“The everyday realities of young Muslim women in Britain”

“The everyday realities of young Muslim women in Britain “. This is how Tania Saeed’s book is presented on her publisher’s page.

Islamophobia and Securitization. Religion, Ethnicity and the Female Voice – published in the “Politics of identity and citizenship” series – addresses the connection between gender, islamophobia and security in the UK.

The book explores “the narratives of securitization and islamophobia as described by young Muslim women” and how these women try to challenge them. The author who has previously worked on radicalization and counter-radicalization in British universities, analyses here how the securitization of the “Muslim question” and the growing suspicion towards Muslims that it entails impact the daily life of young British Muslim women.

Contrary to the Muslim men who are perceived as “dangerous” and posing a “more direct physical threat”, young British Muslim women are considered as “vulnerable fanatics”, “susceptible to radicalize and therefore in need of being rescued”.

The author specifically looks at the British Muslim female student, perceived as problematic inside and outside educational institutions, since educated British Muslim women were indicted for charges of terrorism.

Though this interdisciplinary work focuses on “British-Muslim-Pakistani-female identity”, the connection between gender, islamophobia and securitization will be relevant for many other national contexts.

Source :

Saeed, Tania, Islamophobia and Securitization Religion, Ethnicity and the Female Voice, Palgrave Politics of Identity and Citizenship series, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016

https://www.palgrave.com/de/book/9783319326795#reviews

Casey report criticised for focus on UK Muslim communities

Muslim groups have raised concerns about the government’s community cohesion report, arguing that it confuses race, religion and immigration and focuses too heavily on Muslim communities.

The study, commissioned by David Cameron as prime minister and carried out by Dame Louise Casey, recommends a new strategy to help bridge divides in the UK, including an “integration oath” to encourage immigrants to embrace British values, and greater focus on promoting the English language and securing “women’s emancipation in communities where they are being held back by regressive cultural practices”.

Critics said its focus on Muslim communities ignored other issues such as equality and racism, and was potentially damaging to community relations.

Bana Gora, chief executive of the Muslim Women’s Council, said: “I am not denying that there is a problem in Muslim communities, but I would not put it down to self-segregation. We have to look at the broader picture, at education qualifications, at economics, at social mobility, at barriers in the jobs market.

“There are many inter-related factors and to put it all down such basic sensational terms by saying that the Muslim community is self-segregating does so much harm and is is totally unnecessary.”

Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said “any initiative that facilitates better integration of all Britons” should be welcomed. But he said the Casey report was a missed opportunity. “We need to improve integration, and it needs to involve the active participation of all Britons, not just Muslims,” he said.

He welcomed the promotion of the English language and initiatives to tackle exclusion, inequality and segregation in schools. But he highlighted a “culture of fear” that he said was “a big driver in preventing a more united and cohesive society”.

“We must recognise that our public discourse and conversation has a part to play in furthering integration. Integration is fostered when the media reports on stories that speak of achievement of minorities, of people coming together and where national moments are shared by all,” Khan said.

He said the MCB in its submissions to the Casey report had pointed out that Muslims had to endure “a media echo chamber which amplifies the misconception that Muslims and their faith are incompatible with life in Britain”.

“We dispute these notions,” he said. “It assumes that Muslims are not equal, and not civilised enough to be part and parcel of British society. It leads to discrimination against Muslims, alienation amongst Muslims where the national conversation dictates that they are not part and parcel of society, and, at worst, violent attacks against Muslims.”

Shaista Gohir, chair of the Muslim Women’s Network, welcomed the report, but said segregation could not be blamed only on Muslim communities. “We need a nuanced debate that looks at these hard questions that Casey raises but that also looks at the racism and xenophobia these communities face,” she said.

Gohir said there were many other factors fuelling segregation. “Segregation is always a two-way issue and we have to look at what is happening in the Muslim community, but also what is happening in the white community too – why they don’t want to integrate, the issue of so-called ‘white flight’, where white people leave an area when Muslim families move in. This has to be a starting point for a wider and more thoughtful debate.”

The report mentions Muslims 249 times, while there are only 14 references to Polish communities.

The first Muslim to sit in cabinet, Sayeeda Warsi, a former communities minister, said the year-long study’s focus on Muslims – and particularly Muslim women – was unfair. Responding to report’s use of the phrase “the emancipation of Muslim women”, she tweeted: “Yes, those words are in the report. The empire strikes back!”

Warsi argued that many of the statistics in the report were out of date, and it failed to talk about the challenge of raising aspiration among poor white Roma communities. She said the focus on Muslim women was unjustified, pointing out that white women were most likely to be victims of domestic abuse. In conclusion, she said the report had “some good bits, a few bad bits and lots of confused bits”.

