Hijab, niqab, and the religious symbol debates: consequences for health and human rights

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Recently there has been a rise in state surveillance of racialized persons, immigrants, and religious minorities. While there is abundant literature that discusses the discourses of security and concerns over international terrorism, as well as acculturation and accommodation, little is known about how some of these public policies and practices intersect with human rights, health, and wellbeing. This paper seeks to illuminate the health and human rights consequences of policies about the hijab and niqab, including bans on religious symbols in public workplaces. This work is guided by interdisciplinary health, social justice, and anti-racism frameworks, and it explores the human rights concerns of policies that may be used to justify surveillance and control over racialized people, migrants, and their cultural practices. Various countries have increasingly expanded their surveillance of immigrant people from South Asia and the Middle East, especially Arabs, Central and South Asians, Africans, and Muslims. These groups have been experiencing racism at their places of worship, borders, ports of entry, and at airports. 1 Many governments, including the provincial government of Quebec from within Canada, have introduced policy interventions aimed at persons displaying religious symbols, which I argue have undermined the human rights and well-being of affected groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1420-1435
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Human Rights
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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