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The intersectional approach – takeaway points for practitioners

The intersectional approach – takeaway points for practitioners
© Cardiff University, Asma Khan

Mental health practitioners, Muslim or non-Muslim, cannot reasonably be expected to be knowledgeable about every aspect and variation of the intersectional experiences of Muslims in Britain and how this relates their experiences of mental health.

Instead, we encourage learners to consider, and reflect upon, the following ‘takeaway’ points.

  • Muslims are not a homogenous group, and may not be immediately ‘visible’ in terms of their religious identity or levels of practice.
  • Muslims are most often visible ethnic minorities and therefore are subject to the structural disadvantages faced by that ethnic group. Muslims may also face disadvantage in relation to their migrant status or social class.
  • Certain interpretations of faith and spirituality, some aspects of ethnic culture, alongside racism, xenophobia, class-based discrimination, and socio-economic disadvantages are all recognised risk factors for mental health problems. An individual may attribute their mental health problems to one, some, all, or none of these factors.
  • The faith and spirituality of Muslims can be protective factors for mental health, as can some aspects of ethnic culture.
  • Ethnic cultures and Islamic knowledge have, over time, become intertwined for some Muslim communities. This means that, for some, in their lived experiences of being Muslim – through everyday religious practices and beliefs – the lines between ethnic cultural norms and religious requirements are blurred. Some Muslims may find it helpful to be supported to distinguish between the two, to be reassured that they are fulfilling the requirements of their faith.
  • Some ethnic cultures may have deeply engrained beliefs around mental health problems, including discriminatory views about those who display symptoms of these. It might be helpful, for Muslim and non-Muslim practitioners, to become familiar with Islamic conceptions of mental health to present an alternative to ethnic norms. An introduction to Islamic understandings and guidance around mental and emotional wellbeing, and seeking treatment for mental health problems, is presented in Week 2.
  • It is always better to ask than to assume. Practical recommendations about guided questions are presented in Week 2 and case studies are presented in Week 3.

Over the next few steps, we move on to take a closer look at how factors of diversity among Muslims can impact both on their religiosity (religious practices and beliefs), and their experiences of mental health.

Over to you

Imagine you had the opportunity to ask a question of Asma about the intersectional experiences of Muslims, what would you ask her?

© Cardiff University, Asma Khan
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Understanding Muslim Mental Health

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