Muslim women wearing headscarves subjected to daily abuse in Malmö

Shoving, spitting, and ethnic slurs are a daily fact of life facing women bearing headscarves in Malmö, according to a new report.

The study, entitled Hemma och främmande i staden – kvinnor med slöja berättar (“At home and estranged in the city: tales of women with headscarves”) and published by the University of Malmö, examines the lives of 19 Malmö women who choose to wear headscarves.

The report is a compilation of stories detailing harassment and offensive remarks, such as a female cyclist in her fifties who slowed down and screamed “Muslim cunt” before pedaling off.

But the tales also relate how veiled women often try to avoid confrontation. They women included in the study remain stoic in the face of critical stares, avoid certain parts of the city, try to be overly friendly, or strike up conversations in which they attempt to explain the significance of their headscarves.

“Some see it as a sort of learning process. Almost like ‘if I tell you how it works then you don’t need to be afraid of me’,” said Carina Listerborn, a researcher with the Institute for Sustainable Urban Development, told the TT news agency.

The report is part of a larger project about urban violence being carried out in cooperation with Lund and Stockholm universities.

Listerborn said that the stories of the veiled women can help broaden the definition of violence, and that it doesn’t have to be restricted to fighting, kicking, and stabbings on city streets and public squares.

“There are other kinds of violence which also deserve to be highlighted,” she said.

The Local, 21 October 2009

Download the study here.