Journal Article

<i>Hijab</i> and American Muslim Women: Creating the Space for Autonomous Selves*

Rhys H. Williams and Gira Vashi

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 68, issue 3, pages 269-287
Published in print January 2007 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2007 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
Hijab and American Muslim Women: Creating the Space for Autonomous Selves*

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Among Muslims living in the United States, Islamic religious practices are negotiated and adapted to a new culture. A visible and controversial symbol of Muslims' differences from dominant American Christianity is the hijab worn by many Muslim women. The decision to wear hijab occurs within a two-fold cultural context: (1) the assumption by many non-Muslims that hijab encapsulates Islam's inherent violation of women's “equal rights”; and (2) a widespread Muslim critique of American culture for its individualism, materialism, and lax sexual mores. Using data from interviews and observations with college-age, second-generation Muslim Americans, we explore the context, meanings, and consequences of wearing hijab. Second-generation Muslim women are negotiating social and religious identities in contrast both to non-Muslim Americans and to their immigrant families. Hijab has multiple meanings as a religious and social symbol; it provides a clear identity marker at a life-course transitional time, and it provides culturally legitimate space for young women who are formulating Muslim-American identities

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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