We may have just marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, but acknowledge the vulnerability of Muslim women who are attacked simply for wearing a visible symbol of their religion.
Now in its 25th year, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women just passed, and it aims to draw attention to the widespread violence and discrimination many women continue to face across the world.
In the aftermath of 9/11, during the George W Bush administration, the US declared a ‘War on Terror’. Since then, Muslim women have become particularly susceptible to violence, discrimination and have more generally become a stigmatised community.
Muslim women, due to their headscarf and the perception that they are less likely to speak out, have been targeted mainly by men over what they wear.
In 2010, France introduced a draconian law that banned the Muslim face veil in public spaces. Before that, Muslim women were forbidden from wearing a headscarf to school in legislation passed in 2004.
The increased focus on the attire of Muslim women has also resulted in increased hate crimes.
Far from being one-off random attacks, the political atmosphere in France has proved to be a useful incubator and normalising anti-Muslim discourse.
In 2016, the former French minister for women’s rights Laurence Rossignol compared Muslim women who chose to wear the headscarf to “ni***rs who were in favour of slavery”.
The comments were condemned by the Collective Against Islamophobia for “using the memory of slavery to again stigmatise Muslims, including veiled women,” adding, “we have reached a new level in terms of institutional racism and islamophobia.”
The Collective Against Islamophobia has found that Muslim women are, in 75 percent of cases, the first victim of the attacks.
More recently, Muslim women in France have been attacked for accompanying their children on school trips wearing the headscarf, and there is an ongoing debate about whether children’s mothers should be banned from doing so.
When the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson compared veiled Muslim women to letterboxes in 2018, research showed there was a 375 percent increase in attacks towards Muslim women.
Johnson has since refused to apologise for his “derogatory and racist” remarks. But the figures indicate that political rhetoric matters and has real-life consequences for Muslim women.
A report by a British charity found that women continue to bear the brunt of anti-Muslim attacks because of their visible Muslim attire, accounting for the majority of reported attacks.
The majority of the perpetrators were found to be men.
Many attacks, however, go unreported because either Muslim women don’t know who to tell or what difference it will make, if any.
The ruling Conservative Party in the UK has been accused of turning a blind eye to anti-Muslim sentiment within its own party.
A recent study found that Conservative Party members have bought into many myths about Muslims including that parts of the UK are run according to Islamic law and with some even believing that Islam is a threat to their way of life.
When the US invaded and then occupied Afghanistan in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, one of the main arguments for going to war was to “liberate” Afghan women from Muslim men.
Fast forward to 2019, the US is still in Afghanistan, however, closer to home Muslim women in the US are facing increasing threats to their wellbeing by more often than not the same American men that allegedly want to liberate Muslim women in Afghanistan.
Trump was convinced to keep US troops in Afghanistan on the premise that Afghan women would be liberated, but at home, the US president is less cautious about the welfare of Muslim women.
The election of Donald Trump as US president has given a loud and visible voice to anti-Muslim sentiment bubbling deep in American society.
When Trump announced the “Muslim ban”, his electorate cheered.
The resulting election of the first Muslim Congresswomen Ilhan Omar has resulted in an outpouring of death threats, abuse and visceral attacks both from Trump’s base and the US president himself. Her hijab making her an obvious object of attacks.
A poll by Pew Research found that Muslim women were significantly more pessimistic about their place in the US and a majority say it was now more difficult to be a Muslim for them.
The poll also found that the majority of Muslim women faced discrimination as apposed to Muslim men.
Recently a Muslim woman who was attacked took matters into her own hands by investigating the issue herself.