The veil and the politics of racism

Williamson, Milly and Khiabany, Gholam. 2010. The veil and the politics of racism. Race & Class, 52(2), pp. 85-96. ISSN 0306-3968 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The veil has become an image of otherness, of a refusal to integrate and an example of the ‘failings’ of multiculturalism. As such, it has become an important symbol in the homogenisation and demonisation of Muslims in Britain. It is important to situate this ‘debate’ about the veil in the broader context of racism, immigration and imperialism, and neoliberal economic and political transformations. In the post-9/11 and 7/7 climate, public discussions of Muslims in Britain have centred on the twin issues of ‘integration’ and ‘terrorism’, at a time when racism is on the rise and poverty has increased for immigrant communities. How the veil is understood in this ‘debate’ is shaped by this wider context and, above all, by a history of colonialism and imperialism. This article examines the debate on the veil, showing that many garments and practices surrounding veiling are reduced in the British media to a threatening set of symbols of difference and otherness. It is argued that to detach gender issues and Islam from their wider social context leads to regressive, intolerant and overtly racist assumptions.

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Identification Number (DOI):


anti-Muslim racism, British Muslims, imperialism, multiculturalism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies
Media, Communications and Cultural Studies > Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre


1 October 2010Published
4 October 2010Published Online

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Date Deposited:

31 Oct 2018 12:26

Last Modified:

27 Feb 2019 12:18

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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