Professor Paula Maurutto on "Travelling while Muslim"

May 1, 2017 by Sherri Klassen

Some of Professor Paula Maurutto's research was recently profiled on the UTM News page. The profile features an article that that Professor Maurutto published in the Canadian Journal of Sociology with one of the graduates from our PhD program, Baljit Nagra, who is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa. The article profiled was titled "Crossing Borders and Managing Racialized Identities: Experiences of Security and Surveillance Among Young Canadian Muslims."

We have pasted an excerpt of the UTM news item below; you can read the full article here. Professor Maurutto is a Professor of Sociology specializing in justice and community organizations.

Travelling while Muslim: UTM sociologist on identity and citizenship at the border

Friday, April 28, 2017 - 3:56pm

Blake Eligh

For many Muslim travellers, crossing the border is an experience charged with fear and trepidation. A U of T Mississauga sociologist is investigating how border security routinely violates human and civil rights, and the impact this is having on those targeted by heightened security measures.

Professor Paula Maurutto and co-researcher Baljit Nagra, of the University of Ottawa, are studying the effects of racialized border practices on identity and citizenship of Muslim Canadians with a follow up to previous research on travel and Muslim identity.

In a study published in the Canadian Journal of Sociology in 2016, Maurutto and Nagra interviewed 50 young Muslim Canadians between the ages of 18 and 31 living in Vancouver and Toronto. “Our interviewees referred to being repeatedly stopped, questioned, detained and harassed by security personnel,” Maurutto says. “They felt that any evidence of their Muslim identity—name, country of birth, appearance or clothing—made them a target for extra surveillance.” In those situations, interviewees reported that they felt fearful they would stripped of their rights, and said they felt a lack of ability to freely assert their religious identities when travelling.

The researchers found that the experience created two very different responses. Perhaps not surprisingly, many respondents made a point of moderating their religious or cultural identities when travelling. In some cases, this meant trimming beards for men, and forgoing a hijab, or choosing a colourful scarf instead of a black one for women, as well as adopting a more “North American” style of dress.  But in their personal lives, respondents said their negative border experiences often served to reinforce their religious and cultural identities. About 30 per cent of interviewees said their Muslim identity had been a focal point of their identity before 9/11, but 68 per cent reported identifying more strongly as Muslim and feeling a deeper connection to their faith after 9/11, due to feelings about needing to protect their faith. “They reported taking on more of an identity to counteract perceptions and human rights complaints. Women who had not worn headscarves became politicized and began wearing them as a political statement,” Maurutto says...