a Westerner to star in is disgusting,” they added.

Another user wrote: “Oh yay a ‘Syrian refugee drama’ that is actually about a white lady. Just what we need, another white savior movie.”

“Just call it ‘The White Savior,’ why muck about?” added another.

“Aleppo,” which is currently in pre-production in Los Angeles, will be directed by Brazilian filmmaker David Schurman.

The casting of the Syrian starring character has yet to be announced.

Since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, many films and documentaries have been made about the tragedy, including “For Sama,” Waad Al-Kateab’s critically-acclaimed documentary.