Presentation Title

The Non-Traditional Muslim Woman in Higher Ed: Tribulation and Organization

Faculty Mentor

Moshoula Capous-Desyllas

Start Date

17-11-2018 1:30 PM

End Date

17-11-2018 1:45 PM

Location

C151

Session

Oral 3

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

behavioral_social_sciences

Abstract

In the rare instances that the experiences of Muslim women in the West are explored, there tends to be a focus on the prototypical Muslim women experience (hijab donning, heterosexual, Arab) with little focus on intersecting marginalized identities that may, and often do, exist and affect these women (Mir, 2011; Khan, 2015) which include but are not limited to ethnicity, race, and sexuality. On the Western side of discourse is a focus on the ‘good Muslim’ versus the ‘bad Muslim’ (Mamdani, 2004); a ‘good Muslim’ is characterized as moderate and assimilated into Western society while a ‘bad Muslim’ can be defined by the stereotypical Orientalist image: conservative, barbaric, and uncivilized (Kassam, 2011). Simultaneously, Muslim women must also navigate the imagined image reinforced by Muslim culture in the West, one where the “ideal Muslim woman” (Kassam, 2011) manages to both assimilate seamlessly into the mainstream society while maintaining her commitment to her religion. The average Muslim woman must navigate these often-contradictory images of herself in every institution she enters, not to mention any other marginalized identities she may have. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of Muslim women in post-secondary institutions and to identify their methods of resisting these prevailing, oppressive images, whether that be through the creation of “third spaces” (Mir, 2006). In particular, I focused on the experiences of non-traditional Muslim women, such as queer identifying women, women who come from mixed-race and mixed-faith households, and both hijab-donning and non-hijabi women. Drawing from Avtar Brah’s (1996) concept of a political and cultural diaspora, I argued that these women are living in a socio-cultural diaspora due to the circumstances of their experiences as non-traditional Muslim women in post-secondary institutions. They found community through the creation of formal spaces, informal spaces, and symbolic spaces.

Summary of research results to be presented

Drawing from Avtar Brah’s (1996) concept of a political and cultural diaspora, I argued that these women are living in a socio-cultural diaspora due to the circumstances of their experiences as non-traditional Muslim women in post-secondary institutions. Growing up in a post-9/11 America meant that the identities of these women were intrinsically dominated by their Muslimness; their culture and communities’ fixation on image made it difficult for them to explore their other identities until they reached higher education. The distance college placed between these women and their communities, in combination with their negative and exclusionary experiences with the dominant Muslim community on campus, allowed them the space to explore their intersecting identities more freely. They found community through the creation of formal spaces: development of formal foundations, pursuit of relevant career pathways; informal spaces: creation of underground groups for queer Muslims; and symbolic spaces: through the physical representation of self, both in the institution and outside of it.

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Nov 17th, 1:30 PM Nov 17th, 1:45 PM

The Non-Traditional Muslim Woman in Higher Ed: Tribulation and Organization

C151

In the rare instances that the experiences of Muslim women in the West are explored, there tends to be a focus on the prototypical Muslim women experience (hijab donning, heterosexual, Arab) with little focus on intersecting marginalized identities that may, and often do, exist and affect these women (Mir, 2011; Khan, 2015) which include but are not limited to ethnicity, race, and sexuality. On the Western side of discourse is a focus on the ‘good Muslim’ versus the ‘bad Muslim’ (Mamdani, 2004); a ‘good Muslim’ is characterized as moderate and assimilated into Western society while a ‘bad Muslim’ can be defined by the stereotypical Orientalist image: conservative, barbaric, and uncivilized (Kassam, 2011). Simultaneously, Muslim women must also navigate the imagined image reinforced by Muslim culture in the West, one where the “ideal Muslim woman” (Kassam, 2011) manages to both assimilate seamlessly into the mainstream society while maintaining her commitment to her religion. The average Muslim woman must navigate these often-contradictory images of herself in every institution she enters, not to mention any other marginalized identities she may have. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of Muslim women in post-secondary institutions and to identify their methods of resisting these prevailing, oppressive images, whether that be through the creation of “third spaces” (Mir, 2006). In particular, I focused on the experiences of non-traditional Muslim women, such as queer identifying women, women who come from mixed-race and mixed-faith households, and both hijab-donning and non-hijabi women. Drawing from Avtar Brah’s (1996) concept of a political and cultural diaspora, I argued that these women are living in a socio-cultural diaspora due to the circumstances of their experiences as non-traditional Muslim women in post-secondary institutions. They found community through the creation of formal spaces, informal spaces, and symbolic spaces.