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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 7 Apr 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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By Covering up Too Much, Western Women Betray Their Muslim-World Sisters

New Age Islam News Bureau

7 Apr 2016 

Photo: By covering up too much, Western women betray their Muslim-world sisters


 First Ladies from Muslim Countries to Raise Cancer Awareness

 Islamists Fight against Bill That Protects Women from Domestic Violence

 Singaporean Muslim Mum in London: How Can My Family Live Here Safely?

 Human Rights Watch Calls for Release of Yazidi Women

 Women Universally More Religious than Men, Says Study

 Iraq: Women Suffer Under ISIS

 Progress for Women in the Muslim World

 Muslim Women’s Reception: A Platform to Debunk Stereotypes

 Hard Evidence: Muslim Women And Discrimination In Britain

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




By Covering Up Too Much, Western Women Betray Their Muslim-World Sisters

April 6, 2016 | 8:51pm

The stewardesses of Air France are outraged and have just refused to don headscarves when they fly into Tehran, as the mullahs have demanded.

The French stewardesses have more dignity, more sobriety and more self-respect than many American and European women do, beginning with trendsetting celebrities, female diplomats and first ladies, who have all donned headscarves (Hijab), face masks (Niqab) or full Burqas when visiting Muslim countries — and as carefree fashion statements.

For example, Madonna, three Kardashian sisters, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry and Nicole Ritchie have all recently posted photos of themselves in Islamic “drag,” either on visits to Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Morocco or just because it suited their fancy. They’ve posed wearing filmy, long scarves (Katy Perry), a heavy black Hijab (Kylie Kardashian, Rihanna), niqab or face masks (Madonna), a heavy Hijab plus Abayas (Gomez) and almost full Burqas (Kim and Khloe Kardashian).

Such female celebrities may influence Western girls more than female Western political leaders can. They don’t understand that they are “slumming”; they can remove their exotic Islamic garb and pose naked whenever they choose to do so. This isn’t possible for Muslim girls and women who are forced to wear the Islamic veil (headscarf, or face mask or full head, face and body covering) and who risk death when they resist.

Being forced to adopt a colonizing custom that subordinates women; being forced to “pretend” that one is a Muslim when that isn’t the case; being made to feel shameful, shameless, if one is naked-faced, is an act of psychological warfare.

Remember the sole female Navy sailor who was recently forced to don a hijab on board while Iran held American sailors in captivity? It was an outrage, and reminiscent of how Barbary pirates once treated their captured Christian female slaves.

Why, then, are female non-Muslim Western leaders sometimes willing to comply?

For example, in 1996, Britain’s Princess Diana donned a headscarf when she visited Pakistan; in 1997, First Lady Hillary and Chelsea Clinton both donned a Hijab on a visit with Yaser Arafat; in 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wore one on a state visit to Tajikistan; in 2007, journalist Diana Sawyer did as well when she interviewed Iranian tyrant Mahmoud Amadinejad; also in 2007, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wore a headscarf on a visit to Damascus, Syria; and in 2007, First Lady Laura Bush wore hijab on a state visit to Saudi Arabia.

In 2012, a high-ranking UN official on climate change, Christiana Figueres, donned a hijab on a visit to Qatar.

In 2015, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop wore hijab on a state visit to Iran; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wore a hijab on a state visit to Pakistan.

Some of the same American and European Christian leaders also chose not to wear a hijab as well. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to their decisions.

In 2008, Rice and Bush did not wear a headscarf in Saudi Arabia; in 2010, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a bare-headed visit to Saudi Arabia; in 2012, Clinton wore no hijab when she visited Saudi Arabia. When Michelle Obama attended the late Saudi king’s funeral, she wore no Hijab.

If you’re representing America, it’s fine to find ways to respect the customs of the country you are visiting. But please note: American male diplomats don’t wear traditional Saudi male attire — the bisht or thobe, the keffiya and the ayal.

Modesty is a legitimate concern. So it’s important to understand that the Koran doesn’t command that women wear body bags or face masks. Like men, women are commanded to dress “modestly” and to “cover their breasts.” While Muslim countries do have a long history of face- and body-veiling women, they also have a hundred-year history of naked-faced Muslim women who fought for their rights or whose kings granted them the right to feel the sun on their faces, make eye contact with their students and teachers, perform surgery, sit in parliaments, etc.

When was the last time you saw large numbers of prominent Muslim women in the 21st century (wives of Muslim leaders, female Muslim leaders, immigrants, citizens) in the West going bare-headed and naked-faced? They certainly exist and, if they’re lucky, their families are also westernized.

