Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy

Cultural Humility and Mental Health Care in Canadian Muslim Communities/L'humilite Culturelle et Les Soins De Sante Mentale Dans Les Communautes Musulmanes Canadiennes

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy

Cultural Humility and Mental Health Care in Canadian Muslim Communities/L'humilite Culturelle et Les Soins De Sante Mentale Dans Les Communautes Musulmanes Canadiennes

Article excerpt

Muslims are one of the largest and fastest-growing minority groups, with more than 1 million people, or approximately 3.2% of the population of Canada (Statistics Canada, 2015), a number that is projected to increase to 5.5% by the year 2050 (Pew Research Center, 2015). Muslims are currently one of the most vilified groups in the media (Kolmer & Shatz, 2015), and have been targets of significant racial profiling and discrimination since 9/11 (Amri & Bemak, 2012). According to recent polls, between 33% and 57% of Canadians hold negative views of Muslims or Islam (Environics Institute, 2016; Sevunts, 2016). As many as three out of four Canadians agree immigrants should be tested for "Canadian values," and a recent poll showed that nearly one in four would support a ban on Muslim immigration to Canada (McInnis, 2017).

As well as subtle daily microaggressions that cause social and employment inconveniences (Nadal et al., 2012), police-reported hate crimes against Muslims in Canada have more than doubled in recent years (Paperny, 2016), and these statistics are likely understated because hate crimes are generally underreported. These crimes have even reached deadly levels (e.g., the Quebec mosque shooting that was perpetrated by a man seemingly influenced by nationalistic and anti-Muslim political rhetoric; Campbell, Hutchins, & Gillis, 2017). It is no surprise, then, that Canadian Muslims often express anxiety about being targets of hate, particularly when external factors such as accent, skin colour, and cultural or religious dress make them more visible (Akram-Pall & Moodley, 2016; Jamil, 2012). Media portrayals of Muslims, discrimination, and stereotypes are frequently cited as prime concerns (Environics Institute, 2016).

Although Muslims are often caricatured as followers of a monolithic belief system lacking in complexity (Ciftci, Jones, & Corrigan, 2013) and reduced to a homogeneous group that supposedly espouses values incompatible with Western civilization (Inayat, 2007), Islam is a 1,400-year-old religion that has seen different forms since its inception. While the religious philosophies of Muslims around the world are connected by common themes, Islamic culture has developed distinctive characteristics that have spawned some differences in practice and beliefs in every region it has spread to (Al Wekhian, 2016). Today, Muslims are one of the most ethnically and culturally heterogeneous groups, with adherents hailing from all continents, belonging to most major racial groups, and speaking myriad languages (Allen, 2015; Mogahed & Pervez, 2016; Pew Research Center, 2015). Muslims have been part of North American society since before the establishment of the United States, as many immigrated early on or were brought on slave ships from Africa (Abu-Bader, Tirmazi, & Ross-Sheriff, 2011). Others became Muslims in North America and have no ethnic connection to the East.

Despite this diversity, many reported anti-Muslim hate crimes in North America are perpetrated against those who are readily identifiable as Muslims, including Middle Eastern-looking men and women wearing hijab (i.e., dress code including a headscarf and loose clothing). The fact that hate crimes are committed against Arab Christians (Mathias, 2016) and Sikh men (Holley, 2015; Mathias, 2016) thought to be Muslims, due to their appearance, demonstrates how fear of the unknown motivates such attacks and exposes anti-Muslim hate as a form of racism.

Given their overexposure to various challenges, Muslim engagement with psychological services is important, but they remain a misunderstood and understudied group in the mental health field (Qasqas & Jerry, 2014). Many authors (e.g., Breakey, 2001; Lemkuil, 2007; Ratts, Singh, Nassar-McMillan, Butler, & McCullough, 2015; Steffen & Merrill, 2011) have been shedding light on the modern role of mental health professionals, including psychologists, counsellors, social workers, therapists, and medical health professionals (Ontario Association of Consultants, Counsellors, Psychometrists and Psychotherapists, 2016), in counselling diverse groups and countering antiminority sentiment. …

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