Spirituality Vis-a-Vis Islam as Prerequisite to Arab American Well Being: The Implications of Eurocentrism for Mainstream Psychology

Article excerpt

Due to the historical preponderance of racial and/or intellectual homogeneity in the field of psychology, Eurocentrism set the "gold standard" for its method of intervention. As such, it might be argued that psychology remains a bastion of Eurocentric thought despite the globalization of knowledge and the influx of racially and ethnically diverse scientists into the research endeavor.

At the same time and the significant increase in the immigrant Arab population, Arab Americans remain a less familiar component of society. Among the various Arab populations, spirituality through Islam is fundamental. Thus, psychologists would be remiss to exclude a critical aspect of Arab American life from intervention when it is essential to well-being.

KEYWORDS: spirituality; Islam; Arab American, Eurocentrism; mainstream psychology

INTRODUCTION

Due to the historical preponderance of racial and/or intellectual homogeneity in the field of psychology, Eurocentrism set the "gold standard" for its methods of intervention (Stinson, 1979). Recent studies in related fields, including psychiatry and medicine, suggest the existence of Eurocentrism in journals such that authors only cite and attend to the work of their fellow compatriots (Stephenson, 1997). Eurocentrism includes assumptions that have been methodically challenged by a cadre of scholars who, in the early 1970s, established the aggressive push toward inclusiveness about issues apart from the mainstream of psychology. Though noteworthy strides have been achieved in the last 40 years, significant issues published in the leading psychology journals have generally remained a recapitulation of the Eurocentric perspective. Such a perspective assumes loyalty to a Western (i.e. American) intellectual ideal. As such, it might be argued that psychology remains a bastion of Eurocentric thought despite the globalization of knowledge and the influx of racially and ethnically diverse scientists into the research endeavor (Mathis, 2002). Failure to acknowledge issues such as spirituality in the psychology literature is likely a manifestation of the impercipience of an empowered homogeneous majority of psychologists whose range of experience is limited. In essence, psychology, like its relatives, psychiatry and medicine is an outgrowth of a Western Eurocentric approach to understanding human well-being. Since science was advanced by Western scientists over hundreds of years, it is unsurprising that until recently spirituality has played an insignificant role in the fact of intervention.

Psychology as a field is not immune to the criticisms leveled against other fields of intellectual endeavor. In recent years, developments in the areas of cultural diversity and ethnic inclusion have supported the assumption of scientific bias by suggesting that no person exists outside a cultural milieu, and that even the most well-intentioned among us falls victim to our (and our colleagues) socialized prejudices (Macintosh, 1989) These prejudices, though masked, are often manifested in the continued teaching and researching of noninclusive psychological theories and limited inclusion of alternative research in the top tier psychology journals (Ritchie, 1994). As an example, note the work of Carl Jung, whose theories are widely used in psychology. Jung is identified as having quite controversial and negative (many would say racist) views of African Americans (TinsleyJones, 2001), yet Jungian theory remains a staple of the psychological education canon. The same is true for many of the theories that are universally applied and taught in psychology (Pedersen, 1987; Usher, 1989). Application of this Eurocentric frame necessitates utilization of spirituality through Islam as a critical resource pertaining to the well-being of Arab Americans.

As symbolized by a fervent appreciation for Islam, it has become apparent that spirituality is germane to the well-being of Arab Americans (Kilpatrick & Holland, 1990). …