LEICESTER - A new British study has warned of rising hostility against Muslim women in the United Kingdom, referring to a direct link between the banning of the veil in France and increased levels of anti-Muslim discrimination.
"In light of my interviews with veiled Muslim women, I am confident that the French veil ban is a trigger' event which has led to increased levels of anti-Muslim hostility towards women who wear the face veil - the most visual symbol of Islam in the West, Irene Zempi, who led the study at the University of Leicester, told the university website on Tuesday, May 22.
A French law banning the wearing of face-veil - burqa or niqab - in public places took into force on April 2011.
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Following the French law, enacted in September, calls have grown in Britain for a similar ban.
The study, to be presented by Zempi at a Departmental Research Seminar at the University of Leicester on Wednesday, has linked to increased hostility towards veiled Muslim women in the UK to the recent veil ban applied in France.
Leicester researchers from the Department of Criminology added that the veil ban stigmatizes veiled Muslim women as criminals' and fosters Muslim otherness'.
Even if not explicitly inciting hate-motivated violence, the law in its application contributes to a climate of intolerance of Islam in the West.
"The veil ban policy is a clear manifestation of Islamophobia, Zempi said.
The veil ban is not a religious-blind' piece of legislation; rather it attacks Islam' through the religious code of dress for Muslim women, she added.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
As for the face veil, the majority of Muslim scholars believe that a woman is not obliged to cover her face or hands.
Scholars, however, believe that it is up to women to decide whether to take on the face veil.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority, estimated at nearly 2.0 million.
Leicester's researchers found that veil ban policy, applied in different European states, has created a fertile ground for anti-Muslim hate crimes.
"The veil ban not only overshadows the fundamental issue of religious freedom as a human right, it also undercuts individual agency, privacy, and self-expression, Zempi said.
This law oppresses women who want to wear the veil by depriving them from having control over their bodies and the way they dress."
Zempi's research focuses on individual and focus group interviews with veiled Muslim women.
This research, funded by the University of Leicester, also includes interviews with French Muslim women who moved to Leicester from France because of the French veil ban.
Jon Garland, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Ms Zempi's co-supervisor, agreed.
Irene is undertaking some groundbreaking research that is shedding new light on a hitherto under-researched issue, Garland added.
She is uncovering alarming amounts of prejudice suffered by veiled Muslim women, but her work will hopefully help to increase understanding of this problem and thereby challenge these prejudices.
A similar warning was issued last July 2011 by the European Union's human rights watchdog which criticized laws banning the wearing of Muslim veil, warning that the legislation fuels anti-Muslim sentiments across the continent.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net