Hijab-wearing criminal lawyer calls QC appointment ‘surreal’

A headscarf criminal defense attorney, believed to be the first to be appointed a Queen’s Counsel (QC), called the honor “surreal” in light of the “layers” of challenges she faced during her career.

Sultana Tafadar received her Letters Patent – the document marking the award for excellence in advocacy – at the Palace of Westminster on Monday.

That was followed by a second ceremony, with her colleagues, at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Sultana Tafadar QC is candid about the challenges she has faced because of her hijab (Victoria Jones/PA)

(PA wire)

Born and raised in Luton and of Bangladeshi origin, Ms Tafadar was called to the bar in 2005 and said she later became the first female criminal lawyer to wear a hijab.

She said she is the second hijab-wearing lawyer to become a QC after Shaheed Fatima – but the first criminal lawyer to wear the religious garb to receive the appointment.

Speaking to the PA news agency on Monday afternoon, she said: “It’s a surreal experience.

“I am absolutely delighted, especially because I am the first hijab-wearing lawyer to be admitted to the criminal bar.”

Ms Tafadar said it is particularly important to become a QC as she did not see anyone like herself when she started in the profession.

“Representation is really important,” she said, adding that it can help more hijab-wearing women’s dreams to reach the heights of the profession, “become a reality.”



There have been challenges in court, there have been challenges in the workplace in my previous chambers, but I am happy to say that it is possible to overcome those challenges and it is possible – with the odds – it is possible to to shine

Sultana Tafadar QCI

“When I got into the profession, I thought, ‘Oh god, I don’t see anyone like me in the upper echelons of the profession.’

“In general, there aren’t many women who wear hijab at the bar, and you wonder, ‘Can you really ever make it?’

“So I hope the fact that I have shows that it’s possible, and I hope it opens the floodgates for others to come forward.”

Ms Tafadar referred to statistics showing that only a small percentage of the approximately 2,000 QCs are women of black, Asian or mixed ethnicity.

A report by the General Council of the Bar Association in Race found that only 31 women from that background had been admitted to the Bar Association before Monday.

“If you toned it down again, in terms of hijab-wearing lawyers who are Queen’s Counsel, there have only been two and I’m the first at the criminal bar,” she said.



France wants to impose different forms of hijab bans, which amounts to sex discrimination, racial discrimination and religious discrimination. It’s sad on a day like this and I celebrate taking silk with the hijab that others across Europe are being denied the opportunities I’ve had

Mrs Tafadar QC

Asked about the challenges she has faced, she said: “We could be here all day.

“Unfortunately, it is layers and layers of challenges that I face, as a woman, as someone from an ethnic minority background and as someone who visibly wears a hijab.

“There have been challenges in court, there have been challenges in the workplace in my previous chambers, but I am happy to say that it is possible to overcome those challenges and it is possible – with the opportunities – it is possible to to shine. †

Ms Tafadar is involved in a legal effort to end the hijab ban in France and will plead this year to the United Nations that the government is violating international law there.

She said that as she celebrates ‘taking silk’ – a term for being named QC – the struggles other hijab-wearing women across Europe are facing at the same time is ‘sad’.

She said: “There are women all over Europe and especially in France who are being discriminated against for wearing the hijab.

“France wants to impose various forms of hijab bans, which come down to gender discrimination, racial discrimination and religious discrimination.

“It’s sad on a day like this and I celebrate taking silk with the hijab that others across Europe are being denied the opportunities I’ve had.”

In May 2020, Raffia Arshad became the first hijab-wearing woman to be appointed as a judge.

Jo Sidhu QC, President of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “Diversity that includes lawyers from different racial, ethnic and gender backgrounds must be welcomed and championed if the criminal bar is to continue to better reflect the public we serve as prosecutors and defenders .”

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