Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy




Rezai-Rashti, Goli


This qualitative case-study explored the experiences of 20 Muslim girls who attended public secondary schools in Ontario, Canada. The main objective of this research was to understand how Muslim girls’ intersecting identities shaped their school, family, and community experiences. Drawing on anti-racist and postcolonial feminism, this study builds upon existing research conducted on Muslim girls by exploring how other categories of social difference, in addition to gender and religion, converge and influence their educational experiences.

The findings from this study uncovered the impact of racial diversity in Muslim girls’ school and community experiences. Namely, anti-Black racism was central to some of the participants’ lives which provided valuable insight into the unexpected ways in which religion, gender, and race converged and informed participants’ educational experiences. Furthermore, participants who were relatively new to Canada and came from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds were more vulnerable to educational challenges in some circumstances. This research also provided important contributions regarding how geographical location influenced participants’ school experiences. Finally, the findings of this study show that while the participants experienced challenges within their homes, they viewed their families as an important source of support for reaching their educational pursuits.

Given the gaps in the research and the limited studies that examine Muslim students’ experiences in Ontario secondary schools, policymakers and educators aiming to meet the needs of racialized youth within Canadian schools can draw on this research for insight into Muslim girls’ experiences.

Summary for Lay Audience

This qualitative case study of 20 Muslim girls who attended public secondary schools across Ontario explored how they experienced their schools, families and communities in an age of heightened Islamophobia. The main purpose of this study was to gain critical insight into the unique experiences of Muslim girls within the education system. The research findings were contextualized by the theoretical frameworks of anti-racist feminism as well as postcolonial feminism, which provided important insights into how the intersecting differences of Muslim girls shaped their school experiences.

This study revealed how gendered Islamophobia impacted the lived realities of Muslim girls, while also uncovering how race, ethnicity, immigration status and socio-economic status further informed their experiences. Indeed, while Muslim girls shared similar experiences with one another, racial, ethnic, immigration, and class differences revealed many differences among girls with regards to experiences of gendered Islamophobia. Furthermore, participants in this study lived in three different regions in Ontario, which provided insight into how some schools, based on location, may be more effective at catering to Muslim students than others. The findings of this study also addressed contradictions in the body of literature on Muslim girls’ educational experiences by revealing how the role of teachers and families influence Muslim girls’ lives.

Most importantly, this research has filled critical gaps in the literature by examining Muslim students’ experiences in Ontario in a time of increased Islamophobia. This research provides significant research contributions which translate into important policy recommendations aimed at ensuring organized efforts that meet the needs of racialized youth within Canadian schools.