The report says the single most important thing the government can do for effective integration is to take action to get more people speaking English. Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, welcomed that, saying refugees were “determined to learn English to enable them to contribute to their new communities through work, volunteering and socialising with their neighbours”.

But he said funding for English courses had been slashed by more than half since 2009. “[Refugees] are deeply frustrated by the lack of English language classes available,” Hale said. “Refugees, particularly women, face huge barriers to learning, from a lack of local provision to long waiting lists.”

He said the government must act quickly to address the issue. “An investment of just over £40m per year would make it possible for every refugee to learn English and give them the opportunity to contribute and rebuild their lives successfully.”

Ukip’s immigration spokesman, John Bickley, welcomed what he described as a “damning” report. “It pulls no punches and is an excoriating critique of the Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrat parties’ support of mass immigration, multiculturalism and political correctness,” he said.

Why do so many Muslim women find it hard to integrate in Britain?

As gender politics go, it was unquestionably a modest step, but in Bradford’s Carlisle business centre the development felt seismic.

For five years Haniya had been striving to secure a job in digital marketing. It seemed not to matter that the 28-year-old had the qualifications, the aptitude, the ambition. Friends watched her confidence drain away. Haniya considered removing her hijab, the Islamic headscarf. Burying the fact she was a Muslim became the final option.

In front of 50 women at the centre in Bradford’s Manningham district, Haniya announced she’d finally entered the workplace. “That was great news, but for many discrimination within the labour market, along with a lack of opportunities, creates a fatigue that eventually erodes self-esteem,” said Bana Gora, chief executive of Bradford’s Muslim Women’s Council .

Haniya had triumphed where most peers had failed. Being a Muslim woman in Brexit Britain offers few advantages but does guarantee membership to the most economically disadvantaged group in UK society. In Manningham, where the last census found three-quarters of its 20,000 population were Muslim, the prevailing concern is that emboldened bigotry and Islamophobia unleashed in the wake of the Brexit vote threatens to marginalise Muslim women to the point that they are effectively excluded.

Seven miles from the business centre, past Bradford’s central mosque and south along the A651, lies the west Yorkshire market town of Birstall. Here, outside its library at 12:53pm on 16 June, Labour MP Jo Cox was fatally attacked by an extreme rightwing terrorist as the EU referendum campaign approached its finale.

Cox’s murderer Thomas Mair was sentenced to prison for the rest of his life. The 53-year-old is a white supremacist who considers immigration anathema to British values and who hoped his crime would inflame multicultural tensions.

The government’s forthcoming report into integration – the first state-backed exploration of the issue for 15 years – arrives against a febrile backdrop. Conceived in July 2015, the report’s lead author, Louise Casey, appreciates that the debate on race, the self-identity of Britain itself, has shifted dramatically since its inception.

But the report’s main thrust remains unaltered, namely attempting to improve “opportunity and integration” for ethnic minorities who largely remain on the outside looking in. Issues of segregation and inequality remain, factors identified in the wake of the 2001 race riots that engulfed Manningham and prompted a Home Office report that identified parallel lives between ethnicities that “do not touch at any point, let alone overlap”.

Gora says things have improved vastly in the period since, but the shift of Islamophobic rhetoric into the mainstream has perturbed Bradford’s Muslim women.

“These are scary times, there’s a heightened fear and anxiety over what the future holds. The Muslim community feels it’s under a magnifying glass. The rhetoric in the media, constant negative messages being disseminated. It’s unsettling,” she said. Even in Manningham, racist attacks have happened. “We’ve had women with their headscarves ripped off,” said Gora nodding to Carlisle Road, lined with charity stores and a green-domed masjid.

Casey’s 17-month investigation across the UK, which included a visit to Manningham’s business centre, found that Muslim women were being squeezed further from mainstream society. Many had given up trying to find a job. Acquiring economic independence, pursuing a career, meeting new people had become a pipe dream for the majority. A three-tiered system of discrimination was discovered: being a woman, being from an ethnic minority, and finally being a Muslim.

Few are holding their breath. Critics say the principal word in Casey’s review – integration – is clumsy and loaded, giving the impression that unless ethnic minorities commit to total assimilation they have failed.

Yet in this corner of West Yorkshire there is also hope. Concerned that the buoyant textile industry near Bradford was employing low levels of Muslim women, the council introduced initiatives to entice its local Pakistani and Bangladeshi workforce into a sewing academy. Mark Clayton of Bradford council said: “Women are by far the largest group adversely affected directly by inequality, which can be compounded by economic, social and cultural barriers.”

It is a truth that affects most of the UK’s estimated 1.5 million Muslim women, a societal bias that Casey’s report hopes to start addressing.

