Europe’s fascination with Muslim girls, their our bodies and their clothes decisions – as seen within the passing of discriminatory face protecting bans in a number of nations – exhibits no signal of abating. All through the western world, Muslim girls have develop into expendable commodities, with offensive tropes dominating information protection regularly. In recent times within the UK, probably the most excessive profile sufferer of such rhetoric has arguably been Shamima Begum.
Earlier this yr, the Supreme Courtroom dominated Begum couldn’t problem the federal government’s resolution to revoke her citizenship in 2019. Because of this she wouldn’t be allowed to return to the UK from Syria, the place she had travelled to in 2015.
When she was first pictured, as one in every of three London schoolgirls suspected of being groomed to affix Isis, she seemed no totally different to many younger Muslim girls within the UK on the time.
She then reappeared on our screens in 2019 following an interview with the Occasions. In an image used for the interview, Begum appeared in a black jilbab (lengthy outer clothes worn by some Muslim girls), black hijab (headband) and a niqab (face veil), which she had lifted over her head.
This picture aligned with western media’s portrayal of so-called “Isis brides”, usually clad in all black. Photos like these flooded the media on the peak of Isis’s exercise, taking part in into established Islamophobic views a couple of perceived correlation between Islamic clothes and extremism.
In the summertime of 2020, one other article with photographs of Begum appeared. This time, studies identified her change in model, mainly that she had “ditched her Islamic gown and as an alternative [was] donning western garments together with denims, a shirt and a blue hat”. In March 2021, one other article highlighted how Begum was looking for to maneuver away from her Isis previous with “western clothes” and “straightened hair”.
Except for the bizarreness of suggesting denims and t-shirts (garments fashionable throughout the globe) are completely “western”, this comparability with Begum’s earlier Islamic garb implies that solely within the west can Muslim girls be liberated.
The obsession along with her garments and whether or not they sign how a lot of a risk she is has its roots in colonial historical past. The lands east of Europe have traditionally been portrayed as missing in civilisation, too involved with the fantastical world to ever actually perceive what it means to be free, as succinctly articulated by thinker Edward Stated in his seminal e book, Orientalism. On this image, Begum’s emancipation, as signified by her change of clothes, is intimately tied to Europe.
The harmful Muslim lady
The development of the Muslim lady as “harmful, but in want of saving” is characteristically European in its racism. For instance, in colonised Algeria within the 1950s, Muslim girls had been unveiled in public to showcase their “liberation”.
Journalists actively “monitoring down” Begum, taking pictures of her and projecting them to the world isn’t any totally different than the Algerian instance as a ceremony of unveiling and revealing a Muslim lady. As a lot as Muslim girls proceed to argue that we exist past the paradigm of liberation versus oppression, the voyeurism simply by no means stops.
Such depictions of Muslim girls have critical implications. Analysis on gendered Islamophobia has discovered that Muslim girls bear the brunt of bodily assaults after derogatory, infantilising feedback have been made about them within the media or following a terrorist assault. This was evident when Islamaphobic incidents rose sharply within the UK after Prime Minister Boris Johnson referred to niqab-wearing Muslims as wanting like “letterboxes” in August 2018. Utilizing Muslim girls for politicking on this method is widespread within the UK and it shapes how the broader, dominant society views them.
The media’s deal with Begum’s selection of clothes is an element and parcel of this constant obsession with Muslim girls, illustrating the pervasive and intrusive methods Muslim girls are offered to the general public: both as harmful or oppressed.
Such depictions trickle down and influence Muslim girls of their on a regular basis lives, with many confronted with intrusive questions based mostly on this perceived lack of freedom amongst Muslim girls. Because the pandemic continues to gas Islamophobia, it’s more and more vital for these narratives to be tackled and stopped of their tracks. The earlier that occurs, the better it’ll be for Muslim girls to get on with their lives.
Fatima Rajina doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that will profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.