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Islamophobia Awareness Month

Monday 07-11-2016 - 16:01

As some of you may know, November signals the beginning of Islamophobia Awareness Month (in short, IAM) and it is with great pleasure that I announce to you the work that the Women’s Campaign will be undertaking to mark this occasion.

For those of you who read the parliamentary report into ‘Employment Opportunities for Muslims in the UK’, it should come as no surprise that the Women’s Campaign will be supporting FOSIS for the duration of the year. Certainly, the situation facing Muslim women is dire and requires urgent attention.

According to the parliamentary report, Muslims are at the “greatest economic disadvantage of any other group in society”. Unsurprisingly, it is Muslim women who face the brunt of this. Indeed, Muslim women experience the greatest pay gap of 22.4 per cent. Muslim women are also 71 per cent more likely to be unemployed - even when they have the same educational level and language skills as their white Christian counterparts. There are a whole host of reasons for this. Cultural restrictions around education and employability, combined with the rampant Islamophobia and discrimination in the workplace restrict opportunities for Muslim women in the UK.

 

For one, Islamophobic hate crimes disproportionately impact Muslim women – as those who wear the hijab (headscarf) and the niqab (face-veil) are “identifiably” Muslim. Recent figures from the Metropolitan Police, showed a 59.4 per cent increase in the number of reported Islamophobic hate crimes in London between 2015 and 2016. This, in turn, has fuelled a “chill factor” amongst many Muslim women: genuine fears of discrimination or outright hostility in the workplace put Muslim women off applying for particular jobs (or entering public spaces, altogether). I know from personal experience that this is a lived reality for so many of my close friends and relatives.

 

On pressing Mariya Hussain, Vice-President of Education at KCLSU, to speak about her experiences in the UK as a ‘visibly’ Muslim woman, she stated the following: “Islamophobia informs every aspect of my life - from facing racial abuse on the tube and other public spaces, to being stereotyped in the workplace and in everyday interaction with academics.”

 

Many Muslim women are therefore facing a “triple penalty”: being women, being BME and being Muslim restricts their employment prospects and significantly impacts their wellbeing.

Thus, the Women’s Campaign will be hosting a number of events throughout this month entitled “Muslim Women in the West”. The events in question, will intend to shed light on the growing phenomenon of gendered Islamophobia and highlight the importance of creating inclusive and accessible feminist spaces.

 

I believe it is time the student movement acknowledged gendered Islamophobia and the importance of applying an intersectional lens to student activism. The gender pay gap disproportionately affects Muslim women – and yet conversations pertaining to the pay gap rarely address this fact. Half the Muslim population in the country live in the ten most deprived areas in the UK – and yet measures concerning austerity almost always neglect to mention this fact. One in eight Pakistani women are asked about marriage and family aspirations in job interviews (as compared to one in thirty white women). Yet campaigns on workplace discrimination repeatedly erase this fact.

 

As a result, I will be hosting an Interfaith Conference in January that aims to bring the issues of Muslim women and employability to the forefront. I will also be working closely with our National President, Malia Bouattia, to host an ‘I Will Lead the Way ‘ programme for Muslim women leaders and I will be working tirelessly this year to record the experiences of Muslim women in HE and FE.

If you are interested in hosting an event on gendered Islamophobia, or supporting the work of NUS Women’s Campaign please email hareem.ghani@nus.org.uk

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