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This blog post is based on my doctoral research. I look at identity and belonging in education; how female Muslim teachers (FMTs) respond to stereotypes in the classroom; and the normalisation of and increasing diversity of Muslim women’s experience. The research is contextualised with FMTs based in secondary school settings in the north-west of England.

As a Muslim woman and an educator, I was well positioned to work with FMT participants to investigate the impact of the prejudices and stereotypes against Muslim women. The stereotypes around Muslim women include the Western mainstream perception that Muslim women are oppressed (Bullock, 2007). Negative constructions of Islam through slanderous imagery or stereotypes provide motivation for the victimisation of Muslims in Western nations (Perry, 2014). Post 9/11 attacks, stereotypical images of Muslim women as oppressed (Abu-Lughod, 2013), were taken up by the media and connected to a cultural rescue mission by the West. Media representations of Muslims are loaded with associations of immorality, irresponsibility and inferiority (Alsultany, 2012; Schmuck et al., 2017).

Scholarly attention with regards to the othering and stereotyping of Muslim women includes Van Es (2019), who describes how stereotypes can be internalised, subverted or appropriated by the stereotyped people, which raises questions around the perceived Western ideal of a Muslim woman. While not all Muslim women project the same image in terms of visible markers of ‘Muslimness’ (Bullock, 2007; Khan, 2020), wearing the hijab is seen as a symbol of fundamentalist Muslim violence in the West.

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