University of Leicester
2014zempiecphd.pdf (1.49 MB)

Unveiling Islamophobia : the victimisation of veiled Muslim women

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posted on 2014-07-04, 08:46 authored by Eirini-Chrysovalantou Zempi
In a post-9/11 climate, Islam and Muslims are under siege. Islam is understood as a violent and backward religion and culture, Muslim men are perceived as the embodiment of terrorism and extremism, and veiled Muslim women are viewed as the personification of gender oppression. Veiled Muslim women are also seen as dangerous and threatening to notions of public safety and national cohesion by virtue of being fully covered in the public sphere. Such stereotypes mark veiled Muslim women as ‘ideal’ targets to attack when they are seen in public. Drawing on qualitative data elicited through individual and focus group interviews with veiled Muslim women, individual interviews with key stakeholders and policy-makers as well as an ethnographic approach, this study sheds light on the lived experiences of veiled Muslim women as actual and potential victims of Islamophobia in public places. The study investigates the nature and impact of this victimisation upon veiled Muslim women, their families and wider Muslim communities. It also examines the factors that contribute to the under-reporting of this victimisation and outlines the coping strategies which are used by veiled Muslim women in response to their experiences of Islamophobia. The study demonstrates that Islamophobic victimisation is understood as ‘part and parcel’ of wearing the veil rather than as single ‘one-off’ incidents, and this reflects the tendency of veiled Muslim women not to report such incidents to the police. The study also reveals how repeat incidents of supposedly ‘low-level’ forms of hostility such as name-calling, persistent staring and a sense of being ignored place a potentially huge emotional burden on victims. The threat of Islamophobic abuse and violence has longlasting effects for both actual and potential victims including making them afraid to step out of their ‘comfort zone’. Ultimately, the study offers a model of vulnerability of veiled Muslim women as potential victims of Islamophobia in public places based on the visibility of their Muslim identity coupled with the visibility of other aspects of their identity alongside factors such as space as well as media reports of local, national and international events related to Islam, Muslims and the veil.



Chakraborti, Neil; Garland, Jon; Barnes, Rebecca

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of Criminology

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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