The Hijabi Firewoman
Imagine signing up for one of the most dangerous jobs in Virginia and having to face questions every day about your religious beliefs and what you’re wearing.
It’s a reality mother Kae Asima deals with on a daily basis as she’s the first female Muslim firefighter in the city of Richmond.
Asima admits she may look a little different.
“I understand that people have questions and I embrace them,” said Asima.
Since she was a child, she has wanted to fight fires.
“I’ve always liked an action packed job and I love the physical aspect of the job,” said Asima.
It’s a job that’s demanding, tiring, and one with lots of questions about her faith.
People ask about the veil around her head – called a hijab. She’s asked whether she wears it all the time and what she does with it while fighting fires.
“We have what is called a nomex hood that is flame retardant,” said Asima. “I just put that on and I still look the same.”
Asima has never had anyone be disrespectful because of her beliefs but she admits she has had to deal with some stereotypes.
“I’m not what you see on the news,” said Asima. “There’s more to me than that. I’m still a human being and I still want to help people.”
That’s why Asima does what she does – proudly displaying devotion to her religion while risking her life for others.
“The people that we help when they need help they don’t care what our gender is, they don’t care what our ethnicity is, they don’t care about our religion,” said Asima. “They just want to know that we can do the job.”
Asima is one of 36 women who are firefighters in Richmond and the Department is seeing more apply every year.
It’s creating some unique challenges but the women say they’re all about breaking down barriers.