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      Perceptions of Discrimination of Muslim Women in Belgium: A Study of Discriminatory Incidents Across Public and Private Organizations Reported to the National Equality Body

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            Abstract

            In Belgium, Muslims have been affected by an increasingly hostile climate in which Islamophobia prospers. The need for further research into the gendered dynamics of Islamophobia in a Belgian context has been flagged, as the majority of complaints are made by women. In this contribution, the focus lies on to the narratives of the women who encounter this in their daily lives. Twenty-two Muslim women who decided to report their discriminatory experience to the national equality body were interviewed. Based on their lived experiences, this qualitative study aims to provide an in-depth description of the way in which Muslim women encounter discrimination in order to establish which “treatment, circumstances and behavior are perceived as discriminatory.”

            Content

            Author and article information

            Contributors
            Journal
            10.2307/j50018795
            islastudj
            Islamophobia Studies Journal
            Pluto Journals
            2325-8381
            2325-839X
            1 October 2021
            : 6
            : 2 ( doiID: 10.13169/islastudj.6.issue-2 )
            : 207-227
            Affiliations
            Human Rights Centre of Ghent University
            Article
            islastudj.6.2.0207
            10.13169/islastudj.6.2.0207
            ac054004-9cfe-4980-ae05-df2ba2f71874
            © Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, Center for Race and Gender, University of California, Berkeley

            All content is freely available without charge to users or their institutions. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal without asking prior permission of the publisher or the author. Articles published in the journal are distributed under a http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

            Custom metadata
            eng

            ENDNOTES

            1. The Constitutional Court replied to a preliminary question asked by the Court of First Instance in Brussels. The subject of the question was whether it would be permitted to prohibit the wearing of any external symbols of a political, philosophical or religious opinion or conviction in public schools. https://www.const-court.be/public/n/2020/2020-081n.pdf

            2. https://twitter.com/Ayoubhasss/status/1272213771746934788?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

            3. https://www.standaard.be/cnt/dmf20200616_04992387.

            4. “Muslim women” is no homogenous group and is not viewed as such in this contribution. Instead, I assume “Muslim women” as a heterogeneous group with great variation in class, age, ethnicity, gender identity and so on.

            5. Brems, Eva. 2020. “Discrimination against Muslims in Belgium.” In State, Religion and Muslims. Leiden: Brill: 65–108.

            6. Mescoli (n. 33) 10.

            7. Nadal, Kevin L. et al. 2012. “Subtle and Overt Forms of Islamophobia: Microaggressions Toward Muslim Americans.” Journal of Muslim Mental Health, 6, no. 2: 16.

            8. Rolfe, Heather et al. 2009. “Perceptions of Discrimination in Employment.” National Institute of Economic & Social Research. Government Equalities Office: 8.

            9. Ross, Paula T., Monica L. Lypson, and Arno K. Kumagai. 2012. “Using illness narratives to explore African American Perspectives of Racial Discrimination in Health Care.” Journal of Black Studies 43, no. 5: 520–44.

            10. When discussing various definitions of Islamophobia, it is important to take into account that it is a fluid concept that varies from one context to another, as it tells us more about the Islamophobe than about the Muslim (Enes Bayraklı and Farid Hafez. 2015. “Introduction,” European Islamophobia Report 2015, Enes Bayraklı and Farid Hafez, eds. Istanbul: SETA: 5–8).

            11. European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). 2015. General Policy Recommendation No. 15 on Combating Hate Speech. Adopted on December 8. Art. 7. r.

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            30. “Kan je een moslim deradicaliseren?” De Standaard, October 24, 2014: 19.

            31. European Islamophobia Report. 2017. Enes Bayraklı and Farid Hafez eds. Istanbul: SETA: 88.

            32. 73% in 2014.

            33. Mescoli, E. 2016. Forgotten Women: The Impact of Islamophobia on Muslim Women in Belgium. Brussels: ENAR: 21; Muslim‘ Rights Belgium [Islamophobie en Belgique Francophone]. 2014. Rapport annuel—2014. Brussels: Muslim’ Rights Belgium: 14–15.

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            36. European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). 2009. Data in Focus Report | Muslims, European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey. Vienna: FRA.

            37. Mescoli (n. 33) 22.

            38. Examples include: the prohibition for civil servants of local authorities to wear religious garment, prohibitions for staff and students of schools to wear a headscarf, a nation-wide ban of burqas in the public space and the acceptance of a company-wide prohibition of all religious garb. See for more examples: Zemni (n. 15) 29.

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            41. Mescoli (n. 37).

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            46. Eliassi (n. 21) 36.

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            55. Hodge (n. 50) 4.

