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3 - Gendered Health Inequalities and British Muslim Women: An Intersectional Approach and Analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2023

Sufyan Abid Dogra
Affiliation:
Bradford Institute for Health Research
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Summary

Narratives of Pathologising Bodies and Mobilities of British Muslim Women

Narratives of pathologising British Muslim women’s bodies and mobilities were mostly written between 1980 and 2010 in social sciences, in works by academics such as Haleh Afshar (1989, 2002), Afshar and Barrientos (1999), Afshar and Maynard (1994), Afshar et al. (2005), Pnina Werbner (1990, 2004, 2007) and Robina Mohammad (1999, 2005, 2013). British Muslim women have been portrayed as victims, oppressed and abused because of their families, culture, ethnicity and religion. Biased academics and scholars projected British Muslim women through their imaginations as disadvantaged Muslim women from the countries of origin or with their stereotypical and pathological views about first-generation Muslim women in Britain. These scholars internalised speculation on British Muslim women through orientalist depictions, colonial ethnographies and from the popular or mainstream media. The narratives of pathologies about first-generation British Muslim women are conveniently generalised over the second generation or to some extent the third generation by these scholars without acknowledging the qualitative differences in the lived experiences and struggles of different generations (see Chapter 11). These narratives took a condescending view on the ‘culture, values, norms, ethnicity or religion of British Muslim women and projected these as barriers to their emancipation on one hand, and as causes and context of their ill-health experiences on the other. These narratives of pathologising British Muslim women often ignore the impact of structural inequities, discrimination, racism, Islamophobia and deprivation that defines the lived experience of ill health for British Muslim women. Advancing the narratives of pathologising British Muslim women’s bodies and mobilities by depicting their vulnerabilities, victimhood and helplessness because of the ‘moral economy of kin’ (Afshar 1989) functioning through their family, culture, ethnicity and religion is the reproduction of the racist, neo-eugenics and neo-colonial mindset that latently aspires to discipline Muslim women’s bodies and mobilities on a standardised secular, liberal expression of living a public life in Britain. Such narratives of pathologies depicting third-generation British Muslim women as ‘Pakistani women’ and ‘no different to their grandmothers’ (Afshar 1989), not only undermine the upward mobility of British Muslim women but also shore up the racist and Islamophobic environment in the UK with the potential to do further harm to public mobilities, visibilities and diverse expressions.

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Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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