Religion, Ethnicity, Culture, Way of Life: Jews, Muslims, and Multicultural Counseling

Article excerpt

Jews and Muslims represent 2 unique cultural groups that have been relatively under-examined by multicultural counseling scholars. In this article, the authors review the recent literature on Jews and Muslims, synthesize and discuss the commonalities across these 2 groups, provide some recommendations for counseling members of these populations, and offer suggestions for future research.


Since Pedersen's (1991) articulation of multiculturalism as a generic form of counseling, there has been an explosion of research on cultural and diversity issues. During the same time period, however, there has been much less scholarship focused on religious diversity in general (Schlosser, Foley, Poltrock, & Holmwood, in press) and on Jews and Muslims in particular (Ali, Liu, & Humedian, 2004; Langman, 1995; Schlosser, 2006). For example, there has been recent survey research examining the frequency of the explicit inclusion of Jews and Muslims as a topic of training in multicultural counseling courses associated with counseling psychology doctoral programs accredited by the American Psychological Association (Priester et al., 2008). Priester et al. found that only 8% of the courses covered Jews as a distinct cultural group, and only 2% of the courses presented Muslims as a distinct ethnic group. This inattention is partly due to Christian privilege (i.e., the unearned benefits afforded solely to American Christians; Schlosser, 2003) and the assumptions of the universality of Christianity.

Christian privilege is one of several nonconscious ideologies--like White privilege and male privilege--that pervade U.S. society and are typically unnoticed and unquestioned by the dominant religious, ethnic, or cultural group. In the case of Christian privilege, the dominant religious group in the country is Christianity, and this has many manifestations and implications (e.g., school calendars that reflect only Christian religious holidays; Schlosser, 2003). The inattention to Jewish and Muslim topics in multicultural research and training may also be a function of the complexity of religion as a construct of interest for scholarly inquiry (for a more detailed discussion of the inattention to religion in psychology, see Schlosser et al., in press). Because American Jews and Muslim Americans cannot be described adequately by the current demographic taxonomies of race and ethnicity (Ali et al., 2004; Schlosser, 2006), these groups are frequently seen as solely religious identifies and excluded from the multicultural discussion. Therefore, our purpose in this article is to discuss the extant research on American Jews and Muslim Americans and to provide direction for counseling efforts and future research with these populations.

Being Jewish or Muslim is often a central, if not primary, aspect of identity. Jewish and Muslim identifies comprise cultural, ethnic, religious, spiritual, and secular components (All et al., 2004; Schlosser, 2006). These integral identities must be attended to with greater consistency, clarity, and quality in the science and practice of multicultural counseling because being Jewish or Muslim extends beyond religious identity as it has been traditionally conceptualized. For example, many people tend to view religious identity as existing on a spectrum of religious adherence (e.g., conservative to liberal). However, this approach fails to consider the important secular or cultural identity that can be just as important for some Jews and Muslims as is an identity that is centered on religious beliefs and spirituality. In addition, this approach fails to take into account the behavior of Muslims and Jews in the context of religiosity and does not acknowledge within-group variability. Muslims, for example, might consider themselves to be highly religious but choose not to attend a mosque because they do not agree with the conservative values represented in that particular mosque. …