‘They Make Us Feel Like We’re a Virus’: The Multiple Impacts of Islamophobic Hostility Towards Veiled Muslim Women
Within the prevailing post-9/11 climate, veiled Muslim women are commonly portrayed as oppressed, ‘culturally dangerous’ and ‘threatening’ to the western way of life and to notions of public safety and security by virtue of being fully covered in the public sphere. It is in such a context that manifestations of Islamophobia often emerge as a means of responding to these ‘threats’. Drawing from qualitative data elicited through a UK-based study, this article reflects upon the lived experiences of veiled Muslim women as actual and potential victims of Islamophobia and examines the impacts of Islamophobic attacks upon victims, their families and wider Muslim communities. Among the central themes we explore are impacts upon their sense of vulnerability, the visibility of their Muslim identity, and the management of their safety in public. The individual and collective harms associated with this form of victimisation are considered through notions of a worldwide, transnational Muslim community, the ummah, which connects Muslims from all over world. We conclude by noting that the effects of this victimisation are not exclusively restricted to the global ummah; rather, the harm extends to society as a whole by exacerbating the polarisation which already exists between ‘us’ and ‘them’.
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