Islamophobia: Impacts on Muslim Women



The project “Forgotten women: the Impact of Islamophobia on Muslim women“, implemented by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) examined the harmful impacts of Islamophobia on Muslim women. It highlighted many shocking findings regarding violence, hate crime and employment discrimination against Muslim women.

Muslim men and women are assumed to have the presumption of guilty but Muslim women are especially targeted for their visible appearance.

Also Read: Islamophobia in India: The Hostile Treatment Against Muslims

In most countries, Muslim women are the main target of hate crime, speech and violence for wearing a religious symbol mainly the headscarf. Let’s say both in the Netherland and France, more than 80% of Islamophobic incidents took place against Muslim women for wearing visible religious symbols.

Muslim women suffer from inequalities like all other women from lack of employment access, gender wage gap, domestic violence, physical or verbal abuse, and assignment of low social status. But the situation worsens for being a Muslim and they are tortured categorically for their religion or ethnicity.

In the labour market too, they are not perceived as active agents and are judged especially for their clothing and look. They are easily being fired or not hired at all. They are treated differently. In countries like France and the US Muslim women bear the brunt of following their religion and were discriminated against for wearing hijab for decades.

Also Read: “Age to consent to sex in France: 15 Age to consent to Hijab: 18” – A ludicrous statement is up for debate!

France banned the burkini for it treats the burkini as a symbol of the enslavement of Muslim women.

Then Prime Minister of France Manuel Valls also supported the burkini ban. He says that such Islamic attire is not compatible with the French values and the Republic.

It shows how Muslim women are not allowed to follow their lifestyle in the name of independence and values compatibility with the majority culture.

Source: Reuters/Jim Bourg

Samantha Elauf (center) outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 25, 2015

Samantha Elauf is an American Muslim woman who won the battle for equal treatment and religious freedom in workplaces 

Samantha Elauf’s case of America serves as the best example of workplace discrimination and religious freedom.

The hiring manager at Abercrombie & Fitch company openly accepted that he would not hire Samantha Elauf because the hijab violates the company’s look policy.

Samantha Elauf went to the court and the Supreme court ruled in her favour.

Such rulings and government policies clearly shape the notions of pluralism, diversity, religious freedom and equal opportunities. It influences how people would behave and perceive their peers of different faiths.

This Landmark case addresses modern issues related to religious freedom at a time when workplace and social diversity are increasing at a fast pace. We need practices that can promote and secure the diverse culture and minority faith in all public and private places.

Also Read: Why Do We Still Talk about Gender Equality and Women’s Safety?

Media and some political discourses enhance these stereotypical thoughts when they represent Muslim women generally as oppressed, not progressive, and non-compatible with modern and open values.

It gives a green signal to the general public that people with a particular faith can be treated as second-class citizens and doing crime with them is not a big issue. Xenophobia and hate crimes will be considered rightful practices.

These discriminatory remarks and views on a large and formal discussion level create a foundation for further violence and separatist practices on the ground in society.

After the 9/11 incident, the western world promoted the discussion that fights against terrorism also includes the fight for “free” Muslim women. It seems impossible for Muslim women to celebrate both identities as being European and Muslim. Discourse becomes normal for the ways to remove shackles of their religion, integrate them, remove their head covers and provide them with more freedom, rights, independence and a neutral and secular environment.

How decisions can be made for Muslim women without their inclusion of them in shaping their own choices, rights and destiny?

Have Muslim women ever been asked what freedom and choice actually mean for them? What do they choose to wear, preach and practice?

It is just a form of hidden violence and discrimination to stop women from being in their attire of choice, following their beliefs and practising their rights in the name of religious tolerance, women’s rights and equality.

Muslim women are the visible targets of anti-muslim sentiments. One such research highlights that 69% of women face discrimination when wearing hijab or niqab. While only 29% of women are treated with discrimination against those who do not wear any hijab or religious symbol.

Recently, the hijab controversy in India attracted the world’s attention to the atrocious behaviour of Muslim girl students who wear hijab in schools and colleges. Their hijab was banned by the state court with acceptance of an argument that a hijab ban is required to promote equality and peace at education centres.

Many advocates for girls’ rights and say that it will perpetuate the tendency of girls’ illiteracy and violence against them. Their families might prefer to keep their girls inside the four walls to treat their homes as a more secure place.

This attitude will only add to the perils of Muslim women and increase the violence, crime and snatching of their rights from their homes to the public places.

People with a misogynistic mindset will be encouraged to propose more restrictions and unethical behaviour toward Muslim women.

Key Takeaways

Observance of one’s faith should not take away the rights of Muslim women.

It is not appropriate to treat Muslim women as victims of their own oppression. They chose their faith and attire as their right and expression.

Also Read: Inspiring Women in Muslim History That We Should Know

It needs to be understood that Islam is not that hold Muslim women at disadvantage or discriminate but it is the rooted prejudice, dogmas and preconceptions that hold them back.

You can not force Muslim women to remove their hijab or niqab in the name of progressive thoughts.

It is a misconception to equate one’s religious attire or practices as a symbol of religious extremism and gender inequality.

Research shows that for some women covering is more of their choice, an integral part of their identity and feeling of empowerment.

So, let the Muslim women live their lives and follow their dreams without imposing dogmas, misconceptions and treatment as oppressed victims.


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