A new study finds that American Muslim women who are active in public service — including in politics, sports and entertainment — often wear revealing headscarves, often at the behest of religious groups.
The study, published Thursday by the Brookings Institution, also found that many Muslim women have taken their religious dress codes very seriously, including wearing long, loose-fitting robes and praying in a hijab, or full face veil.
The report was compiled by Brookings scholars and conducted by the Islamic Studies Institute at the University of California at Berkeley.
“This is really about how do we build communities and understand how to deal with a problem like extremism,” said Nadeem Fadhl, the institute’s director.
The institute and Brookings had been working on the study for years, and it was spurred by the killing of U.S. journalist James Foley, who was shot and beheaded by Islamic State militants in Syria last year.
Foley’s death spurred calls for more Muslim women in American politics and on Capitol Hill to be more vocal about their faith, and the Brookings study included a section on the religious dress code.
The United States has some of the world’s most restrictive Islamic dress codes.
Muslim women face a variety of religious restrictions, including halal meat and wearing head coverings.
The Pew Research Center said in a report last year that women of Muslim faith often face discrimination in the workplace.
And in 2017, the Supreme Court issued a decision that made it easier for businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples because of their religious beliefs.
The Islamic State group has said that its followers have taken hostages and behead people in Iraq and Syria.
The Brookings report was titled “Shaping the Future: What Muslims are Saying about Religion and Politics in the 21st Century.”
It found that more than 50 percent of Muslim women surveyed said they were not allowed to wear headscarfs or other Islamic religious garments in public.
But the institute also found a significant number of women wear the garments, sometimes without realizing they are not allowed.
“The Islamic religious dress is not the only religion that we look at and look for,” said Sarah Kinsman, a Brookings scholar.
“But it’s a lot more visible than what we see in the U.K., for example, where people just wear the hijab and go about their business.”
For example, the study found that some Muslim women wear loose, long robes that they have tied up in the waistband or a burka, a full-body veil.
They may also wear a long head scarf and a short, open-toed shoe, sometimes with a strap.
Kinsmah said the study was important for understanding how Muslim women and their religious leaders have responded to the threat of extremism and what they see as their need to shape a future that reflects their values.
“It’s not about saying, ‘It’s okay to wear this,'” she said.
“We are the majority religion in this country.
We’re a majority religion and we need to make sure that the next generation can live in a way that respects the diversity of this country.”
Kinsmart said that while the study does not include any figures for Muslim women, the Muslim American Institute at Georgetown University recently released a report that showed there are more than 40,000 women of faith in the United States.
The American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which is a national Muslim civil rights organization, recently released data showing that of the 5,500 women who served as congresswomen, 1,839 were Muslim, and another 1,039 were Hindu.
“When it comes to public office, we need people of all backgrounds and religions to run for office,” Kinsmans said.
The Muslim American Congress also has been critical of Republican efforts to restrict Muslim immigration into the country.
The group said in its most recent report that the GOP has failed to pass an immigration bill that includes enough funding for a border wall.
In 2018, the group said, more than 60 percent of its members voted against President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban.
“To those who say that we can’t have a conversation about immigration and immigration policy, I say, ‘Look, it’s not just us, it is all Americans,’ ” Kinsmen said.