Islam is not my enemy, Islamophobia is

Muslim women are advocating against the perception that they are suffering under the patriarchy, and need to be liberated within European borders.

Rachel Jackson and Natasha Pearce report.

Co- Founder of the Collective Against Islamophobia in Belgium, Layla Azzouzi, chose to wear a headscarf when she was 28 years old. Her decision sparked criticism, and it was the first time she directly experienced Islamophobia living in Belgium.  

“When you face discrimination for the first time, you start to question yourself about your identity,” she said. “You realise you are perceived by others like a minority, and you start to try and find out what are all these things I didn’t realise before.”

Imane Benchaou is the project coordinator at KARAMAH EU, another civil organisation working to improve the discourse surrounding Muslims in Europe.

“The women who are visibly Muslim are at the forefront of the community and are often targeted as collateral damage,” Benchaou said. 

Christine Anderson is a member of the European Parliament in the Identity and Democracy Group, and a member of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. The Identity and Democracy Group is a right-wing political group of the European Parliament.

“To make Muslim women more inclusive in our society to me would be to not condone Islam because it’s the Islamic ideology that excludes them,” she said.

Azzouzi chooses to wear a headscarf, just as Benchaou chooses not to wear one. 

“If you talk talk to any muslim woman she will tell you that it is her choice, but if it is not her choice, we need a community that is able to tackle these issues in a positive way that fosters dialogue,” Benchaou said.

The Islamic headscarf is a contentious issue in many European countries. Earlier this month, the European Court of Justice ruled that workplaces are able to place a ban on headscarves as long as it is part of an overall ban on all headpieces.

Benchaou and Azzouzi agree that gendered Islamophobia affects Muslim women’s sense of belonging and identity in Europe. A more inclusive and fluid European identity needs to be established in order for the EU to adhere to the principles on which it was first formed.


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