Researching Anti-Muslim Sentiment Effects on Women

Dr Tetreault and her student Ms. Tahir

Dr. Tetreault and Sara Tahir attending the AAA after their paper presentation, November 2017

Since the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Muslim Americans have been the focus of increased scrutiny and surveillance. More recently, however, the period since and leading up to the American presidential election shows that: 1) anti-Muslim hate crimes are on the rise, according to FBI data and 2) anti-Muslim public discourse and everyday aggression are coalescing against Muslim women, and especially hijabis or women wearing headscarves. Meanwhile, in France, a similar pattern has emerged in the public targeting of Muslims, and especially hijabi women. As a New York Times article notes, in recent years in France “80 percent of the anti-Muslim acts involving violence and assault were directed at women, most of them veiled.”

Dr. Tetreault is partnering with Dr. Farha Abbasi (Psychiatry, MSU) and Sara Tahir (2nd year graduate student in Anthropology) to investigate how Muslim women in the United States and France are responding comparatively to an apparent rise in gendered Islamophobia in each context. This research is urgent because women’s responses to anti-Muslim sentiment in a post-election moment constitute ephemeral data. Among other outcomes, they document that women’s self-conscious but fraught choices remain true to oneself and one’s religion, despite becoming a target for racist or Islamophobic violence. They also seek to understand how intersecting identities such as ethnicity/race, immigrant status, age, and other factors play a role in how individual Muslim women are experiencing these shifts in French and U.S. political climates.

Thus far, their team has collected 40 surveys from Muslim women respondents from a variety of backgrounds, conducted one focus group in Michigan, and presented two conference papers including a co-authored paper with Sara Tahir at the recent American Anthropological Association (AAA) meetings in DC. They are currently writing up the results of this preliminary research to submit for publication. Thus far, they have been fortunate to obtain internal funding for their important work. For the next phase of their research, they plan to submit external grant proposals.

In spring 2017, Dr. Tetreault was able to hire Sara Tahir as a research assistant thanks to a small grant from the Muslim Studies Program at MSU. Over the summer, thanks to a Strategic Partnership Grant from the Center for Gender in Global Perspective (GenCen), Dr. Tetreault was also able to conduct preliminary research on a two week stay in Paris, France. There, she developed long-term international strategic partnerships with Sciences Politiques, and migration expert Dr. Wihtol De Wenden. Dr. Tetreault and Ms. Tahir were able to partner with a French practitioner and social worker Sanhadja Akrouf, who will help them recruit survey respondents for the French portion of their study, to complement and complete the current research among Muslim women in Michigan.