scarfThis story absolutely breaks my heart.

Breaks. My. Heart.

Last week a Muslim woman in France suffered a miscarriage after being violently attacked in an apparent anti-Muslim motivated assault. Two men harassed her with anti-Islamic slurs, ripped the headscarf off her head, cut her hair, and repeatedly kicked her in the stomach — even after she allegedly told them of her pregnancy and begged them to stop.

Some media refer to this as “burqa rage” or “veil attack” — when one becomes so angry, upset and offended by the sight of a Muslim woman’s head covering, that they react with violence and lash out at the woman wearing it.

But it’s really just a catchy media phrase for Gendered Islamophobia.

Women in headscarves are immediately identifiable as representing Islam and due to the media reliance on negatively stereotyping Muslim women and the current anti-Muslim climate — women may experience deliberate gender-based violence, harassment or prejudice.

Muslim women then become the conduit by which others can exert their fear, prejudice and ignorance. In that moment women become voiceless, actionless objects, representing everything “we need to fear from the terrorists.” In this context, Muslim women are completely dehumanized.

Even the terms “burqa rage” and “veil attack” do Muslim women a disservice by reducing the experience of violence to the headscarf. As if it were only a piece of cloth that was left lying in the street. As if this attack has no impact on this young woman’s memory of motherhood. They didn’t attack a veil. They attacked a person.

On Monday I’ll be speaking about media stereotypes of Muslim women and the consequences that negative images and Islamophobia have on Muslim women and their families. My talk is part of a “Mega Conference” on motherhood held by the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement (MIRCI) — a feminist scholarly and activist organization on mothering run through York University. And I’ve been hijab-deep in research for weeks in preparation.

I’ve been looking at how Muslim women and mothers are responding to these stereotypes online — creating spaces where they celebrate their empowerment and work towards countering negative images of Muslim women. Intentionally or not, they’re propagating dialogue with authentic voices — encouraging the creation of positive narratives for themselves and their families.

This means, of course, that I’ll have a lot to share with you in regards to some pretty awesome happenings in the Muslim blogosphere. Something I’m pretty excited about. So keep an eye out for a new blog series filled with stereotype smashing and lots of blogger love.

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