When your company engages in conversations around gender equity and inclusion, what measures do you take to prioritise the specific context and needs of Muslim women? It is important to take an intersectional approach in your organisations Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training to make sure it hits the mark
Over the course of important feminist struggles worldwide, a dangerous phenomena has arisen that pits Muslim womens’ experiences and choices against standards of gender equity and “progress” as they are characterised by the Global North. While violence against women and girls is pervasive, majority-Muslim countries and Islam are spotlighted as being uniquely oppressive towards women because of widely-held false ideas about Muslims being inherently dangerous and repressive. Professor Nadera Shalhoub Kevorkian writes how private security companies, military experts, and even NGOs create radicalised policies using language of “protecting, supporting, or treating women” who they deem to be “backwards” in order to pathologise and politicise the women they claim to help.
Not only do these strategies ultimately stigmatise and harm Muslim women, but they justify Islamophobic political agendas that beget even more violence. Let’s not forget how the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was largely validated by “feminist causes” that claimed to liberate Afghan women, in order to legitimise and uphold the retaliatory “War on Terror.” This year in India, Muslim girls were denied entry to school for wearing hijabs, implying that their Islamic dress was forced on them by Muslim men, or that they were terrorists themselves. In 2011, the French government banned the wearing of the Niqab in any public place, giving a fine of €130 and a required citizenship class to any objectors. These and many other surveillance strategies have directly led to further violence and oppression against Muslim women worldwide.
Using the following discussion guide with your team, you can start to disrupt some of these outcomes by unearthing the negative ideas behind Islamophobia, their impact on Muslim women colleagues today, and discussing what it will take to meaningfully prioritise gender equity in the workplace and beyond.