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Currently, there are no well-studied models of how to incorporate Islamic religious coping strategies into the clinical encounter. Adam and Ward’s study, “Stress, Religious Coping, and Wellbeing in Acculturating Muslims”, provides therapists and researchers further consideration of the role of Islam in counseling Muslims. In spite of the positive association between religious coping and higher life satisfaction, there was no association between religious coping and psychological symptoms. This negative finding is important for researchers who are interested in incorporating Islamic coping practices in counseling to consider and build upon; when appropriate, the Journal of Muslim Mental Health publishes negative studies to prevent publication bias that favors the role of spirituality in emotional health. However, the negative finding may be due to the relatively healthy sample of participants of the study as well as the tight range of psychological wellbeing scores. Furthermore, the study is cross-sectional and was not designed to test interventions that integrate religious coping to improve psychological symptom scores. Clinicians may find psychometric scales, and/or the constructs of the scales, such as the Muslim Religious Coping scale useful to better understand how their clients cope with stressful life events.
Sexual health in Muslim communities is another topic that is grossly understudied. Ali-Faisal, in her study “What’s Sex Got to Do with It? The Role of Sexual Experience in the Sexual Attitudes, and Sexual Guilt and Anxiety of Young Muslim Adults in Canada and the United States”, offers an important contribution to the field. She demonstrates that Muslim adults who reported having premarital sex were less likely to report feeling anxiety and guilt about sex. Although the majority (79%) of her 403 participants are female, she was able recruit an ethnically diverse group of participants. Approximately the same percentage of her sample of Muslim men and women reported having sex before marriage (37.8% of women and 31.7% of men surveyed), which is significantly lower than proportions reported among other North Americans. Ali-Faisal concludes that participants who engaged in premarital sex held more liberal views about sex and had less sexual guilt and anxiety. Unfortunately, religiosity and acculturation was not measured in this group and the role of religion, traditional values, and acculturation on sexual attitudes would be purely speculative. Ali-Faisal’s study is a very important first step to better understand sexual health within the North American Muslim community.
The mental health -- and particularly Muslim mental health -- literature from Australia continues to grow. Khawaja and Khawaja provide a valuable review of the acculturation literature within the context of the Australian Muslim experience. While the majority of Muslim diaspora and acculturation research focuses on North America and Western Europe, these authors outline the distinct history and demographic trends of Muslims in Australia. Australian, European, and North American Muslims share many of the sources and experiences of acculturative stress, particularly with the recent impact of mainstream media and social media representations of Muslims, growing trends in xenophobia, and increasing Islamophobia. The role of government policies and social movements that further vilify rather than support Muslim diaspora varies across regions within North America, Europe, and Australia. However, compared to other regions, the Australian Muslim community is younger institutionally and has less established Muslim and/or Islamic institutions of learning, advocacy groups, and social service organizations than other regions. Khawaja and Khawaja offer recommendations for the Australian Muslim community as well as Australian policy stakeholders to better address acculturative stress.
The final article in this issue is by Mustafa and Javadani, titled “The Investigation of the Identity of First Generation American Muslim Youth Participating in Muslim Student Associations”. The authors examine the role of perceived religious discrimination and social activism in self-esteem and identity formation. For some young Muslims, the negative public attention toward Islam causes them to withdraw and disengage from publically expressing their religious identity and traditions. For others, if given the cultural and physical space to mobilize, they respond to adversity with increased social activism. Mustafa and Javandi demonstrate, among their participants, that for youth who reported higher participation in religious organizations, perceived discrimination was associated with higher self-esteem; for those who reported less participation in social activism, self-esteem did not correlate with perceived discrimination. Furthermore, increased self-esteem is associated with more social activism. Participants were recruited from Muslim student and community organizations and mosques. The authors acknowledge the selection bias: Participants recruited from mosques and Muslim organizations may engage in activism more and have stronger religious identity. Nevertheless, this study provides important evidence for the potential positive role of social activism among religious Muslim youth.