But some very brave westernized Muslim girls and women have also paid a high price for their decision to dress Western-style. They’ve been threatened with death, battered, imprisoned at home, rushed into forced marriages, escorted to and from school — and have been the victims of honor killings.

As long as women are forced to wear face masks and Burqas, or even to wear the heavy Hijab, it renders naked-faced women vulnerable, both in Muslim lands and in the West. Remember the large number of Western women who were assaulted, groped and raped by male Muslim mobs earlier this year all over Europe?

Phyllis Chesler is emerita professor of psychology, author of four studies about honor killing and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.



First Ladies from Muslim countries to raise cancer awareness

06 APRIL 2016

GEDDA - First Ladies from Muslim world countries will convene in Istanbul to explore ways of enhancing access to cancer treatment in the Islamic world. The Special Session will take place during the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) 13th Islamic Summit Conference to be hosted by the Government of Turkey between April 10-15th and will end with a formal OIC declaration on the issue.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the largest Muslim body in the world and the world's second largest inter-governmental body after the U.N. with 57 member states.

The OIC Islamic Summit is the supreme authority of the OIC, composed of Kings, Presidents and other Heads of State from across the OIC's 57 member states. It convenes every three years to jointly review how to advance political, economic and social progress across the Islamic world. It will next convene on April 10-15th in Istanbul, hosted by the Government of Turkey.

In a first act of its kind in the Islamic Summit Conferences, the First Ladies of OIC Member States will hold a special session during the 13th Islamic Summit Conference titled: "First Ladies' Leadership on Cancer Control in the OIC Member States" at the upcoming Islamic Summit in Istanbul.

Participants will include First Ladies representing countries with high incidents of deaths caused by cancer in the Islamic world (according to World Health Organisation statistics) including Turkey, Afganistan, Malaysia, and Lebanon amongst others.

The special session will enable First Ladies of OIC Member States to discuss their individual involvement in the fight against cancer, as well as the potential for enhanced cross-national collaboration, advocacy and exchange of experiences in mobilizing a broad range of partners to increase cancer awareness and expand access to effective diagnosis and treatment services across the Islamic world.

The OIC Secretary General said "The Islamic summit, as a gathering of Heads of State from across the Muslim world is designed to address some of the pressing challenges facing the Muslim world. It is only right that a major transnational health challenge like cancer which deserves an international response forms part of those discussions".

He added "having First Ladies from OIC Countries address this important issue also serves as a powerful visible display of Muslim women making important contributions to public life." "First Ladies, as leaders, women, mothers, and daughters bring a unique passion, perspective, and position to resolving the pressing issues affecting their fellow citizens. They can effectively use their unique platform to bring about transformational changes to societal challenges, including the fight against cancer." The special session is expected to adopt a "Declaration of OIC First Ladies Leadership on Cancer Control". (ANSAmed).



Islamists Fight against Bill That Protects Women from Domestic Violence

Thursday 7 Apr 2016

A group of fundamental Islamists in Pakistan are protesting a law which was introduced to protect women from domestic and emotional violence.

The Punjab region of Pakistan officially enacted the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill on March 1, which effectively criminalised violence against women.

The bill prohibits any form of abuse by men against women, whether it is domestic, emotional, psychological or through stalking or cybercrime.

The law provides a network of shelters or safe houses where women who have fled violence can seek counseling.

It also sees a 24/7 number installed so women can report abuse or may, in some cases, ask an offender to wear a GPS-monitored bracelet.

It was drawn up in the context of high profile cases of extreme violence against women in the region.

The death of Farzana Parveen, a woman who was stoned to death by her relatives, led to protests by activists. In November 2014, four men were sentenced to death for the killing.

The United Nation’s Gender Inequality Index puts Pakistan 147th in a list of 188 countries.

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However, opponents of the new law have said it would ‘destroy the family system’ and add to the ‘miseries of women’.

On Tuesday, the Council of Islamic Ideology declared the act as contradictory to the constitution, laws and Islamic teachings.

It has instead called on the council to table another bill which they say would ensure the protection of the rights of the family, impedes acts of violence against family members but also protects the rights of entire family members.



Singaporean Muslim mum in London: How can my family live here safely?

Apr 7, 2016

Late last year, just a month after our move from Eindhoven in the Netherlands to London, the city of Paris was shaken by a number of explosions that claimed hundreds of lives.

What we saw on the news then just numbed us.

My family and I just sat down for a moment and watched the television without uttering a word.