3 charts that show being Muslim has nothing to do with how ‘British’ you feel

01/21/16

David Cameron has launched a number of measures aimed at improving integration among Muslims – in particular, Muslim women – in the UK. Polls show that around 70% of people don’t think Muslims are well integrated into British society and concern that Muslim people living in Britain do not feel British has long been part of broader discussions around extremism.

So, now seems like a good time to take a closer look at how British Muslims actually feel about their place in society and to explore the link between segregation and extremism in greater depth. Along with Professor James Nazroo, I conducted research into these issues using nationally representative data, collected in 2008/09 from almost 5,000 people with different ethnic and religious backgrounds, as a part of the Home Office Citizenship Survey. We found that these ideas about British Muslims are not backed up by evidence.

In this survey, respondents from a range of religious and ethnic backgrounds were asked about whether they felt they belong in Britain. The questions capture three different senses of belonging. Participants were asked about the extent to which they agreed with the following statement: “I personally feel a part of Britain.

It’s clear that almost everyone in the religious and ethnic groups examined feels a sense of personal belonging to Britain. And those who didn’t were as likely to be Christian as Muslim.

Most recently, Cameron’s campaign has been criticised as taking a “lazy and misguided” approach to Muslim women. Conservative peer Baroness Warsi commented that linking English proficiency with the continuation of spousal visas was “a very unusual way of empowering and emboldening women”.

This research suggests that concerns about Muslim loyalty to Britain are misplaced. It also suggests that, as a society, we should think more carefully about how we engage with our fellow Britons. A proportion of the ethnic and religious minority population in Britain does run the risk of experiencing a sense of alienation, but this is unlikely to be addressed by improving language skills. Instead, it requires a more concerted effort to reduce the processes which isolate these members of our society. Questioning the loyalty of already loyal citizens runs a direct risk of making the “Muslim problem” much worse than it actually is.

‘Muslim American Women on Campus: Undergraduate Social Life and Identity’ by Shabana Mir

March 7, 2014

 

It should come as no surprise that being a Muslim American woman on an American college campus, surrounded by social pressures involving drinking and dating, makes for a complex young-adult experience. What’s surprising is that these conflicts are not much discussed.

Shabana Mir, who teaches global studies and anthropology at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., spent 10 months in Washington during 2002-03. She interviewed 26 Muslim American women at Georgetown and George Washington universities about how their choices concerning dating, alcohol and clothing made them feel around their non-Muslim peers. Each woman had her own way of melding her two modifiers into a “third space” that is “neither stereotypically American, nor stereotypically Muslim.”

One theme of the book is a subtle current of dismay on the part of non-Muslim students, who tended to be misinformed at best and fearful at worst about interacting with Mir’s subjects. Here is the author’s summation of what one young woman experienced after deciding to go to parties where there was drinking but not indulge in it herself: “Though Fatima optimistically assumed that her peers would respond to her compromise and ‘just accept’ her teetotalism, the tolerance proffered by her peers was far shallower than the acceptance they received from Fatima because of the cultural power differential.”

The book may leave readers feeling confused about what it is young Muslim American women are seeking or needing from those peers. In any case, the reticence Mir found on both campuses is unfortunate in a university setting, where dialogue and mutual understanding should be the norm.

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2014/03/07/6c3058b4-844c-11e3-8099-9181471f7aaf_story.html

‘Salaam, Love’ counters stereotypes of Muslim men

January 31, 2014

 

Oppressive. Boorish. Misogynist: Those are the popular images of Muslim men and how they treat women.

But there’s more to it than that, thought Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, the editors of “Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women.”

Many Muslims welcomed the two women’s 2012 collection of 25 stories as an overdue conversation starter. Soon they got flooded with requests for a male version.

They initially dismissed the idea, assuming men wouldn’t want to write so openly about such intimate matters. But as the queries kept coming, the two editors decided a Muslim male version wasn’t that far-fetched, and given the stereotypes of Muslim men, much needed.

“So much has been said about Muslim men, we thought it was time for them to tell their own stories in their own words about what’s important to them,” said Mattu, 41.

The result is a collection of 22 stories, “Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, and Intimacy,” to be released next week by Beacon Press. The writers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, hold beliefs that range from secular to orthodox, and include straight, gay, single, married, and widowed men. The editors received more than 100 submissions over five months.

“Salaam, Love” seeks to counter stereotypes of Muslim men by offering stories of men who bare their emotions, admit mistakes, bask in memories of true love, recall heartbreaks, and reflect on caring for a dying wife.

The stories range from humorous to heartbreaking, while shedding light on who makes up Muslim Americans.

Sam Pierstorff’s opening chapter, “Soda Bottles and Zebra Skins,” takes the reader on a journey that starts with puppy love, veers into frank tales of teenage lust, and ends in courtship and true love.

