Muslim Women


In society, there are some misconceptions about who Muslim women are and the identity they have.  Through hasty generalizations, Muslim women are often depicted as being only Arab, figures of oppression, and being poles apart with everyone. Popular media fails to recognize the diversity in this group in terms of race, ethnicity, nationality, cultural norms, gender role, education attainment level, occupation and upbringing. I believe that the intersection of social inequalities in these identifying components has rendered Muslim women invisible in society.


In the first picture, there is a group of four women wearing black veils-known as the niqab– over their faces. In the second picture, there is another group of three women who are all wearing the niqab also. The third picture shows three women who are all wearing the niqab and the abaya- a long, loose garment that looks like a dress. The fourth picture shows two women who wearing the niqab and the abaya. In the fifth picture, there is one woman wearing a gray hijab with green eyes. The sixth picture and the seventh picture shows a women wearing the niqab. The pictures are zoomed into their faces, focusing on their eyes. In all three, the women have eye makeup.  In eighth picture, there are four women who don’t have their faces covered. They are wearing chadors– a long garment that covers the head and body. The ninth picture shows one man with a sword and a group of women with their hands tied. They are completely covered, including their eyes. The last picture shows a girl with brown hair with a sign. The signs says “I can support women’s right with my clothes on.” Nine out of the ten pictures show a generalized image of Muslim women.


These pictures contain some sorts of inequality. Although Muslim women come from different races, ethnicities and nationalities, these pictures fail to exhibit this. Race is defined as “groupings of people believed to share common descent, based on perceived innate physical similarities”. Considering this definition, all the women in these pictures are Asian. Despite this exclusion, Muslim women may come from any of these racial groups: black, Asian, white, Hispanic or Latino, and American Indian.  This is contrary to society’s belief that Muslim is synonymous with Arab.  Muslim women may be from the same race but have different ethnicities or nationalities. An example is that two Muslim women could identify themselves as being Asian but one identifies her ethnicity as Yemeni and the other identifies herself as Syrian. Another example is when two women identify their race as black but one identifies her ethnicity as Gambian and another as Sudanese. This diversity is absent from these pictures.

This identification process becomes more complex when nationality is put into the equation. Due to the diaspora of people in the last half century, a person’s ethnicity may be dissimilar from their nationality. For example, in Cecile Thun’s Norwegianness as lived citizenship, there is a woman named Fatima who is Pakistani Norwegian (Thun, 2012). Fatima’s ethnicity is Pakistani while her nationality is Norwegian. Although she is Norwegian, people view as her being a foreigner. The intersection in her identity, being Pakistani, Muslim and Norwegian, causes the larger Norwegian society to view her as not being equal to the majority Norwegians. This belief may give rise to social stratification for Muslim women in diaspora.


The diversity of Muslim women is such that they differ in race, ethnicity, nationality, cultural norms, gender roles, educational attainment level, occupation and upbringing. Social inequalities that stem from the intersection of these identifiers cause Muslim women to become stereotyped in society.

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