First American TV Reporter to Wear Hijab On-Screen Joins Detroit Today

“This puts me in a spotlight and makes me vulnerable…But it also opens up a conversation,” says Tahera Rahman.

Tahera Rahman

If you were to picture in your mind what a TV news anchor or reporter looks like, what image immediately pops into your head?

Maybe it’s Walter Cronkite or Katie Couric — or even Ron Burgundy. In 2018 it might be the image of a man or a woman; white, black, Latino, or Asian; young or old. But one thing that image of a TV reporter or anchor probably doesn’t include: a hijab.

That’s because there has never been a full-time broadcast TV reporter in America that has worn a hijab on the air.

That is, until now.

Last month, Tahera Rahman became the first person to do just that. She’s a reporter and producer for WHBF-TV in Rock Island, Illinois.

Rahman joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about her path to becoming an on-screen reporter and what it means for her to have broken this barrier in television journalism.

She tells Henderson that her desire to become a journalist began when she was in elementary school, not long after September 11, 2001

“As an American Muslim child…I dealt with that tragedy in many different ways,” says Rahman. “In the coming weeks and months afterwards I saw, what it felt like to a nine-year-old me, an inaccurate and scary representation of people who look like me and my family members.”

“So, from a very early age I knew I wanted to do something that would help push back on those perceptions, those negative misconceptions.”

Rahman says there has been some negative push-back from viewers since she’s gone on-the-air, but that it’s a “drop in the bucket” compared to the positive feedback she’s received. 

“The hijab has become a symbol not only of my religion, but a political symbol,” she says. “When people see this, a lot of different things come to mind and a lot of them are misconceptions.”

“For better or for worse, I think this puts me in a spotlight and makes me vulnerable in a way, because I’m on TV every day. But it also opens up a conversation, and I think that’s where things start, always.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


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