Book Review: Muslim women used in Govt’s discredited counter-terrorism policy

28th Feb 2020
Book Review: Muslim women used in Govt’s discredited counter-terrorism policy

Veiled Threats: Representing the Muslim Woman in Public Policy Discourses. By Naaz Rashid. Policy Press. Pp218. 2017 PB

Veiled Threats reads like a long research paper with a very specific remit. It was a bit of a cumbersome read and unless you are after a specific piece of information with regards to the counter-terrorism policies of Prevent, which part of counter-terrorism and how women’s organisations that were responsible for implementing these policies operated.

This book is built upon numerous interviews with a handful of key actors in the process. There was a drawback as the community that she primarily navigated was the Pakistani British community. At no point was there an effort made to include other ethnicities in the discussion about Prevent, which clearly impacts in more than just one ethnic community.

The discredited Prevent policies are increasingly framed along the lines of Huntington’s Clash of Civilisation theory that Judeo Christians will always be fighting against the Muslims, but in succumbing to the belief of this theory we fail to understand the socio-economic implications of the history of a group of people.In addition to the socio-economic hurdles, Muslim women also encounter an assumed burden of representation.

One of the interviewees, Almeena, talks about her experience as a journalist at the BBC and how every time there was a so-called honour killing or some kind of Muslim and Asian story, everyone would turn to her, but she was as clueless as they were. Rashid states, ‘The spaces in which Muslim women can speak (or can be heard) is often narrowly defined and delimited externally.’ (p144) It supports this idea that Muslim women are only able to comment on the issues of their community.

When in reality, what affects Muslim women also affects other BAME communities and other women too. With the establishment of Prevent, the Government has singled out the Muslim community as a target of its counter-extremism policies. It has created a climate of fear and hostility reinforcing the incompatibility of Britishness and Pakistani. (p 147)

This book does bring up a lot of underlying issues in the way that Muslim women are framed within the policy discourse; they are the mystical other that needs to be managed and to a certain extent rescued, which is a colonial paradigm that we haven’t grown out of.

Rashid argues the way ‘in which Muslim women are seen solely in relation to their religious affiliation. This is based on Orientalist stereotypes of the uniquely misogynist Muslim man, inflected with contemporary representations of problematic Islamic masculinity in the post 9/11 world.’ (p162). Rashid’s work is a huge contribution to the discussion about the controversial Prevent policy of the Government.

Aasiya I Versi

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