Veiled Muslim women are under attack in the UK claims new research

Research into the experiences of veiled Muslim women is to be presented at a public event to be held at the University of Leicester on April 6.

Irene Zempi, from the Department of Criminology at the University of Leicester, is conducting postgraduate research into the victimisation of veiled Muslim women and their experiences as direct victims of Islamophobia in the streets of Leicester. With her in-depth qualitative research revealing the “hidden”, often “invisible” nature of Islamophobia, Irene will also identify ways to improve services and support offered to victims of anti-Muslim hate crime.

The research design employs interviews with female veiled victims. In particular, prospective research participants include British Muslim women who are descendants of immigrants from South Asia (in particular Pakistan, Bangladesh and India) and from other Muslim-dominated regions such as the Middle East, from African countries such as Somalia and Nigeria, as well as British converts to Islam.

Irene said: “My study is looking into the experiences of veiled Muslim women in order to raise awareness about the ‘true’ nature of Islamophobia that they face, and the consequences of the abuse and intimidation veiled Muslim women and their communities have to go through.”

“It is worrying that in a liberal democratic society such as Britain, Islamophobia is accepted and even expected. It is necessary to point out that Islamophobia is a new form of racism. As Baroness Warsi said in her speech at the University of Leicester about the ‘cancer of Islamophobia’: ‘When people get on the tube and see a bearded Muslim, they think “terrorist” … when they hear “Halal” they think that sounds like “contaminated food” … and when they walk past a woman wearing a veil, they think automatically “that woman is oppressed”‘.”

Irene highlights that public expressions of Islamophobia are invariably random in nature and so individual victims may be targeted when they are spotted in a public place such as streets, shopping centres, buses, and trains.

“Persistent staring, spitting, calling names, throwing of eggs or stones, and pulling women’s veils off are the overwhelming types of anti-Muslim hostilities, yet rarely reported to the police. As a result, this victimisation remains ‘invisible’ for police and local authority,” says Irene.

University of Leicester press release, 4 April 2011