We were shocked by what was shown on the news and immediately felt scared.

You see, Paris was only three and a half hours from our previous residence in Eindhoven and we had, on a number of occasions, taken road trips over the weekend to enjoy Paris' beauty and serenity.

The places where the attacks took place somehow struck a chord of familiarity.

Just four months later, the city of Brussels became the latest target of violence in Europe.

Once again, we sat in front of the telly and went silent.   

If Paris was a three-and-a-half-hour drive from our previous residence, Brussels was only an hour and fifteen minutes away.

Worse still, Brussels and Antwerp were the two cities that we visited on most weekends not only because of their close proximity to us then, but also because of the large number of Muslims in these cities that gave us the opportunity to explore the many halal restaurants and shops that catered to our needs.

When these tragedies, so close to where we have been, happened, I always ask myself if I or we can live safely here.

Every day when my husband goes to work and the children are at school, I'm afraid to go anywhere and will stay indoors. 

Perhaps this is just me and my mind playing the scary 'what ifs' scenarios, but I am a Muslim woman and I don the hijab.

Also, we now live in an area where there are hardly any Muslims and I know each time something big like the bombings happen somewhere, people will start to look at me in a funny way. 

Although not much has been reported, when incidents of violence such as the Belgium bombings happen, hate crime or hate against Muslims will also be on the rise.

Since the Paris attack, a number of incidents have been reported in London where Muslim women wearing the hijab had been targets of racial abusers.


My children have also told me that in school, their teachers held special talks about what happened and also about hate crime.

The head teacher also informed the students that terrorism and violence will not be tolerated and that it is not their Muslim friends or neighbours who commit these devious crimes, but the so-called extremist Muslims who do not follow the teachings of Islam properly.

But I can't help thinking that among these students there still might be some who think that all Muslims are the same, that we know about the terrorists among us even when truthfully we don't and that we hate violence of any kind.

What truly riles me are these so-called Muslim extremists who claimed the right to live in these European cities, often benefitting from financial, health and housing help from the government and even their livelihood from their adopted countries, and yet committing violence without batting an eyelid.

Which part of this is the teaching of Islam I wonder.

Is this what Islam is all about?

Certainly not.

Islam is a religion of peace and calmness and teaches, like all other religions, to love and respect one another.

For example, in the Quran, we are reminded as many as 90 times to be patient. This shows how Islam is.

We do not inflict violence on anyone even with our tongues, never mind weapons.

These extremists have deliberately tarnished the image of Islam that we normal abiding Muslims love.The fear these attacks have inflicted on those of us who live near where they happened has also not yet faded. I do realise that we have to choose not to think about it and just carry on living.

We have to appreciate what we have and must not succumb to just looking behind our backs each time we go out or stay indoors and avoid life altogether.

But it is so very hard to do.

So, in times like this, I cannot help but ask my husband: "Will you get a Singapore posting any time soon?"

Ida Suandi- Al Shara is a Singaporean living in London. She is a part time post-doctoral researcher at Goldsmiths, University of London and is also a housewife.She is on sabbatical from her teaching position in Singapore

What truly riles me up are these so-called Muslim extremists who claimed the right to live in these European cities, often benefitting from financial, health and housing help from the government and even their livelihood from their adopted countries, and yet committing violence without batting an eyelid.



Human Rights Watch calls for release of Yezidi women

April 7, 2016

ERBIL – The extremist armed group of Islamic State (ISIS) should urgently release Yezidi women and girls abducted since 2014, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday. According to statistics, at least 1,800 Yezidi women and girls are still in ISIS-hands.

“The longer they are held by ISIS, the more horrific life becomes for Yezidi women, bought and sold, brutally raped, their children torn from them,” said Skye Wheeler, women’s rights emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch.

According to officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria continue to hold about 1,800 abducted Yezidi women and girls.

The United Nations has cited allegations, based on Yezidi officials’ estimates, that as many as 3,500 people remained in ISIS captivity as of October 2015.

“Many of the abuses, including torture, sexual slavery, and arbitrary detention, would be war crimes if committed in the context of the armed conflict, or crimes against humanity if they were part of ISIS policy during a systematic or widespread attack on the civilian population,” the HRW said.

The UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in March 2015 that ISIS may have committed genocide against the Yezidis in August 2014.

“The abuses against Yezidi women and girls documented by Human Rights Watch, including the practice of abducting women and girls and forcibly converting them to Islam and/or forcibly marrying them to ISIS members, may be part of a genocide against Yezidis,” HRW said.

