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School of Law

Alumni profile - Yasmin Hoque

As I got older, I felt that being in a profession was essential to provide a voice to minority groups and underrepresented members of society. However, I was the eldest and no one before me in our family had been to university

 

(Law LLB, 2005)

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Why did you study Law at Queen Mary? What sparked your interest in this field?

I obtained all A grades in my A Level studies of Law, Politics, Psychology and English despite moving from the Cotswolds to Kent halfway through the course, having to complete both AS and A2 Politics in one year and not being able to speak English when I first started school! I enjoyed the creativity of writing and exploring new texts in English Literature. I found it interesting to learn about the individual human mind but also how systems had been set up to establish societies. My parents from Bangladesh were keen to settle into British life as they were encouraged to come to the UK to set up in business, but they developed worries for their safety once here and preferred to keep myself and my siblings as close to them as possible. Despite the challenges, my father set up the first Indian Restaurant in the Cotswolds in the 1990s and I would always help my parents to ensure their voice was heard and respected. As I got older, I felt that being in a profession was essential to provide a voice to minority groups and underrepresented members of society. However, I was the eldest and no one before me in our family had been to university, although my parents supported further education, I was restricted to attending a university within commutable distance, but I was spoilt for choice in London. When I visited the Queen Mary campus I suddenly saw and felt a diverse, vibrant and international community of lecturers and students. I was drawn to it as a welcoming place where I could be myself.

In my legal practice I now ensure all aspects of my faith are active, this means halal funding, engaging with long term charitable projects known as ‘Sadakah Jariyah’ as an ongoing ethical foundation of the business, ensuring advice provided is based on the original sources from experts qualified in Islamic Law and treating all clients with equal respect in a non-judgmental environment.

What happened after you graduated and what was your experience of the legal industry?

After graduating, I was not sure whether to go for a solicitor or barrister route or something else altogether. Armed with a Law degree and the Draper’s Company Prize for academic excellence I reflected on the literature I gathered from various law fairs and the vibe from these at the time (which may be different now) was that unless I was doing commercial law or entering the corporate field then I would not be achieving the best I could. I now know that it is those with the biggest budgets that can pay to have the biggest presence in terms of time and manpower to provide the most influence on choices and available information.

However, back then I religiously made several applications to top tier law firms and I was very happy to undertake paralegal roles at Ashurst LLP and Clyde & Co, it felt good and was genuinely excellent experience and I certainly felt like I was on my way to ‘making it’. The experience of attending court led me to the conclusion that working in a litigation field supporting businesses would provide me the best exposure to high profile court cases where I could be visiting the Royal Courts of Justice on a regular basis. I qualified in 2010 with BLM LLP who sponsored the Legal Practice Course, I was very grateful for this and always keen to impress my employer. I would have continued this career path, however in my personal life I experienced events for which I had no preparation and had no solutions either. The rawness of my feelings and thoughts were in a place where no matter how much support my colleagues endeavored to provide, and I really commend them for trying, the environment itself and the system was not set up in way to help and my natural reaction was to search for an alternative for my own well-being.

Could you give an overview of your career, and what you are doing now?

In 2017, I became a freelance solicitor and set myself up in the education industry. I worked with young children to support the pupil premium provision to improve gaps in attainment and this led me to also support adult students of law whilst I commenced retraining into the field of wills and probate law; an area which I could not recall having much presence at university law fairs but which I found intellectually stimulating and providing a useful service for wealth management. I found it very enjoyable engaging in legal academia again, it was refreshing to truly think outside of the box. I remained convinced that the only way of excelling was by joining a law firm model to become a Senior Associate or a Partner.

Then in the summer of 2021 as the Covid-19 restrictions eased, I took note of business networking opportunities offered, also law fairs came to my attention again, some virtual and some in-person. I looked in detail at how they were structured and presented. Being a business owner myself now and combined with my study of Islam it struck me that the traditional model was not set up in the best way possible – I am focused on breaking down barriers to access, providing a true and fair platform for all options to all people, I do not see others in the industry as ‘competitors’ nor do I seek to replicate the existing offerings, I had to set up an alternative.

As the founder and director of AL-HQ Law I can provide my clients with beneficial knowledge and practical legal solutions across all spectrums of civil law. I use my creative side to develop innovative guides and resources to ensure I play an active role in giving something back to multiple communities. I have recently co-founded Access Law Clinic and we are excited to launch this with a focus on social mobility to ensure those from disadvantaged backgrounds are presented with additional support for legal careers and provide supervised free legal advice. As a legal consultant and practicing solicitor I can participate in so many different projects, continue lifelong learning and deliver services which I am genuinely passionate about whilst being true to my personal freedoms and choices.

How does your faith guide your legal practice?

I must be honest here and say that faith was not something I felt comfortable being open about unless I was in the safety of my home. The vibe in society seemed to be that Sharia compliance is an oppressive and fearful concept, that there is no place for Islamic Law in ‘modern society’ as it is backwards and discriminatory. It was not a good thing to ‘preach’ and it was not politically correct to talk about Islam. I really wanted to fit in, and I was content to stay in this state of confusion and ignorance despite the fact I was a Muslim.

However, this was a false state of being and one where I had subconsciously justified to myself that it is ok to not respect myself as a person. I was an empty shell, present and doing the daily grind based on absorbing what others had taught me and in practice I had lost sight of all the diversity, culture and the celebration of differences which I welcomed whilst at university and had enhanced my critical thinking skills. It was not until 2009 that I wore hijab, and not until 2012 that I performed Hajj, and still faith remained something which I could not voice.

