Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy

"Seeking Help Is Difficult:" Considerations for Providing Mental Health Services to Muslim Women Clients/«Demander De L'aide, C'est Difficile»: Points a Prendre En Consideration Pour la Prestation De Services De Sante Mentale Aupres De Clientes Musulmanes

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy

"Seeking Help Is Difficult:" Considerations for Providing Mental Health Services to Muslim Women Clients/«Demander De L'aide, C'est Difficile»: Points a Prendre En Consideration Pour la Prestation De Services De Sante Mentale Aupres De Clientes Musulmanes

Article excerpt

Muslims are the fastest growing population in Canada, expected to grow to about 2.7 million by 2030 (Qasqas & Jerry, 2014). They are a heterogeneous group comprising diverse cultural, ethnic, linguistic, professional, and economic backgrounds; they can be immigrants, second-generation immigrants, and non-immigrants, as well as converts and born Muslims (Mahmood, 2013; Riley, 2011). As Canada becomes increasingly multicultural, so does the need for culturally responsive counselling for vulnerable client populations (En-Nabut, 2007). While there is some effort on the part of Muslim organizations to establish counselling services for Muslim clients, formal services or agencies tailored to address the needs of this client population are severely lacking (Haque, 2004). Muslim women may represent an underserved minority group requiring particular attention given the current sociocultural zeitgeist (En-Nabut, 2007).

BEING MUSLIM AND PRACTICING ISLAM

In addition to recognition of their cultural and ethnic background, knowledge of Islam is an important prerequisite for counsellors working with Muslim clients. This knowledge helps in understanding how Muslims conduct their lives and how religious beliefs influence their perceptions, attitudes, decisions, and behaviours (Turkes-Habibovic, 2011). Although Muslims are the most diverse religious group in regard to race and ethnicity, belief in Islam unifies their experience and worldview (Rippy & Newman, 2008). Islam is a form of worship or religion; the Arabic word means submission, specifically submission to Allah, the supreme and only God (Hodge, 2005). Although it is important not to confuse Islam with ethnicity or culture, it is also important to acknowledge the influence of cultural traditions on religious practices, such as slight differences in performing daily prayers, a celebration of Islamic holidays, attire, and relational aspects (Hamdan, 2007). Ansari (2002) described Islam as not only a religion but also an absolute and comprehensive way of life governing "the relationship between a human being and the Creator as well as the relationships among human beings themselves" (p. 325); it prescribes values and actions within the individual, family, and social realms (Kobeisy, 2004). Direction on all aspects of living can be found in the two main sources of knowledge: the Qur'an and the Hadith (Hamdan, 2007).

STATUS AND ROLE OF MUSLIM WOMEN

The past decade has seen an increased focus on Muslim women living in the West. Unfortunately, Muslim women have been stereotyped and often portrayed in the media as subjugated, veiled, and oppressed women who are uneducated, unintelligent, at the mercy of patriarchal men, limited to the household, and/or exotic belly-dancing harem girls (Haddad, Smith, & Moore, 2006). Although often seen as powerless in their roles, Muslim women are influential decision makers, are a source of guidance and consolation for their families, play an important part in making family and Muslim community decisions, and regularly visit mosques and attend community events (Turkes-Habibovic, 2011).

Understanding notions of gender equity in Islam is an important step to identifying possible bias or assumptions that mental health professionals may unconsciously hold about this population (Ahmed & Amer, 2012). Muslim societies are family- and community-oriented. Although men and women are equal, their innate differences give rise to different social roles or rules as evidenced by familial financial responsibility, inheritance laws, and clothing requirements (Ahmed & Amer, 2012; Turkes-Habibovic, 2011). In Islam, a woman enjoys absolute equality with regard to civil and criminal laws. A woman's life, honour, and property are as sacred and sacrosanct as that of a man's (Haque & Kamil, 2012). Furthermore, the spousal relationship described throughout the Qur'an emphasizes the importance of mutual kindness and respect among spouses (Turkes-Habibovic, 2011); a distinction of roles between husband and wife does not imply an imbalance of power (Ali & Aboul-Fotouh, 2012). …

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