Muslim women's political participation in francophone Europe: a comparative study of France and Belgium

  • Amina Easat-Daas

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Muslim women constitute almost half of all European Muslim parliamentarians, yet they are typically framed as oppressed or as a threat to European values. Simultaneously, although France and francophone Belgium are seen as similar, there are significant disparities in the levels of Muslim political representation in each case. The introduction outlines the rationale behind studying the principal motivations, opportunities and barriers to Muslim women’s political participation in France and francophone Belgium, and also the basis of studying the role of ‘European Islam’, political opportunity structures, secularism and Muslim women’s dress.
    The second chapter details the research design and methodological approaches applied in the study. Via the in-depth comparative analysis of each context and its norms, along with data derived from semi-structured qualitative interviews with Muslim women who participate in politics, the subsequent chapters present findings related to the nature of Muslim women’s political participation in France and francophone Belgium. Chapter Three details the expressed motivations derived from experiences, Islamic and European values, discusses their desires to participate in political projects that will benefit the wider society and groups with whom they socially identify, and how this leads to the Muslim women pursuing diverse political engagement. Chapter Four explores the role of contextual norms and political opportunity structures in shaping and contributing to the distinct disparities in the nature of reported opportunities for political participation encountered by Muslim women in the two cases. Chapter Five details the obstacles to participation posed by Muslim women’s dress in France and the emergence of such patterns in Wallonia. It also outlines the barriers to Muslim women’s political participation linked to Islamophobia, racism and gender. The concluding chapter brings together the principal conclusions of the study, namely the similar faith related motivations to pursue political engagement expressed by the Muslim women who participated in this study, the increasingly similar barriers to political participation faced by Muslim women presented by norms surrounding Muslim women’s dress in the two cases. The study also details the different effects of the political opportunities on the nature of political roles occupied by Muslim women in France and Belgium. Finally, the thesis highlights the remarkable resilience and consistent determination of Muslim women in the two cases.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJames G Shields (Supervisor), Graeme Hayes (Supervisor) & Steven J Garner (Supervisor)


    • muslim women
    • political participation
    • European Islam
    • secularism
    • political opportunity structures

    Cite this