In addition to challenges in managing their faith-based needs, Muslim women travelers face a number of added challenges. These challenges are often closely related to their identities.
Similar to other general women travelers, there is concern of being taken advantage of when overseas due to their gender. “I’m always overcharged when shopping or buying goods especially when I am alone,” shared one respondent.
Muslim women may also be subjected to unwanted attention. “A man touched my knee inappropriately when I was in a crowded service taxi,” said one respondent, “I immediately had the driver stop and I exited. Such an unsolicited violation! Yet, this is the life of a woman in the world…anywhere.”
Some challenges are due to societal expectations and norms. There is a social stigma that Muslim women should not be traveling without a male guardian. Due to the difference in opinions among scholars on the permissibility of Muslim women traveling on their own, those who choose to do so may face backlash from others.
It is also often assumed that only women in hijab want halal services. “When I ask for directions to halal restaurants or mosques, people are surprised, “shared a non-hijab wearing woman, “People often presumed that only women in hijab look for them.” There are many Muslim women like her who may not wear hijab but practice Islam in other aspects. These women also share the same challenges as other hijab-wearing Muslim women travelers when it comes to managing their faith-based requirements.
Muslim women travelers who wear hijab are at higher risk of discrimination and prejudices due to their visibly Muslim appearances. Some women reported being refused to be served while others were stared at constantly and received bad comments simply because of their Muslim identity. Women of certain ethnicities may also be more susceptible to such challenges. “As a Black Muslim woman in hijab, I often get mistreated just because of my race,” said an African Muslim respondent.
With the rise of Islamophobic sentiments in some places, it heightens concern regarding personal safety for many Muslim women travelers.
Another challenge mentioned is the lack of proper amenities for women to manage their faith requirements. While there are some efforts to provide such halal services, consideration for Muslim women is still lacking.
“Toilets are not Muslim-friendly and in some airports, we have to share the prayer spaces with men,” commented one respondent, “Even if they provide a prayer space, we often have to take wudhu in the toilet simply because there is no separate area for us.”