The astonishing case of the shrinking Muslim woman

First published at Muslimah Media Watch

It’s become common belief that Muslim women, particularly those who wear the hijab, are liberated from the media-driven standards of beauty that values the thin and the willowy. But it’s a belief that couches on the idea that head-coverings and modest clothes provide little incentive for showing off a great looking body in public. In other words, Muslim women are supposed to live blissfully unaffected by media and social pressures that both distorts our body image and damages our self-esteem. So when levels of anorexia amongst teenage girls in the U.A.E. were reported to nearly double those in the U.K., the phenomenon was described to be “astonishing”.

The news report I refer to is something Fatemeh had posted up on the Friday Links last week. It revealed that the occurrence of anorexia nervosa amongst young women aged 13 to 19 years old in the Emirates were found to be around 1.8 percent, compared to the 1.0 percent in Britain. Although the article does not explain what drives Emirati teenagers into self-starvation, it does attempt to highlight a little known fact: that women and girls outside the West  also suffer from eating disorders, and that the global nature of the disorder is partially attributed to Western influences. According to one psychiatrist, these influences infiltrate in foreign-made films and other forms of media:

“We have so much influence from other countries, we have the same movies and [the same] messages in the media like in the UK and USA, however there is not any form of understanding about the meaning of the illnesses which are said to be linked to these.”

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