Research finds Muslim women in the UK face ‘multiple discrimination’

1st Jul 2016

Ala Abbas

Research published by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) found that Muslim Women faced “multiple discrimination” when it came to employment and were disproportionately the victims of religious and racial hate crimes.

The project, entitled ‘Forgotten Women: the impact of Islamophobia on Muslim women’, was a joint effort between ENAR and feminist groups. It was carried out in 8 different European countries with the support of the European Union.

According to the service, threats and verbal abuse received by Muslim women in public spaces appear to be an “almost everyday experience”. The abuse, which is usually verbal, does sometimes turn physical, with the most common crimes reported being spitting, and the pulling of women’s hijab to remove it.

Based on the Crown Prosecution Service guidelines, spitting is a form of ‘common assault’. The report also found there to be a “significant problem” of under-reporting of such attacks, and a lack of knowledge as to what constitutes a hate crime.

Both Muslim men and women are the most frequent victims of religiously motivated hate crime compared to people of other religions. According to the report’s authors: “The challenges faced by Muslim women can be made particularly acute for those that are ‘visibly’ Muslim: wearing the hijab…increases the likelihood that a woman will be targeted for a hate crime.”

Issues of multiple discrimination faced by Muslim women were also apparent in the workplace, according to the report. A study found that ethnic minority applicants had to send 74 per cent more applications than their White counterparts to achieve an equal level of success. This is in addition to general inequalities faced by all women in the workplace, such as the pay gap, which sees women in full-time employment earning 14.2 per cent less than their male counterparts.

According to researchers, Muslim women suffered from a ‘Muslim penalty’ in the job application process, whereby outdated stereotypes about Muslim women’s gender roles became a barrier to receiving an offer of employment. Research cited in the report found that Muslim women who wore hijab at some interviews and not others, were more successful when they did not wear the hijab. 43 per cent of women surveyed felt they were “treated differently or encountered discrimination at interviews because they were Muslim”, and a high percentage of women felt that they had missed out on opportunities for progression because of religious discrimination, with the wearing of hijab being a factor in this.

According to research by Gallup, 32 per cent of the British public said it was necessary for Muslim women to remove the hijab if they wanted to integrate, compared to 24 per cent saying the same about the Jewish yarmulke, 18 per cent about the turban and 17 per cent about large crosses. A recent poll commissioned by the BBC found that 40 per cent of female Muslim respondents felt that ‘most British people don’t trust Muslims’. Only 29 per cent of male Muslim respondents felt the same way. 1 in 5 Muslim women said they did not feel safe as a Muslim in Britain compared with 10 per cent of Muslim men saying the same.

The report makes it clear that large portions of the British public are tolerant of the hijab, and the majority of Muslim women (87 per cent) want to socialise with both Muslim and non-Muslim people in Britain, showing that they are “deeply committed to contributing to and benefiting from British society”.

The report concludes that more needs to be done to tackle discrimination in the workplace by making the recruitment process more fair and transparent, especially at the interview stage. It also acknowledges that the Equalities Act 2010 is not being utilised fully by those who feel they are being discriminated against on the basis of religion and gender.


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