            56. Nadal (n. 7) 22.

            57. Bursell, Moa. 2018. “Perceptions of Discrimination Against Muslims. A Study of Formal Complaints Against Public Institutions in Sweden.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies: 1–18.

            58. For a more detailed account of the leeway offered to street-level bureaucrats within public institutions, read Lipsky, Michael. 1980. Street-level Bureaucracy Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services. New York: Russell Sage.

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            60. Bursell (n. 47) 9.

            61. Bursell (n. 47) 12.

            62. Bursell (n. 47).

            63. Ross (n. 9) 532.

            64. Bursell (n. 47) 7.

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            67. Bursell (n. 47) 7.

            68. Ameli, Saied Reza, Azru Merali Merali, and Ehsan Shahasemi. 2012. France and the Hated Society: Muslim Experiences. London: Islamic Human Rights Commission: 2.

            69. Modood, Tariq. 1998. “Multiculturalism, Secularism And The State.” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 1, no. 3: 79–97; Young, Iris Marion. 2011. Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

            70. Bursell (n. 47) 7.

            71. Heirwegh, Tess and Cathérine Van de Graaf. 2019. “The local Swimming Pool As A Space of Rights Contestation—An Analysis of ‘Burkini’ Policies in Belgian Local Public Swimming Pools.” The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, 51, no. 2: 233–59.

            72. Ross (n. 9) 532.

            73. In two cases, interviewees heard about the study and wanted to come in and explain a situation they considered to be discriminatory. So, in those two cases interviewees were not recruited with the help of Unia.

            74. https://www.unia.be/en/about-unia.

            75. More information on the process at Unia can be found here: Van de Graaf, Cathérine. 2020. “Procedural justice perceptions in the mediation of discrimination reports by a national equality body.” International Journal of Discrimination and the Law, 20, no. 1: 45–61.

            76. People can report discrimination or hate speech to Unia which they have “seen, heard or personally experienced.” https://report.unia.be/en/report-it.

            77. Cijferrapport Unia. 2016, June 2017, 34. https://www.unia.be/en/articles/number-of-new-discrimination-cases-at-unia-rises-by-20-percent.

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            81. It is characterized by minimal organization, rich description of the data and “interpretation of various aspects of the research topic.” Braun, Virginia, and Victoria Clarke. 2006. “Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology.” Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3 no. 2: 77–101.

            82. as during religious courses it was always allowed to wear a headscarf.

            83. Howard, Erica. 2017. “Islamic headscarves and the CJEU: Achbita and Bougnaoui.” Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law, 24, no. 3: 348–66.

            84. Brems, Eva. 2006. “Above Children's Heads—The Headscarf Controversy in European Schools from the Perspective of Children's Rights.” Int'l J. Child. Rts., 14: 119.

            85. Heirwegh and Van de Graaf (n. 71).

            86. Grohs, Stephan, Christian Adam, and Christoph Knill. 2016. “Are Some Citizens More Equal Than Others? Evidence from a Field Experiment.” Public Administration Review, 76, no. 1: 155–64.

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            88. Modood (n. 69) 23.

            89. Nadal (n. 7) 27.

            90. Nadal, Kevin L. et al. 2010. “Religious microaggressions in the United States.” Microaggressions and Marginality: Manifestation, Dynamics, and Impact: 287–310.

            91. Hodge, David R. 2019. “Spiritual microaggressions: Understanding the Subtle Messages that Foster Religious Discrimination.” Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work: 1–17.

            92. See research by Bursell mentioned above (n. 47).

            93. Blumer, Herbert. 1958. “Race Prejudice as a Sense Of Group Position.” Pacific Sociological Review, 1, no. 1: 3–7.

            94. “Black” refers to covered by dirt from the road labor.

            95. Sue, Derald Wing. 2010. Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. London: John Wiley & Sons: 51.

            96. This incident was not reported to Unia but to another organization. The student in question contacted the researcher because she had heard about this study taking place.

            97. Zemni (n. 15) 29.

            98. Pierce, Chester M. et al. 1977. “An experiment in racism: TV commercials.” Education and Urban Society, 10, no. 1: 61–87.

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            100. Mescoli (n. 33) 4.

            101. Hodge (n. 55).

            102. Bursell (n. 47) 12.

            103. Bursell (n. 47) 7.

            104. Bursell (n. 47) 9.

            105. Bouteldja, Naima. 2013. “After the Ban: The experiences of 35 women of the full-face veil in France.” New York: Open Society Foundations: 17; Brems, Eva et al. 2012. “Wearing the Face Veil in Belgium.” In The Burqa Affair Across Europe: Between Private and Public. London: Ashgate: 20.

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