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Is the hijab protective? An investigation of body image and related constructs among British Muslim women

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Abstract

Previous studies have reported equivocal findings concerning the impact of wearing a hijab, or Islamic head- and body-cover, on Muslim women's body image. Here, we sought to examine that impact using a larger sample of Muslim women than has been relied upon and a wider range of body image measures. A total of 587 British Muslim women completed a battery of scales assessing their frequency and conservativeness of hijab use, body image variables, attitudes towards the media and beauty ideals, importance of appearance, and religiosity. Preliminary results indicated that 218 women never used the hijab and 369 women used some form of the hijab at least rarely. Controlling for religiosity, women who wore the hijab had more positive body image, lower internalization of media messages about beauty standards, and placed less importance on appearance than women who did not wear the hijab. Among women who wore the hijab, hijab use significantly predicted weight discrepancy and body appreciation over and above religiosity. These results are discussed in terms of the possible protective impact among British Muslim women of wearing the hijab.

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