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Veiled Politics: Experiences with Discrimination among Muslim Americans

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2018

Karam Dana
University of Washington Bothell
Nazita Lajevardi
Michigan State University
Kassra A.R. Oskooii
University of Delaware
Hannah L. Walker
Rutgers University
E-mail address:


Anecdotal evidence suggests that Muslim American women who wear the hijab may be particularly vulnerable to the experiences of stigmatization because the hijab represents one of the most obvious and dominant markers of “otherness.” Yet, extant research has surprisingly neglected to systematically examine how such external markers of difference can increase perceptions of discrimination. Drawing from two nationally representative datasets, we examine perceived discrimination among Muslim Americans, and find that veiled women report experiencing both societal and institutional discrimination at much higher rates than their counterparts. In fact, our findings show that the hijab is one of the most important predictors of self-reported discrimination among all Muslim Americans. Interestingly, however, we also find that men are more likely than women to perceive discrimination once we account for the role of the hijab. Our analysis makes an important contribution to existing research by highlighting the unique experiences of a religious minority group and identifies one important and previously underexplored mechanism by which individuals may be targeted for discrimination—the hijab.

Symposium: Dialogue on Muslim American Sociopolitical Life
Copyright © Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2018 

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The authors are grateful to Elizabeth Oldmixon and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful and constructive feedback. A special thanks is also extended to Matt Barreto, Loren Collingwood, Narayani Lasala-Blanco, Shyam Sriram, Aubrey Westfall, and to all of the participants at the 2017 APSA panel on Intersectionality and Muslim American Politics. All of the usual disclaimers apply. Authors listed in alphabetical order; authorship is equal. Corresponding Author Contact Info: Kassra A.R. Oskooii, 403 Smith Hall, 18 Amstel Ave, Newark, DE 19716, USA; Email:; Phone: 302-831-2355.


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