Hiba Ahmad, signing off

Illustration by Iain Duffus
Illustration by Iain Duffus

My first article for The Commonwealth Times was an op-ed titled, ‘ISIS does not represent Islam,’ in August 2014.

It was my first dabble in bridging the multiple parts of my identity into one cohesive person. It was also my first time taking activism to pen and paper. Now, three and half years later, I am leaving the CT with a content heart and more solidified passion for what I do.

I always struggled to bridge my activism with my work as a journalist. I’ve always been taught that in order to do great journalism you must practice complete objectivity and not allow your personal biases to filter into your reporting. I’ve learned now that it is nearly, if not completely, impossible to be indifferent in your reporting.

My activism is channelled through the stories I tell. I am handed a responsibility every time a person shares their narrative and allows me to piece together a story on their behalf. The burden to tell the truth, the whole truth, is something that many people crumble under. I think that’s why the news industry is where it is today.

I became a journalist because I saw first hand how damaging incomplete stereotypes are to any group of people. Following the Sept. 11 attacks I watched in horror as people who looked like me and my family, people who prayed like me and people who simply fell under the harsh umbrella of Islamophobia were targeted by the media.

I vowed that whatever career I would pursue, I would relentlessly work to lift the voices of those who cannot do so themselves. Whether that had been as a doctor, lawyer, teacher or what have you—I refused to let my career be just about me.

Journalism became my outlet.

Since I’ve been at VCU, I’ve told the stories of various groups of people. I’ve reported on the infamous Muslim ban, told the story of a newly resettled Syrian refugee family and shared the terrifying reality of being an undocumented person in the States.

Every story I’ve told, I’ve taken upon myself to do the most complete and balanced job as I can, however, injustice is injustice and therefore should be addressed as such. I will never apologize for tapping into the parts of my identity that allow me to have a greater access to a story.

As journalists, it’s our responsibility to capture and showcase humanity while also trying to remain human ourselves. Despite what the critics may say, people of color, especially women of color, will lead the way in revolutionizing the news industry because of our backgrounds.

I want to thank The Commonwealth Times and the countless people I’ve worked with in  these past three and half years. This organization was the cornerstone to my undergraduate experience and for that I am eternally grateful. The stories I’ve told, the people I’ve met and the community that became my home—none of it would be possible without the CT.

To any aspiring journalists out there, keep your head down and work hard. Be unapologetically yourself on an everyday basis, but especially in your reporting. You will be a better person and an even better journalist.

Peace and blessings.


Hiba Ahmad
Hiba is a senior studying broadcast journalism and religious studies. She is a previous Voice of America intern where she worked with the immigration and TV news teams. She previously interned with the Muslim Public Affairs Council and VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture.
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