Alumna receives writing award
Articles by Anam Ghias
Anam Ghias, a UH alumna with a bachelor’s in journalism, placed third in the Religion Newswriters Association’s 2011 national contest for her work covering Islam.
The RNA is a non-profit organization that seeks to improve reporting of religion by the media. Ghias, who graduated in May, attended the annual RNA Conference in Durham, N.C., this past weekend where she received an award and $150 cash prize.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Ghias. “Hundreds of people entered and I honestly didn’t expect to win.”
Ghias began covering religion in journalism when she took professor David McHam’s reporting class, where student reporters choose a beat, or subject, to cover throughout the semester. Hoping to shed light on other religions as well as her own Islamic faith, she chose the religion beat.
“The reason I started writing about Islam is because Muslims are not fairly portrayed in the media,” she said. “It’s a religion that is not given a fair chance. I want people to learn about it from authentic sources.”
In Fall 2010 and Spring 2011, she wrote several articles for The Daily Cougar about Muslims and the perception of Islam in America, touching on topics of Islamic customs, traditions and “Islamophobia.”
In April, the former news editors for the Cougar, Jose Aguilar and Cristi Guerra, saw how Ghias’ stories reflected her passion and writing skills and persuaded her to submit her work to the RNA competition. After learning about Ghias’ win earlier this month, Aguilar said he wasn’t surprised. He had no doubt that she would place.
“The award is a wonderful recognition of (Ghias’) hard work,” Aguilar said. “It fills me with a sense of pride to know that her writing has been recognized on a national level.
“It also speaks to the caliber of the Cougar’s content and its staff,” he said. “The Daily Cougar, like the University of Houston, is definitely top tier.”
Ghias is also happy about the award but is quick to hold back her excitement. She said because her articles are about Muslims, they get quite a few negative responses, but it’s something that she has to adjust to. Getting used to mean comments, she said, is similar to adjusting to the stares she gets while wearing a hijab, or headscarf.
“I pray that at least one person will read (my articles) with an open mind,” said Ghias. “I don’t expect people to completely change their perspective about Islam just by reading what I wrote. I’m just hoping that I encourage them to learn about the religion first.”
Often, Ghias finds comfort in her family.
“My husband and family always encourage me to write to make a difference,” she said. “It’s with my husband’s support that I’m able to deal with the not so nice comments.”
Currently, the 23-year-old’s days revolve around caring for her family, but she plans to freelance at her own pace. The “bookaholic,” as her husband calls her, said she plans to write for as long as she can.
“Words are a powerful thing,” she said. “I hope to use them to lessen the hate in this world.”