Tackling Islamophobia & Religious Discrimination

We discuss religion/spirituality and religious discrimination, focusing on islamophobia in the U.S. Though religious/spiritual identity can be difficult to talk about, millions of Americans identify as some level of religious or spiritual1 - meaning that not talking about it leaves room for bias and discrimination. Despite women being religious/spiritual at higher rates than men,2 the intersection of religious discrimination and sexism also often goes unexamined. We hope that these tips get you to ask important questions about being a part of a growing religiously diverse country and seeing how this topic affects women. Sincerely,

Reflect: How does religion relate to everyday life?

Think about how the modern U.S. calendar is set up. Why do you think we mark the start of the new year on that date? Why are our weekends set as Saturday and Sunday? What holidays are traditionally given as time off from work or school? Though religious shifts are happening in the American population every year,3 the United States has been organized with a hegemony of Christian beliefs - reflected in things like our calendar and our currency. The reality of living in a country that claims freedom of religion while also using imagery/language of a specific religion can make it very difficult for people of other faiths and “religious ‘nones’” to feel included. This hegemonic representation of Christianity not only pervades many of our national systems, but is compounded by many of the interactions people have that are related to religion – particularly for women in non-Christian religions.

Learn: Islamophobia in Higher Education

Bias and discrimination are commonly perpetuated against Muslim people, even in higher education. Muslim people feel a simultaneous sense of being monitored by their peers while also having their identity invalidated.4, 5 Universities also often exclude Muslim people in daily life, such as offering food which violates religious rules and course scheduling that conflicts with religious prayer/holidays.6 When intersected with sexism and other systems of oppression, religious discrimination and bias present uniquely difficult challenges for women. For example, Hijabis – Muslim women who wear a traditional religious headdress called a Hijab—are more likely to experience employment and workplace discrimination/microaggressions because of their religious dress,7 which is associated with increased stress and decreased job satisfaction.8 Gendered microaggressions are also experienced by Muslim women students, frequently revolving around the belief that visibly Muslim women are oppressed and in need of saving9— without the input of the women themselves.

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