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Preventing intersectional discrimination and promoting Muslim women’s empowerment

Muslim woman

On the occasion of the European Action Day against Islamophobia, Momodou Malcolm Jallow (Sweden, UEL), PACE General Rapporteur on combating racism and intolerance, made the following statement:

“Already rife in Europe, Islamophobia is on the rise. While all Muslims, and those who are perceived as such, may face this form of discrimination, women are especially vulnerable to it. In particular, women who wear headscarves are immediately recognisable as Muslim and can be easily targeted by Islamophobic bias and attacks.

The bans on head coverings introduced by several Council of Europe member States affect Muslim women disproportionately. On the one hand, these bans limit their freedom of religion and of expression. On the other hand, while aiming to uphold secularism and the religious neutrality of the State, they may be misinterpreted as legitimising anti-Muslim sentiments. In addition, they prevent some Muslim women from accessing certain public spaces or activities and can increase stigmatisation.

On the European Action Day against Islamophobia, I call on European legislators and policy makers to consistently abide by the principles of equality and non-discrimination in their action, and to pay special attention to the intersection of gender and religion as grounds for discrimination. This is crucial to avoid obstacles that may hinder women’s empowerment and opportunities, within the Muslim community and in our societies at large.”