RNS.com: http://www.religionnews.com/2014/01/31/salaam-love-counters-stereotypes-muslim-men/

Muslim Women more likely to suffer Islamophobic attacks than men

November 19, 2013

 

Muslim women are more likely to be subjected to Islamophobic attacks than men, especially if they are wearing the niqab or other clothing associated with their religion, a study has found.

Maybe We Are Hated, a report on the impact of Islamophobic attacks, written by Dr Chris Allen, a social policy lecturer at the University of Birmingham, will be launched in the House of Commons on Wednesday. It is intended to look beyond the statistics and, for the first time, give a voice to the female victims of Islamophobia.

Allen interviewed 20 women aged between 15 and 52 about their experiences. Fiyaz Mughal, from Faith Matters, which commissioned the report, said: “This is the first time Muslim women’s voices have been given life in terms of anti-Muslim prejudice. We keep hearing people saying: ‘What are the numbers?’ We can understand that, but it’s important to recognise the actual impact on people.”

Tell Mama, a hotline for recording Islamophobic crimes and incidents, found that, excluding online abuse and threats, 58% of all verified incidents between April 2012 and April 2013 were against women and that in 80% of those cases the woman was wearing a hijab, niqab or other clothing associated with Islam.

According to Allen, some of the women said their experiences had made them question their Britishness, with one saying her husband wanted them to leave the country. He said a refusal to take Islamophobia seriously risked giving credence to the “clash of civilisations” narrative promoted by Islamists and the far right.

“It feeds into the rhetoric of the Islamists saying: ‘No matter how hard you try, you will never belong here, they hate you,” he said. “When it comes to Muslims, they won’t tackle these issues. It adds fuel to the fire.”

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/20/muslim-women-islamaphonic-attacks

 

New book: The Religious Identity of Young Muslim Women in Berlin

50023“The Religious Identity of Young Muslim Women in Berlin: An
Ethnography Study” by Synnøve K.N. Bendixsen

About the book:

The Religious Identity of Young Muslim Women in Berlin offers an
in-depth ethnographic account of Muslim youth’s religious identity
formation and their engagement with Islam in everyday life. Focusing
on Muslim women in the organisation MJD in Germany, it provides a
deeper understanding of processes related to immigration,
transnationalism, the transformation of identifications and the
reconstruction of selfhood. The book deals with the collective content
of religious identity formation and processes of differentiation,
engaging with the changing role of religion in an urban European
setting, restructuring of religious authority and the formation of
gender identity through religion. Synnøve K.N. Bendixsen examines how
the participants seek and debate what it means to be a good Muslim,
and discusses the religious movement as individual engagement in a
collective project.

Review:

“At last, a richly-textured, ethnographic study which takes
religiosity seriously. This fine study of young women’s involvement in
a particular, Islamic movement in Berlin illuminates the reasons for
‘the turn to Islam’ of a new generation in Europe. […] Marked
throughout by methodological and analytical sophistication, it
challenges many easy generalisations about how Muslims born and
educated in Europe appropriate Islam.” Philip Lewis, University of
Bradford.

Table of content:

Acknowledgements
A Note on Language and Sources
Introduction
Situating the Field and Methodological Reflections Making Sense of the
City: The Religious Spaces of Young Muslim Women in Berlin
Negotiating, Resisting and (Re)Constructing Othering Crafting the
Religious Individual in a Faith Community Trajectories of Religious
Acts and Desires: Bargaining with Religious Norms and Ideals Making a
Religious Gender Order The Meanings of and Incentives for a Religious
Identification Conclusion Appendix 1: Situating the Movements Studied
within the Wider Islamic Field in Germany Bibliography Index

More information is available at the following site:

http://www.brill.com/religious-identity-young-muslim-women-berlin

“Educated Women, Protagonists”: Meeting on Women’s Role in Islam

3/8/2013

In conjunction with International Women’s Day, a Meeting in Trento entitled “Educated Women, Protagonists” was organized by the Muslim Women of Trento, the Association of Muslim Women in Italy and The women of GMI Trento. The meeting broadly discussed women in Islam, and the importance of women in the immigrant community of Trento.

 

Muslim Women find their place in the Olympics

3 August 2012

 

Female Muslim athletes made a historic appearance in London Olympics, not for their victories which were scored against their opponents but against widespread prejudice both from biased non-Muslims and Muslims.  Unlike their opponents Muslim females who have chosen to observe modest dress code due to religious reasons had to overcome political and cultural obstacles.

 

Judoka Shaherkani was the first female Saudi to join to the Olympic Games, yet she had to fight with countries clergymen who give a cultural spin to their interpretation of the religion. This was not only problem she had to deal with the International Judo Federation that had initially said Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani could not compete in a headscarf.

 

There have been a few other Muslim female athletes from who had to overcome similar obstacles and struggle to overcome the prejudice embedded in the minds of people at home as well as in the West.