“Women also reported ISIS members taking their children from them, physically abusing their children, and forcing them to pray or take Islamic names.”

“ISIS attacks on women and girls, especially Yezidis, have created a new and terrifying crisis for women and girls in the region,” Wheeler said. “One way Iraq’s government can help these women is to change its laws and policies to better protect all women who have been subjected to rape.”

In August 2014, ISIS extremists had taken control of the Yezidi Shingal district in northern Iraq, causing a mass displacement of nearly 400,000 people. Tens of thousands of Yezidi Kurds remained trapped in Mount Sinjar, suffering mass killings, kidnappings and rape at the hands of ISIS militants. Also, more than 3000 Yezidi girls have been taken by the radical group as sex slaves.

The Kurdish Peshmerga troops regained control of the Yezidi Shingal region in November of 2015, after fierce battles against ISIS. The Kurdish forces have recently discovered more than five mass graves in the Yezidi region, where hundreds of Yezidi civilians have been summarily executed and buried by ISIS jihadis.



Women Universally More Religious Than Men, Says Study

Thursday, April 07,2016

NEW DELHI: Religion is complex, but women are more so. A survey carried out by Pew claims that women are universally more devout than men.

It found 83. 4 per cent of women as against 79.9 per cent men, identify with a specific faith across nations. The seemingly small difference of 3.5 per cent translates into a whopping 97 million more women.

The number of women who identify with a religion among Christians scores high in comparison to men. Same goes for Muslim women where they show a predilection for being more devout on all accounts than men except one. When it comes to weekly prayer outside their homes, men in Muslim nation far outnumber their female counterparts.

Of 81 countries for which the data of weekly prayers was collated, 30 nations, almost all European and American, show a trend of more women attending these religious events.

The study that seeks to map the gender gap in religion, rates the participants on their religious ‘commitment’. The measures along which this commitment is calculated were “religious affiliation, frequency of worship service attendance, frequency of prayer, and whether religion plays an important role in a person’s life.”

When it came to daily prayers (inside or outside the home), out of 84 countries, 43 countries are where women are significantly more inclined to indulge in this than men. A very large number of these 43 countries are in the Americas and Europe. The only country where this was not so, is Israel, an orthodox Jewish state where more number of men committed to offer daily prayers than women. 40 countries showed no difference which was statistically significant in gender gap on this measure; these included countries in West Asia, Russia and East.

In a study published in 2002 titled “Physiology and Faith: Addressing the ‘Universal’ Gender Difference in Religious Commitment” authored by Rodney stark, it was argued that women tend to be more god-fearing in nature because they lack testosterone—the hormone dominant in men. The lack of testosterone among women thus forces them to be less risk-taking in general against men, who in turn, can afford to be more irreligious and indulge in riskier behavior.

A counterview was manifested in another study, which promoted the role of socio-economic factors responsible for sincerity of women in religious matters. A study titled, “Why Are Women More Religious Than Men?” authored by steve Bruce and Marta Trzebiatowska, argued in it that biology has hardly anything to do with religious makeup of women and men. They contended, among other things, that the benefits of secularization of society took time to trickle down to women in general and this added to their reason for having a more zealous religious outlook. They wrote, “Nothing in the biological make-up of men and women … explains the gendered difference in religiosity,” negating the ‘nature’ factor being a preponderate cause of this phenomenon. The study also argues that the fact women are the only ones who give birth causes them to believe more in the concepts of Heaven and Hell

Meanwhile, the Pew research Centre study also projected the possible growth trajectory of various religions across the world. Their calculations which prefigure the religious makeup of the world in 2050, informs us that although Christianity will remain the most prevalent religion across the world, Islam will be the one growing at the highest rate and will be a close second to Christianity.

The study also projected that, “India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.”,/Says/Study



Iraq: Women Suffer Under ISIS

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

The extremist armed group Islamic State should urgently release Yezidi women and girls they abducted in 2014, Human Rights Watch said today, following new research with recent escapees who were raped and traded between members before they fled. Islamic State (also known as ISIS) also routinely imposes abusive restrictions on other Iraqi women and girls and severely limits their freedom of movement and access to health care and education in areas under its control, Human Rights Watch said today.

In January and February 2016, Human Rights Watch interviewed 21 Sunni Muslim Arab women from the Hawija area of Iraq and 15 women and girls from the Yezidi minority ethnic group, all of whom had fled ISIS-controlled areas, most in late 2015. Several of the Yezidis, abducted by ISIS in mid-2014, had spent more than a year in captivity. They described being forcibly converted to Islam, kept in sexual slavery, bought and sold in slave markets, and passed among as many as four ISIS members. Human Rights Watch first documented systematic rape of Yezidi women and girls in early 2015.



