Maligned and Abused

By Alig, Ramadan | Islamic Horizons, May/June 2010 | Go to article overview

Maligned and Abused


Alig, Ramadan, Islamic Horizons


Post-9/ll discrimination and negative experiences have led to adverse health effects among the Greater Detroit area's Arab community.

A report published in the 17 Dec. 2009 issue of the "American Journal of Public Health" (Feb. 2010, vol. 100, no. 2) finds that post9/11 personal and familial abuse experienced by Arab inhabitants of the Greater Detroit area was based on race, ethnicity, or religion. More than 25 percent of the sample population claims to have been discriminated against, or otherwise abused, say University of Michigan (UM) authors Aasim I. Padela, MD, MS (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation clinical scholar, Department of General Medicine) and Michele Heisler, MD, MPA (associate professor of internal medicine and health behavior and health education, School of Public Health).

In their words, this state of affairs could lead to higher chances of adverse health effects within this minority if action is not taken soon. According to them, Muslim Arabs are worse off than the other population studied: Chaldean Christians, who mainly come from the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Those respondents who admitted to being abused tended to exhibit greater levels of psychological distress, lower levels of personal happiness, and a diminished perception of their own health status, as opposed to those who reported no harassment or personal/familial abuse.

Known as the 2003 Detroit Arab American Survey, the researchers say that as far as they know, it is the first representative, population-based investigation of 9/11's health and psychological impacts on ArabAmerican adults. It was devised through a community-academic collaboration, during which both communities were represented, and conducted by means of face-toface interviews. The following questions were asked to its 1,016 participants: How prevalent is reported abuse and discrimination in our study population? How are reports of abuse or discrimination associated with self-reported psychological distress, level of happiness, and health status? What role do sociodemographic factors play in reported abuse or discrimination?

There were four independent variables: ( 1 ) "In the last 2 years, have you personally, or anyone in your household, experienced verbal insults or abuse, threatening words or gestures, physical attack, vandalism or destruction of property, or loss of employment, due to your race, ethnicity, or religion?"; (2) "Since 9/11, have you personally had a bad experience due to your Arab or Chaldean ethnicity?"; (3) "Arab Americans are not respected by the broader American society" (they were instructed to list their level of agreement with this statement); and (4) "How much - if any - have the events of 9/11 shaken your own personal sense of safety and security? …

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