One Veil Between Two Eyes: How Muslim and Western Women in the United States Perceive Human Rights and Women’s Rights

Degree Name

MA in Social Justice in Intercultural Relations

First Advisor

Claire Halverson


The dialogue of human rights being universal or not is not a recent one, nor has a common agreement been reached as to its meaning among cultural relativists, universalists, and others concerned about international human rights as a whole. If the basis of human rights is unclear to many, then how does this affect the implications of women’s rights for that matter?

Women’s rights are a category under international human rights law. If the universality of human rights exists, then surely so should that of women’s rights. Nonetheless, diverse views and perceptions of women regarding their own personal rights and the rights of others prevail all over the globe. Even within the United States, Muslim women and Western women, living side by side, identify their rights differently.

This research is intended to understand how the interpreted disparity between the rights of U.S. women within Islam and the West affects the whole concept of women’s rights actually being “universal” in nature. 32 women—16 Muslim and 16 “Western” (non-Muslim)— participated in a study on their personal perceptions of their rights as women living under U.S. law and within their own communities. In addition to human subject research, theories, UN documents, and academic sources were also studied on relevant topics of human rights, women’s rights, U.S. law, Islamic law, and international human rights law. Despite a shared living environment, both groups having distinct responses was no surprise. However, it does imply that at this current stage, universal women’s rights are perceived by many as an ideology rather than a reality. Interpretation played a primary role in determining whether or not a woman felt her rights were being violated. Therefore, it is necessary to recognize that “universal” women’s rights exists, but it is not yet attainable until it is perceived and understood through a universal lens, within the bounds of international law.


Human Rights Law | Political Theory | Race and Ethnicity | Religion | Women's Studies

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