Progress for Women in the Muslim World

April 7, 2016

Watching the U.S. primary race unfold, offering the historic possibility of the first woman president, I have been reflecting on how dramatically women have benefitted from democratic progress in my own country, Morocco.

Of course, women in Morocco, like women in all societies of the world, are still fighting for equality; and believe me, the road is long. But Morocco recognized long ago that women represent half the potential of the country, and that protecting and expanding their rights is essential to the successful and peaceful evolution of our country. More than 10 years ago, we changed our family law, the Moudawana, to provide enhanced rights to women in marriage. It raised the legal age of marriage for women to 18; it abolished man's right to renounce his wife simply by saying "I divorce you"; it gave women the right to initiate divorce; it provided them property rights in a divorce; and it gave them the right to engage in commerce and conduct business without spousal consent.

Now, there are laws that are the result of a cultural evolution, and there are laws that engender such an evolution. The Moudawana was definitely among the latter. It was a huge advance for Moroccan women, who, with this change, were able to become masters of their own destiny. There have been many other advances, as well, including expansion of schooling for girls in rural areas and increased access to higher education. And Morocco's 2011 Constitutional reform solidified our country's commitment to women's rights by institutionalizing parity.

Women in Morocco drive. We build and run businesses. We study and teach at our country's universities. We are social activists. We run for Parliament and other offices – and win, as I did when I was elected the first female mayor of Marrakesh. How is it that we are much better off than women in many other Muslims countries?

For several reasons. The tolerant Islam practiced for centuries in Morocco is one element, given added power because of the king's status as Commander of the Faithful. Just as important is the fact that the movement for women's rights in Morocco wasn't just promoted by activists; the state, embodied by the monarchy, was a partner. In fact, the late Mohamed V, who was sultan and then king almost 100 years ago, set the example, and the tone, by stressing the importance of education and civic involvement for the princesses of his time.

None of this is to say that the fight for emancipation is over. A great deal still remains to be accomplished. We are still waiting and working for a strong law on violence against women. Furthermore, many of the parity laws mandated by the Constitution have yet to be enacted. And there is ongoing debate about abortion and women's inheritance rights – both issues that will require legislation and adjudication.

As we reflect on the progress we have made, Moroccan women – and men – look forward to further achievements. As we do so, we must keep in mind King Mohamed VI's question from long ago, when he asked how we can have a successful society if half our citizens are denied their full rights.



Muslim Women’s Reception: a platform to debunk stereotypes

April 6, 2016

Recently, on March 25, the UIS Women’s Center hosted a Muslim Women’s Reception, which gave UIS students the opportunity to mingle and converse with Muslim women.

According to Lynn Otterson, director of the Women’s Center, 60 individuals came out to participate in the event.

“The main purpose of the event, from my point of view, was twofold,” said Otterson. “First, my feeling both personally and from other people, that in reading the news of world and national events – so many would like to reach out and say to those in the Muslim community that we want to share with them empathy, support, and a sense of community.”

“The second purpose was a sense that some Muslim women students on our campus didn’t feel they had opportunities to mingle or they didn’t know about UIS opportunities that exist,” she added.

Shaista Shaikh, a UIS MBA graduate student, said, “events like these are of the utmost importance” because of everything happening within the world today.

“You hear so much about Islam on the news and from politicians. These events bring students closer and give them the opportunity to mingle with Muslim students and realize how similar everybody is,” Shaikh added.

Otterson reported that the “heart of the event […] was a question-and-answer session,” which went on for over an hour and a half.

“I can’t tell you how much incredibly positive feedback I got about this. So many people loved it,” Otterson said.

She added, “There is so much real interest in getting a chance to openly ask questions of a Muslim in a safe space. And, of course, many of the questions were focused on Muslim women – their values, their practices, and their experiences.”

Shaikh reported that this event also gave Muslim women “an excellent platform” to debunk one of the most common stereotypes that says “women are not equal to men in Islam.”

“[This stereotype] is not true, because the wife of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) Khadija was a successful business woman of her time,” Shaikh said. “Upon her father’s death, she took over the business and was quite successful in a highly male-dominated trade. This goes to show you that religion does not oppress women but culture does.”

She added that Islam encourages education for all genders and does not limit women in what they can and cannot do.

