• Ordained minister

    Scholar and writer

    Change maker

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    I am a storyteller. I write for ministry, media, and academia. An ordained American Baptist USA minister, I serve as the senior writer at American Baptist Home Mission Societies and the associate editor of The Christian Citizen magazine. I also serve as the co-associate regional minister for white and multicultural churches in the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago region. I am passionate about interfaith work, which I believe starts with listening to other people's stories and creating spaces for their storytelling.


    I am a scholar of gender, Islam and new media affiliated with the Department of Religion at Northwestern University. I have a PhD in Women's Studies (York, U.K.)


    I write about Christianity, Islam, women in ministry and interfaith issues for religion-focused media outlets, including the Religion News Service, Sojourners, The Revealer, and Religion and Politics. My work has been cited in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Muslim Girl. 


    Image: Books I wrote, contributed to, or edited.



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    Wearing the Niqab


    Wearing the Niqab is not just the book; it's a wider research project that explores the perspectives of women who choose to wear the Niqab. My articles about niqab wearing have been published in the Journal of American Academy of Religions, New Media and Society, Hawwa: Journal of Women in the Middle East and the Islamic World and Feminist Media Studies. My chapters that discuss the niqab are also included in two edited collections published this year: Cyber Muslims and Digital Religion 2.0. 


    Please contact me for copies of these publications if you do not have access to the publishers' databases, and check out my ResearchGate account where the pre-pub article versions are available.

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    Whiteness and conversion to Islam in Poland


    The project analyzes how Polish Muslim women perform their racial and other identities in different multiracial and transnational settings. This project is funded by the 2022 American Academy of Religion Collaborative International Research Grant. Read the open-access article that discusses the findings in Sociology of Religion!

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    Muslim Women's Religious Practice during the COVID-19 Pandemic

    The projects investigates the consequences of the lockdown for pluralist Muslim women.

    See a project talk at George Mason University:

    Two papers form the project presented at the #AAR21 : (1) & (2)

    An article in Religions.



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    Managing Spoiled Identity: Social Functioning of Polish Female Converts to Islam


    A collaborative investigation into identities of Polish women converts who live in Poland or the UK. We have published articles in CyberOrient, Sociology of Religion and the Journal of Contemporary Religions. The book was published by Brill in 2022.

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    Islamophobia in Poland


    This involved my contributions to the annual Islamophobia in Europe Report in 2017, 2018, and 2019, as well as my chapter about representations of Islam in Polish media published in the Handbook of Religions and Journalism (2020).

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    Muslim Women Online


    This project comprises a book, Muslim Women in Virtual Space (Routledge, 2014); journal articles in The Muslim World, Contemporary Islam, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, and Online: Heidelberg Journal of Religions; and a book chapter in the anthology Media, Gender and Religion (2013).

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    Toward an Anti-Islamophobic Church


    This activism/writing project is going to be launched soon.


    (Click on the image to read the full article)


    Celebrating National Arab American Heritage Month in 2024 (The Christian Citizen)

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    Fasting during famine: Ramadan in Gaza (The Commons)

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    Clergywoman: still a scandalous profession (The Christian Citizen)

    The Apotheosis of Washington  - the fresco

    The attempted apotheosis of Donald Trump (The Commons)

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    Calling a Black female leader, American Baptists offer a home for progressive Baptists (Religion News Service)

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    6 Ways Christians Can Fight Islamophobia This Advent (Sojourners)

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    How the Catholic Church’s crash in Poland brought down the Law and Justice party (Religion News Service)

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    Chicago Community and Evanston Church Step Up to Assist Resettled Venezuelan Families (Word & Way)

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    History tells us that burning sacred texts and other books never ends well (Religion News Service)

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    Sinead O’Connor was a rock star and a Muslim. Why did obituaries miss this? (Religion News Service)

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    How many times do hijab-wearing Muslim judges in America need to break the glass ceiling? (Religion News Service)

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    Can ecumenism survive some Orthodox churches’ resistance to ordained women? (Religion News Service)

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    Conversion Isn't a Ticket Out of White Supremacy (Religion and Politics)

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    The Rings of Power Series Is a Reminder That Empire Is All Around Us (Christian Citizen)

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    What Poland’s Anti-Abortion Laws Foretell about the United States (The Revealer)

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    Burka Enforcement and Burka Bans: Where Extremist Policies Meet (Religion and Politics)

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    Mosques of their Own (JStor Daily)

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    Muslim Women and the Politics of the Headscarf (JStor Daily)

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    What Does the Russian Invasion Mean for Religious Minorities in Ukraine?(Religion and Politics)

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    Fetishization of impartiality and the gospel (The Christian Citizen)

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    Swiss Burka Ban Is Not About Protecting Women Or Security (Modestish.com)

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    One Year On, Muslim women Reflect on Wearing the Niqab in a Mask-Wearing World (The Conversation US)

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    What Face Coverings Mean for Some Minorities (Psychology Today)

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    Some Pitfalls of Public Engagement (Women in Higher Education)

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    2020: The Niqab Revisited (The Maydan)

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    “I Wear A Two-Layer Niqab When I Want To Look Really Marvelous”: How Fashion Influences Face Veils (Modestish.com)

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    Muslim Women Who Cover Their Faces Find Greater Acceptance Among Coronavirus Masks (The Conversation US)



















    Interviews, contributions, and mentions

    A homemade magazine cover featuring a woman in a black niqab and pink makeup.

