Research completed at the University of Bristol shows that Muslim women are 71% more likely than white Christian women to be unemployed. This study was made by comparing women with similar language abilities, education, marital status, number of children and strength of religious belief. It is a very sad fact that Muslim women are problematic to most Brits, whether they say it out loud or not. David Cameron made his views loud and clear when he announced that Muslim women should be taught English to tackle “backward” attitudes. Our very existence is a rejection of the mainstream discourse which perpetuates a view that in order to be liberated you must wholly subscribe to western values. So, Muslim women must work twice as hard as their white, female counterparts to be taken seriously in the workplace and not be written off as the ‘other.’
“Muslim women are the most economically disadvantaged group in British society, according to a report by MPs. They are three times more likely to be unemployed and looking for a job than women generally and more than twice as likely to be economically inactive” Says The Women and Equalities Committee, BBC News 2016
The Muslim women I have grown up with are strong, powerful and influential. They are patient, aspirational and brilliant and have shaped who I am today. This might come as a surprise, as it is very rare to come across Muslim female role-models in the media. I was first introduced to a leading Muslim woman in a dusty history book passed down to me. In this book, I read about Khadija, a prominent and hugely successful merchant of her day. She was influential in pre-Islamic Arabia which was overwhelmingly patriarchal and made a name based on her own merit; a true example of a powerful Muslim woman and what the roles they are truly meant to take. The view that all Muslim women are passive, withering wallflowers is a western social construct. It is a dangerous label to give which derives from a lack of cultural understanding and often Islamophobic views. Dealing with this label is draining and impedes our growth and ability to flourish in the workplace.
Perhaps it is about time we stop underestimating Muslim women and take a long, hard look at ourselves in the mirror… and ask “when is the last time you made a judgment on a woman who just so happens to be Muslim?”
Maymouna Osman works in the Education sector and blogs in her spare time