We may not want to cop to it but we all know a real life Alia Khan, don’t we?
A stereotype is a belief that may be adopted  about specific types of individuals or certain ways of doing things, but that belief may or may not accurately reflect reality.
Yes, it’s a stereotype but sometimes stereotypes contain a kernel of truth.
The first ‘Alia Khan’ I knew of was via my brother when he attended the local F.E. college in the 90s. This female Muslim student dressed in a long, flowing jilbab (jilbabs are basically robes) and wore a headscarf. Her strict father would drive all the way up to college entrance rather than – heaven forbid! – risk his daughter getting out the car and walking from the college gates on her own. As soon as she waved goodbye and walked through the doors, it was straight into the girls’ toilets. Off came the jilbab and headscarf and on went the make up and clothes she stored in her bag. There was something deliciously scandalous about all of this to my young ears. I had never heard of such teenage Asian rebellion.
Older and wiser, I have witnessed many Alia Khans in all her various forms. I remember being surprised when a former pupil dropped by to say hello to staff at the independent Islamic girls’ school worked in. The girl had honey highlights in her dyed brown, fashionably cut hair, wore acrylic French manicured nails and was dressed in jeans and a top. This girl attended THIS school? A school where the headscarf was part of the uniform and we kept a bottle of nail polish remover in the office for girls to use if they came in with painted nails.
Seeing this girl stroll into school so carefree seemed to me like an affront to the school’s strictly enforced dress codes and rules for nails and make up. I felt like we should have been ushering her away into an empty classroom or the janitor’s closet rather than have pupils catch sight of her (that was my naivety to think girls had strictly enforced rules on what they wear at home. I worked there long enough to realise that they weren’t all like that – perhaps a 50/50 split in how many continued to wear their headscarves. As long as you’re decently covered, you’re good to go). She was attending college and was warmly greeted by the staff while I couldn't stop marvelling at those nails.
I’ve heard smug
London journalists (because London is the home of smug journalists) talk gleefully about seeing Muslim girls whip off their scarves as soon as they get past the school gates. They see it as evidence of RELIGIOUS HYPOCRISY AT WORK! whereas as I see it more simply as teenage rebellion. Isn’t teenage rebellion lovingly cherished in western art forms? Film, art, literature, music etc. You’d think they would drop the sneering superior attitude and at least sound vaguely impressed.
I don’t like hearing people talk about Muslim girls in such a way but I’d be a liar if said Alia Khan didn’t exist. I was her and she was me when I was in sixth form and sat in a pub with my friends during a lunch break, meekly sipping from a glass of coke while getting told off for being there from a member of staff because we were underage.
Muslims who are less laid back than me have complained to the BBC because they don’t want to see a stereotype perpetuated on TV but whatever they may say, they cannot deny it. We all know an Alia Khan and – ssshhhhhh!!! – we might have even been an Alia ourselves.