Abstract There is a significant number of the population in the UK at the present time who are women of the Muslim faith who chose to wear headscarves or hijabs. There is however a relatively poor understanding of how the general non-Muslim public views this practice, even though there have been suggestions that people find it discomforting and consider it oppressive to women. This study used a quantitative, positivistic approach to collect and analyse data to determine whether there were generational differences in the attitude towards women wearing hijabs.
The study collected data from 86 participants in the Roehampton area, who completed a questionnaire on attitudes and an F-scale test which gave information on their personality type. The study showed through ANOVA that there was no association between age and attitude towards hijabs, although there was an association between having been to university and having a more positive attitude. The study also showed through regression analysis that personality was strongly linked to attitudes towards women wearing hijabs.
Opinions on People using Headscarves—Exploring the Generational Differences using an Objective Positivistic Approach There is not a study available that represents authoritarian personalities and the negative or discriminatory viewpoints against the wearing of the hijab. However, Vyas (2008) shows that Muslim women in the USA stopped wearing headscarves for fear of violent discrimination and for their personal safety, as they struggled to live between their traditional Muslim culture and the American culture, especially in gender roles at American schools.
Similarly, African Muslim women struggle with education and gender roles, especially in finding personal independence and leadership as Muslim women who wear the headscarves (Shirin 2008). In Africa, feminist teachings state that Islam and female leadership roles are not compatible, and that the wearing of the hijab restricts women into lowered roles (Shirin 2008).
However, African Muslim women refuse to stop wearing the hijab even though it brings about cultural discomfort for non-Islam feminists, which shows that the hijab wearers are able to have female leadership roles and individual identities even when authoritarian figures such as teachers request that they not wear the hijab (Shirin 2008). In the education context, young girls in France and Canada are asked not to wear the hijab, as it impacts the education of people around them, where non-Muslim educational facilities are often prompted by non-Muslim governments or academic councils to refuse to allow the wearing of the hijab (Ruitenberg 2008).
This authoritarian approach limits social norms and hinders the abilities of Muslim girls and women as students in an educational facility to have the same human rights in self expression (Ruitenberg 2008). Therefore, there may be a large amount of discrimination against the hijab in educational and academic facilities; however this cannot be substantiated by literature as it has not been addressed in its entirety. Adorno et al.
(1950) researched and constructed a scale—a list of authoritarian attitudes soliciting expressions of agreement or disagreement with 29 broadly phrased assertions (Johansson 1986)—that these four Jewish scholars administered to a wide variety of population samples in hopes to explain the rise of German Nazism. They found that those who scored high on this scale, who were shown to endorse most items on the list, tended to be sympathetic to the political Right and in fact showed “pre-fascist” personalities (Adorno et al. 1950).
Love of authority was fascist, not love of liberty; and, Adorno et al. (1950) showed that authoritarian personalities were in important senses “pathological. ” Adorno et al. (1950) also reported for the authoritarian personality to accept middle-class conventionality because it enjoys widespread acceptance and support, but has not internalised the meaning of the accompanying social norms; is hostile and aggressive toward outsider groups, especially ethnic minorities and relatively powerless, marginalised deviant groups; and glorifies its own authority figures (Johansson 1986).
This is a clash of authoritarian representatives as governments and those individuals within cultures, where the Islamic headscarf issue in nations such as Turkey and France is more than an expression of religion, but a clash of cultural contexts and meanings, where the dominant culture either restricts (France) or forces (Turkey) the wearing of the hijab (Ulusoy 2007). Feminist theory argues that women should not be defined by the marginal cultural positions they are given in societies, but by understandings about their contradictions between who women are and how the dominant culture defines them (Droogsma 2007).
The majority of Americans, for example, believe that the hijab is a symbol of oppression, but Muslim women identify they hijab as a necessary component of their womanhood (Droogsma 2007). Muslim women living in America identify the hijab as being unique to their culture, and helping them fill their feminine roles, not as sexual objects, but as women with freedoms and expressions that are not controlled by the dominant American culture (Droogsma 2007).
In each culture that Muslim women are a part of, but not the dominant culture, there is a psychological tendency towards freeing Muslim women from the hijab. However, Muslim women associate their hijab with freedom of expression and religion. In authoritarian Islamic nations, such as Turkey, the hijab is a norm and penalties may exist if it is not worn. In countries not traditionally authoritarian, like France and Canada, the hijab is not the socio-cultural norm and penalties may exist if it is worn.
So, there may be a very high amount of prejudice and stereotyping against women and the hijab, especially as it pertains to ‘freeing’ women from the ‘oppression’ that non-Muslim cultures feel that Muslim women are forced to live beneath. As the wearing of the hijab might be associated with oppression and meekness—in contrast to the authoritarian personality—and is relatively new and unfamiliar in the British culture, there might be a possible correlation of an authoritarian’s psychological thinking towards wearing of the hijab as we might expect authoritarian individuals to have negative attitudes towards wearing it.
Also, as younger people are more familiar with the hijab because they have been brought up in a society where the hijab is more common, they may have a more positive attitude toward it. Nowadays, people have more opportunities to obtain education; the question is, if there is a difference in opinions among age groups and educated people towards the wearing of the hijab?
Review of literature have not yet ventured into these aspects, therefore, this research aims to investigate on three major ideas of people’s opinions, negative or positive, and generational differences of people using headscarves or hijab, specifically dealing with: (a) authoritarian personality, (b) age, and (c) education. This study will be a quantitative assessment of the relationship between authoritarian and generational differences on women using headscarves or hijab.
The setting of the study is only limited to participants around the Roehampton University area instructing them to answer the study’s questionnaire. The research hypothesis is that there is a significant correlation of an observer’s personality, age, education and their opinions towards people wearing the headscarf or hijab; and, upon the emergence of authoritarian participants, that there is a significant correlation of an authoritarian’s psychological thinking towards wearing of the headscarf or hijab.