Muslims have long been subject to victimisation whether we acknowledge it or not, we are victims of an ideology that does not belong to us – causing terror and killing in the name of religion. It is an ideology existing in all religions, yet Muslims find themselves routinely slurred and defamed for being Muslim. Whilst the concept of ‘Islamophobia’ is becoming ingrained deeper into western culture, and becoming a daily problem for many Muslims, it is especially problematic for Muslim women living in the west. It only takes an internet search to reveal thousands of statistics highlighting the hate crimes Muslim women in Britain face daily. A recent study by monitoring group Tell Mama bought up statistics showing a 26% increase in anti-Muslim attacks in 2017, an excessive number of these attacks were face to face towards women.
This is just one example of statistics out of thousands putting well into context the position Muslim women find themselves in across the country. The headscarf, the face veil and the burka are all simple items of clothing that are worn by millions of Muslim women to practice Islam as prescribed. A Muslim woman myself, I wear the headscarf daily out in public; it’s my choice to represent my religion this way, the same way others have made the same choice. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Muslim women to stick by their choice of dressing in accordance with their faith. It seems to be the case that dressing modestly and covering the hair is a statement of religious extremism and rebellion against the traditional depiction of women – embracing femininity and not being prudish.
Given the take on how a woman should dress and portray herself, it is no wonder Muslim women who find themselves victims of or at threat of anti-Muslim attacks because of say, their headscarf, are going through an identity crisis. The attire of Muslim women has been the centre of much political debate not only in Britain, it has reverberated throughout Europe in recent times. In there being discussions at the highest levels of government to ban this attire, it should come as no surprise that Muslim women are terrified of the consequences should they continue to wear their headscarf or the face veil. The correlation between fear of being punished for appearing Muslim and an ‘identity crisis’ is positive. Increasing the consequences of punishment for Muslim women who dress a certain way will see an increase in the number of women wanting to ‘tone down’ their Muslim appearance by wearing their headscarf as a turban for example, or simply abandoning it altogether to avoid any consequence. These women are hardly to blame, it isn’t easy to go out in a predominantly non-Muslim environment and be subject to harrowing verbal and physical abuse on the streets.
On one hand Muslim women face the fear of being punished for being Muslim, and on the other hand, they face admonition from, usually, Muslim men, who police them for not dressing in accordance with Islam, whilst failing to understand their concerns and helping to resolve the crisis these women find themselves in. It’s a situation of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. To confront the problems faced, there must be a lot more surveillance towards movements such as the EDL, preaching anti-Muslim propaganda to the public. This is where the problem begins and until these movements and their factions aren’t held to account for their hatemongering towards Muslims, the consequences on Muslims and Muslim women will continue to disseminate.