Muslim Women, Citizenship and Racism: From the Symbol of Nation to Anti-national Threat

Williamson, Milly. 2023. 'Muslim Women, Citizenship and Racism: From the Symbol of Nation to Anti-national Threat'. In: IAMCR 2023. Lyon, France 9 - 13 July 2023. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

The criteria for Muslims being labelled as anti-national is increasingly simplified. As Britain is rapidly shrinking itself into a province while glorifying its imperial past and historical power, the racialisation of citizenship has set up a further national hierarchy. Citizenship is no longer a right but a “privilege”. The nation is often discursively gendered female and that women are used as symbolic markers of cultural purity and national honour, so that policing women has been historically justified as “protecting the nation”. This paper critically examines the prominence of representations of Muslim women in racist discourse, including the relationship between gendered anti-Muslim racism and the creation of a hostile policy environment which undermines the rights of Muslim citizens in the name of security. Media and political representations of Muslim women are both durable and flexible; so, while early twenty-first media and political narratives presented Muslim women as ‘victims’ (of Islam and Muslim men) to justify war leading up to the invasion of Afghanistan, more recent reworkings present veiled Muslim women as a ‘terror threat’. This current representation has its roots in the undermining of anti-colonial struggles (such as the Algerian struggle for independence from the French empire in the early to mid-twentieth century) but is now put into service for a range of political purposes, particularly sanctioning violent border policies and justifying a growing body of discriminatory assimilationist laws. This paper assesses in detail the case of Shamima Begum, who had her UK citizenship revoked in 2019 following a lengthy legal battle. Through qualitative analysis of UK Home Office statements, blogs and press releases and their circulation in news media, as well as legal judgements on the case and their circulation in the news media. This paper exams how Begum’s revoked citizenship by the British state and her treatment in the press, exemplifies much of the purposes and gendered structure of contemporary anti-Muslim racism. It argues that both state and media actors constructed the then 15 year old as a ‘terror threat’ as part of a move to put into law and justify the notion of ‘contingent citizenship’ in a context in which many British Muslims and members of the British Windrush generation are being denied citizenship and the rights that go with it.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Racism, Muslim women, citizenship

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


July 2023Completed

Event Location:

Lyon, France

Date range:

9 - 13 July 2023

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

14 Mar 2024 15:49

Last Modified:

14 Mar 2024 15:57


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