Bioethics Blogs

To veil or not to veil?

As recent media coverage has documented, Muslim veils are a hot button issue at present.

Research suggests that “a major determinant of who is most vulnerable to anti-Islamic abuse may be the degree to which the individual is visibly identified as Muslim” (King & Ahmad, 2010, p. 886). For Muslim women, one such identifier is a veil. A veil can refer specifically to the hijab or head- scarf, covering just the head but leaving the face exposed, or the full-face veil, which covers the head and face. Hate crime and prejudice directed against Muslims seems to be strongly linked to such visible markers of “difference” (Dreher, 2006), and political discourse has used veils to represent “the problem of Islam” (Watson, 1994)

In recent work published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, I explored the way that such prejudice against Muslim women wearing veils may differ as a function of which particular veil is being worn. You can read the paper here for free (it’s open access), and so I won’t go into too much detail about how study and the psychological literature on prejudice and first impressions.

In this series of studies we explored the effects of Muslim veils on intergroup attitudes, emotions, and biases across four experimental studies. We sought to examine the importance of Muslim veils in an intergroup context: how are different types of Islamic veils perceived by non-Muslims, and what impact does this perception have on their attitudes, emotions, and biases? In Study 1, we conducted a within-subjects design to investigate if there were differences in emotions felt by participants toward women wearing different types of veil.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.