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Veiled threats: producing the Muslim woman in public and policy discourse in the UK

Rashid, Naaz (2013) Veiled threats: producing the Muslim woman in public and policy discourse in the UK. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis looks at how ‘the Muslim woman’ is produced in social policy discourses in the UK. It is a qualitative study based on interviews, observation and interpretive analysis of policy material. It focuses specifically on initiatives to empower Muslim women in order to combat terrorism which formed part of the UK’s Preventing Violent Extremism Agenda (Prevent). In January 2008 the National Muslims Women’s Advisory Group (NMWAG) was established and Local Authorities were encouraged to fund projects aimed at ‘empowering Muslim women’. The thesis begins by situating the research within a wider policy framework. At the national level it relates to debates on community cohesion, Britishness and multiculturalism; at the global level it relates to the UK’s involvement in the ‘war on terror’. The research examines local inflections in how the initiatives worked in practice, considering the impact of diversity within diversity. A key objective of these initiatives was to ‘give the silent majority a stronger voice’. The thesis considers the extent to which this objective was achieved, particularly in relation to the establishment of NMWAG. Through an analysis of the initiatives overseen by NMWAG it considers how empowerment is conceptualised and, therefore, also by definition, disempowerment. It suggests that empowerment is positioned as individualised in the form of neoliberal meritocratic aspiration. At the same time, however, it is collectivised in relation to religious affiliation; Islam emerges both as a source of disempowerment and as a potential solution. The thesis argues that these initiatives have worked to privilege religion at the expense of other salient axes of difference, particularly those embedded in socio economic and regional variations. Moreover, this privileging constitutes part of a broader gendered anti-Muslim racist rhetoric. Finally the thesis argues that deconstructing the trope of ‘the Muslim woman’ and attending to the differences between Muslim women opens up the possibility of building solidarities across religious boundaries and harnessing an “alternative politics of recognition”.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Naaz Fouzia Rashid
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Ali, Suki

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