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Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Education

Supervisor

Dr. Goli Rezai-Rashti

Abstract

Through conducting qualitative case studies on 10 Muslim female students in Canadian universities and drawing on theories of third-wave feminism, post-colonial feminism, and anti-racist feminism, this research explores the experiences of Canadian Muslim female university students. It explores how gender, race, ethnicity, and religion, and their intersection, impact Muslim female students’ identity construction and their overall experiences of higher education in Canada. This research investigates Muslim female students’ perceptions of, and reactions towards, the prevailing stereotypes about Muslim women in Canadian universities. It also explores how Muslim female university students perceive the hijab and wearing it in Canadian universities. The findings of this research indicate the significance of the hijab in the lives of Diasporic Muslim women, and the different meanings that those women identify for the hijab. The findings highlight race, racism, and Othering as prominent issues in Canadian universities. They further reveal the prevalence of a number of negative stereotypes about Muslim women in Canadian universities. These stereotypes homogenize Muslim women and (mis)represent them as oppressed by Islamic patriarchy. The study findings show the heterogeneity of Muslim women’s lives and identities, and emphasize the need for a nuanced analysis of the cultural, political, historical, and geographical contexts in which the practice of veiling is exercised. In addition, Muslim women are identified by the research as active agents who challenge the stereotypes through reifying the best representation of Muslim women and by educating non-Muslims about Islam and Islamic beliefs. Furthermore, the findings demonstrate the challenges associated with negotiating multiple identities amongst Muslim women and the supportive role that Muslim students associations play for Muslim women in maintaining their Islamic identities. The results of this research can have significant implications for policy makers at the higher education level. By informing university authorities and policy makers about the challenges that Muslim women face in Canadian universities, there is potential for improvements in the future.


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