New research shows that that there is a link between the banning of the veil in France and increased levels of hostility towards veiled Muslim women.
The Research from the Department of Criminology at the University of Leicester suggests that the veil ban stigmatises veiled Muslim women as "criminals" and fosters Muslim "otherness". Even if not explicitly inciting hate-motivated violence, the law in its application contributes to a climate of intolerance of Islam in the West.
Irene Zempi, who led the study, will present her research on Islamophobia at a Departmental Research Seminar at the University of Leicester tommorrow.
Ms Zempi argues: "In light of my interviews with veiled Muslim women, I am confident that the French veil ban is a 'trigger' event which has led to increased levels of anti-Muslim hostility towards women who wear the face veil – the most visual symbol of Islam in the West. The veil ban policy is a clear manifestation of Islamophobia. The veil ban is not a 'religious-blind' piece of legislation; rather it attacks 'Islam' through the religious code of dress for Muslim women."
Ms Zempi's research is qualitative in nature, drawing on individual and focus group interviews with veiled Muslim women. This research also includes interviews with French Muslim women who moved to Leicester from France because of the French veil ban.
Ms Zempi will discuss the implications of the veil ban for veiled Muslim women in France and the UK at the seminar on Wednesday. She argues that the veil ban policy – including support for state veil bans – is fertile ground for anti-Muslim hate crime/incidents in the public sphere.
She continues: "The veil ban not only overshadows the fundamental issue of religious freedom as a human right, it also undercuts individual agency, privacy, and self-expression. This law oppresses women who want to wear the veil by depriving them from having control over their bodies and the way they dress."
Jon Garland, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Ms Zempi's co-supervisor, said: "Irene is undertaking some groundbreaking research that is shedding new light on a hitherto under-researched issue. She is uncovering alarming amounts of prejudice suffered by veiled Muslim women, but her work will hopefully help to increase understanding of this problem and thereby challenge these prejudices."
The research was funded by the University of Leicester.
Irene Zempi will present her research at the Departmental Research Seminar on Wednesday 23 May 2012, at the Department of Criminology, University of Leicester. The free event is open to the public and takes place 1-2pm.