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  1. ITV Report

'Dream big': How these three people are redefining what it means to be young, British and Muslim

(Left to right) Musician Mohammed Yahya, model Mariah Idrissi and comedian Tez Ilyas

Careers are a big part of our identity - but among British Muslims, there is a risk of thinking that few take up roles that could be considered unconventional.

As part of the first episode of ITV News' new digital series Young, British and Muslim, hosted by Rageh Omaar, we asked three people who have broke the mould by making a living in jobs many other young British Muslims have not.

  • Watch the first episode of Young, British and Muslim here
  • Tez Ilyas, comedian

Tez, from Blackburn, studied biochemistry before moving to London as part of the Civil Service graduate programme, ending up at the Home Office. "So far, so good", he says - "[my] parents are very happy I'm doing a respectable job."

It was when Tez was looking for a hobby while living in the capital that he came across a stand-up comedy workshop. "I was bitten by the bug, the need to perform, and the need to express the ideas that I'd had in my head for all these years," he said.

If someone at school had told me 'you'd become a stand-up when you're older', you might as well have said to me 'you'll become an astronaut' - it was that far away from what I grew up in.

– Tez Ilyas

Tez says his parents have recently accepted his career, particularly as he has enjoyed more mainstream success - such as starring in BBC comedy Man Like Mobeen. Last week, he performed a homecoming show with family members among the audience.

"Sometimes I get described as a Muslim comedian, or an Asian comedian. I am a comedian, who is Muslim, who is Asian. There is a difference", he told Rageh Omaar.

  • Mariah Idrissi, model
Mariah became the world's first hijab wearing model for a major campaign, for H&M. Credit: H&M

In 2015, Mariah Idrissi became the world's first hijab wearing model for a major campaign, for the fashion retailer H&M.

Mariah didn't plan to enter the world of modelling. She had recently graduated and was managing a children's shop when she was asked by a scout if she wanted to take part in a modelling campaign for H&M, who were looking to show more diversity in their advertising.

Mariah took part in the filming and admitted she had completely forgotten about it, until the day campaign was released - with Mariah's appearance attracting headlines for becoming the first hijab-wearing model.

She had mixed reactions about what to do next.

It was kind of like, what do I do now? Do I continue on this path and milk it, or do I just go back and pursue what I wanted to do with my career...studying. I milked it! But I haven't forgotten what I originally wanted to do.

– Mariah Idrissi

While Mariah's appearance signalled progress when it came to diversity in fashion advertising, she revealed to presenter Rageh Omaar that she was dropped from a campaign she was due to be part of because she was wearing a hijab.

It was a collaboration with a beauty brand so I was quite shocked that that outlet refused on the basis that I wore a hijab. Nothing to do with my personality...just the fact that I wear a hijab..they thought that their audience wouldn't buy the product. For me, it was like 'well I buy things that white girls are wearing, or black [girls]'...it makes no difference. I was a bit shocked.

– Mariah Idrissi
  • Mohammed Yahya, musician

Rapper Mohammed has tried to break the mould not just in terms of his work, but who he has worked with. One project he was a part of was Lines of Faith, where he collaborated with a Jewish rapper and exploring the similarities between Islam and Judaism. He's part of duo Native Sun and currently working on a solo album.

Born in Mozambique, Mohammed became a born-again Christian at 13 but discovered Islam on a trip to The Gambia when he was 24.

There are some schools of thought within Islam that music is haram (forbidden). We asked Mohammed whether he faced any difficulties within the Muslim community for choosing a career in music.

It's an argument that has always taken place for centuries among scholars between scholars, so it's a grey area. Some people decide to keep away from music, some people are involved in music, so when I first converted to Islam, I took a little break just because I was trying to find myself and trying to be as sincere as I could and try to follow the religion properly. Then I realised that it wasn't black and white. So I navigated until I found a place where I felt comfortable, so I decided to continue creating music.

– Mohammed Yahya

Mohammed said that at a number of events he has performed at which were organised by Muslims, organisers would ask him to change his performance - either by not performing songs on particular subjects in order to avoid offending a 'very conservative audience', 'not moving too much' on stage, or performing without any music. It led him to tell organisers to 'take me as I am or I won't perform'.

However, he feels attitudes have changed. At a recent event, organisers asked him to perform with music. "I still wasn't sure, so then I asked the audience 'would you prefer me to do a spoken word piece or some stuff with music?' and they were like 'no, do stuff with music'. So I feel that it is changing", Mohammed said.

  • Mohammed, Mariah and Tez's advice to young British Muslims wanting to pursue 'mould-breaking' careers

I dream very big. Sometimes people say it's unrealistic, but there's still that element of understanding I know I can achieve this because I'm good at it and I enjoy doing it.

– Mariah Idrissi

I think it's OK to dream big and to be unrealistic.

There's one speaker that I like to listen to and he said that "if your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough".

– Mohammed Yahya

What young people have today...is social media...and that is making stars of people. So if there's something you're really, really good at, showcase it on there, there'll be an audience for it.

– Tez Ilyas