“I am a wife and a mother and have full support of my husband. In fact, he is the one who pushed me in going for my MBA, knowing full well that he would have to take on more of the kid duties,” said Shaikh.

“It is my hope that something grows from this event, and that the UIS Muslim Women’s Reception is a beginning – not just a stand-alone TGIF event,” Otterson concluded.



Hard Evidence: Muslim women and discrimination in Britain

06 Apr 2016

Julian Hargreaves (Centre of Islamic Studies) discusses the forms of discrimination faced by Muslim women in Britain.

The controversy surrounding a now-infamous “I confronted a Muslim” tweet – and a subsequent race-hate charge – reminds us that tackling discrimination against British Muslims remains as big a challenge as ever.

For those who missed it, PR-man Matthew P Doyle took to Twitter to announce: “I confronted a Muslim woman in Croydon yesterday. I asked her to explain Brussels. She said ‘Nothing to do with me’. A mealy mouthed reply.”

Police were alerted to the incident when Doyle’s ill-judged comments about the encounter were retweeted by bemused internet users. While charges were eventually dropped, the story is a prime example of the type of discrimination encountered on a daily basis by many British Muslim women and an exception to an otherwise overlooked phenomenon.

Everyday incidents of anti-Muslim discrimination rarely make headline news – but recent research from the University of Cambridge’s Centre of Islamic Studies found that discrimination is the daily norm for many British Muslims.

While previous research in this area has often focused on acts of physical violence, none of those interviewed for the Cambridge study had experienced crime of this type. But almost all, whether male or female, felt they had experienced prejudice. As one Muslim man living in the north of England stated: “… there’s an atmosphere, there’s definitely an atmosphere.”

Interviewees shared numerous accounts of being ignored in shops, being stared at on public transport and being targeted by discrimination. While they were seldom criminal in nature, these acts were described as always hurtful – and often leading to dramatically increased fears of criminal victimisation, particularly among older Muslim women.

Muslim voices

One Muslim woman gave an account of discrimination from supermarket staff packing groceries:

When we’re shopping … right away from the person who’s serving you … he or she [is] serving someone who’s white you get a full conversation out of them, but the minute they see you with a hijab, right okay, pack yourself.

Another gave one of many examples of discrimination on public transport:

When I’m in my normal get-up … I can sit in the bus like everyone else and I’m fine, people talking away just getting on with it, you know, you’ll even find someone sitting next to you trying to strike conversation … wear a hijab and it’s almost like … nobody even wants to smile at you … they want to keep at arm’s length from you.

These troubling accounts echo previous victim and discrimination studies undertaken by the centre. Analysis of data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales (previously the British Crime Survey) revealed that levels of personal crime (crimes ranging from verbal abuse to serious attack) and crimes including some form of physical violence are broadly similar for all minority religion groups (with the sad exception of Jewish communities who face higher overall levels of crime).

A forthcoming study of discrimination data from the Ethnic Minority British Election Study 2010 (EMBES), a large-scale survey of ethnic minority communities, tells a different overall story. Data from EMBES suggests that non-white Muslims who experience discrimination are more likely than non-white Christians to suffer it on the street – but perhaps no more likely than Hindu and Sikh communities. (Muslim victims may appear from Figure 3 to suffer more discrimination on the street than Hindus and Sikhs but the differences are not statistically significant and so should not be used to describe larger national patterns.)

However, there are stark differences between female discrimination victims within the EMBES data. Non-white Muslim women appear far more likely to suffer discrimination on the street than their female non-white, non-Muslim counterparts. These differences are large and statistically significant, therefore provide a more reliable estimate of differences throughout the UK. The experiences shared by female Muslim interviewees in the recent study offered strong support for the statistical evidence.

Visible difference

One probable explanation for the increased risks faced by British Muslim women is of course the higher visibility of those who choose to wear a headscarf or face veil (as many of the interviewees do). Several interviewees drew direct links between daily incidents of discrimination and the abundance of negative news stories concerning Muslims and Islam.

Others (the lucky few perhaps) were careful to stress a growing resilience to everyday forms of discrimination and an increased reliance on their religion, culture and community as a means of coping. This finding of resilience is perhaps the study’s most original contribution to academic research in this field.

Regardless of how we might as a society analyse, explain and cope with everyday forms of discrimination (against any individual or group), what the study makes clear is that as the furore around Doyle’s crass foray on to Twitter begins to fade, encounters of this sort are happening all over Britain and continue to be for many British Muslims the unreported reality of daily life.




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