During the pandemic I picked up the primary and secondary sources of Islam, and started to read them in English, I then moved on to apply all the skills I gained when I had to decipher texts by Shakespeare and found reading the hard copy of the Quran and Hadith collection so much easier! I was reading them as a leisure activity at first and I revived the joy I felt when I was first a student of law.

I then started re-reading with my lawyer hat on – being transparent, objective and impartial; with the view of seeking the truth and best interests for my clients whilst balancing the advice for application not just with the literal rule but also the golden rule and purposive approach. By embracing Islam as a way of life it was natural for me to set up as a specialist private client solicitor to offer advice compatible with the laws of England and Wales (which I had been doing in any event) and include a niche service for Muslim clients nationally and globally covering Islamic Wills, Islamic Probate, Islamic Dispute Resolution and Islamic Mediation – the procedures and conditions for these are set out in great depth and detail pertaining to matters of Fiqh i.e. Islamic Law. Like any type of law this can seem complex and out of the ordinary initially, but that’s where I come in to make it accessible for everyday use, to improve access to justice and understanding of Sharia compliance from a legal perspective whilst valuing the spiritual faith-driven foundation.

In my legal practice I now ensure all aspects of my faith are active, this means halal funding, engaging with long term charitable projects known as ‘Sadakah Jariyah’ as an ongoing ethical foundation of the business, ensuring advice provided is based on the original sources from experts qualified in Islamic Law and treating all clients with equal respect in a non-judgmental environment.

What does Islamophobia Awareness Month mean to you?

Islamophobia Awareness Month came to my attention from participating in many other initiatives since the start of this year such as International Women’s Day, health related initiatives and most recently Black History Month and climate change. As I was not being my true self, my parents managed to shelter me from Islamophobia – now I do experience it. I find it disgraceful and disappointing but not surprising that it exists. What strikes me is that unless awareness is raised it is very possible that key areas of improvement will continue to be missed and society will absorb information which is misguided, misinterpreted and then misapplied, leading to assumptions, discrimination and the worst-case scenario of hate crimes and mindless harms entering society at all levels, some are very obvious and some so subtle, yet they all have a detrimental ripple effect to enshrine institutional deep-rooted Islamophobia here and abroad.  The impact of the suffering to victims and their families can be long lasting damage and it is a treble trauma for me in society today, being female, ethnic minority and a hijabi Muslim.

I do believe that we all have the capability to live in harmony together, but we do need full freedom to talk about ourselves without fear or judgment, we need to know more about each other and we need to make informed decisions as individuals in our community whether we are the leader of our family, the leader of an organisation, or the leader of an entire nation – the ownership and responsibility for persons in authority should be positive and inclusive of all and not contribute to divisiveness whether consciously or not. We need to work together to make change happen and it is time for change.

Are there any famous Muslims, historical figures or members of the Muslim community you wish more people knew about?

People should look up Fatima al-Fihri, a female Muslim who founded the concept of university as we know it today over 1,000 years ago; Muhammad al-Khwarizmi, known as the father of algebra; Ibn al-Haitham inventing the first pin-hole camera; Ismail al-Jazari, known for contribution to robotics and modern day engineering; Al-Zahrawi in relation to medical instruments and Mariam al-ljliya al-Astrulabi the maker of a timekeeping device; and there are many more. For law, people should know that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is named as one of the 18 best lawgivers inside the US Supreme Court building.

In the sporting industry, the stories of success from Muhammad Ali, Mohamed Farah and Mohamed Salah are good to review. Clearly the clubs and management have provided a supportive platform where they rightly confirm protection for religion, they appreciate that in this life it can be possible for sports to go on in harmony with faith.

Mostly I am inspired by the Muslim role models I meet in everyday life, working tirelessly with no fame or external recognition because they are busy in the local communities collecting for food banks, providing medical care, getting on with serving the public with help and support.

Based on your own time at university, what are your memorable experiences?

My memorable first experience was entering the Octagon; it is an eight-sided and truly special building where we queued up to get our ID cards and immediately formed solid friendships and supportive peer groups. The blend of the preserved history combined with modern facilities meant it was an enjoyable experience to attend on-campus.

I also cannot forget the wide range of outstanding halal food options in close vicinity of the university meaning there was always something to enjoy – it was not until the third and final year that I appreciated the timetable gaps were not exactly intended as relaxing time. Much intensive solo time was spent in the vast law library taking in the breadth of books on the same topic and I do remember sustaining a metatarsal fracture from commuting with the big piles of hard back texts during which I hopped along and did not risk taking any time off from studies! The hottest day of the year happened at the time of my graduation, but it was a very special memory to have my whole family present for the ceremony as my final experience on campus.

What do you think needs to be done in the legal industry for the issues facing Muslim communities? 

It is great to see that Queen Mary offer Islamic Law as a module of study and options to study dedicated Islamic LLM courses is encouraging because wholesome education and complete knowledge is necessary. We can only strive to bring out the best in people, provide them with better education, better services, better structures and systems which do not fail them or have gaps in learning so that we see no hate crimes in any shape and no Islamphobia as there is no place for it in modern society. I have seen that the NHS have a Muslim Network as does the Civil Service and the legal industry which is serving the public has dedicated groups to join but for matters of faith, they opt to bundle this within ethnicity. There is no platform for support even though religion is a protected characteristic, it is something left for third parties to set up, it is not welcome as an integrated group, and we are suffering the consequences of this. Islam is timeless and not defined to one space and it is very inspiring for me to know that the university I attended decades ago is committed to raising awareness of the serious harm caused by Islamophobia and this reassures me that all faith is not lost.

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Hannah Dormor. If you would like to get in touch with Yasmin or engage her in your work, please contact Hannah at h.dormor@qmul.ac.uk. 

 

 

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