    Daily Herald, March 18, 2024

    "Rev. Dr. Anna Piela and Rev. Dr. Michael Woolf led prayer prior to the dinner.


    Owing to the extraordinarily positive response, the Muslims Community Center plans to keep up similar interfaith initiatives and spread the word about upcoming gatherings of people of many faiths in the Chicago area."

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    Atmos, April 18, 2022

    "Perhaps scholar Anna Piela describes it best when she writes that covering rankles and insults Westerners who see the women who wear them as 'stubborn refuseniks of the opportunities that the West evidently affords women.'” more

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    Muslim Girl, April 8, 2022

    "Anna Piela, the author of Wearing the Niqab, says: 'What is striking here is that this dichotomy is used by both detractors of the niqab, who reduce it to Arab ethnic dress without significance for Islamic practice, and its advocates who, on the basis of various Hadith, identify it as one of the outfit styles worn during the lifetime of the Prophet (and therefore rooted in Islamic history), preferable over ‘ethnic’ dress which may be insufficiently modest.'” more


    A homemade magazine cover featuring a woman in a black niqab and pink makeup.

    The New York Times, January 13, 2022

    “White people are considered unthreatening in the U.S. and Western Europe, and so they are given much more freedom to wear whatever they wish,” said Anna Piela, author of “Wearing the Niqab” and a visiting scholar at the department of religious studies at Northwestern University. more

    A homemade magazine cover featuring a woman in a black niqab and pink makeup.

    The Guardian, May 10, 2021

    "Some Muslim women told researcher Anna Piela that the pandemic allowed them to feel more comfortable adopting the niqab, which they had wanted to do before." more

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    "England Unwrapped: It's all in the eyes" - BBC Local Radio, Dec 22, 2020

    I was invited by the program's author, Ruchi Tandon, to share some findings from my research on how women who wear the niqab are dealing with the pandemic, social distancing, and widespread mask-wearing.

    Interview for the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, July 28, 2020

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    The Guardian, July 18, 2020

    "Dr Anna Piela, an academic and author of Wearing The Niqab (out next January), has reinterviewed some of her contributors since the start of the pandemic. Many told her they have found greater acceptance now that more people are covering up, she says. Loubna (a pseudonym) from Birmingham, says: “I went to a park the other day, and it felt completely different. (...)” more

    An interview on the Drive Time Show on Voice of Islam Radio

    Talking about the niqab in the context of the UK's new requirement to wear masks in public spaces

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    The New York Times, June 10, 2020

    "Anna Piela, a visiting scholar in religious studies and gender at Northwestern University, has noted that Muslim women she interviewed said they find it easier to wear masks because it has softened the stigma of face coverings. 'Suddenly these women - who are often received in the West with open hostility for covering their faces - look a lot more like everyone else,' she wrote in an article in May (...)" more

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    TRT World, April 13, 2020

    "As Northwestern University scholar Anna Piela points out in an article for the Conversation, Muslim women are finding themselves looking a lot like everyone else.

    'Now, in an unexpected turn of events, people across the West are jogging in face masks and grocery shopping in bandanas tied across their mouths. That’s making public life in the niqab much more pleasant, say Muslim women.' Piela wrote."


    A homemade magazine cover featuring a woman in a black niqab and pink makeup.

    My article on a #VogueChallenge cover made by @StockholmJilbabista

    The best endorsement a is to be organically cited. Other examples include my work in syllabi of cool courses like

    Veiling in the Muslim World (University of Texas);

    Women in Scriptures (University of Texas);

    Gender and Communication (Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism);

    Intro to Gender Studies 125 (Manchester Metropolitan University, IN);

    ART4001 Critical Debates: Photography (Middlesex University, UK)


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    Critical thinking

    Students leave my courses having mastered the skills to engage with critical concepts in the context of their personal experience. Demonstrating a great deal of scientific curiosity, they often develop remarkable answers to well-posed questions about social reality.

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    Using research to problem-solve

    Connecting theoretical problems to life outside the classroom is one of the most important aspects of my teaching. It underscores students’ potential for social change in a wide range of contexts.

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    Critiquing power hierarchies

    I place accounts of power at the center of my work. I aim to expose bias in academic disciplines and show how it may be overcome. I encourage students to become familiar with diverse perspectives beyond the usual canon.

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    Fostering diversity

    I encourage students to question normative narratives in politics, media and their own social environments. In order to facilitate this, I help them develop vocabulary to discuss inequality in such ways as to remain respectful and appreciative of diversity. By independently building on the knowledge acquired in the classroom, they emerge as socially conscious, fair, and empathetic citizens.

  • Download my CV + publications list



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