Islamophobia and Public Mental Health: Lessons Learned from Community Engagement Projects

  • Sara Ali
  • Rania Awaad


With the recent rise of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments, Muslim American communities have experienced ongoing stressors that have detrimental effects on their mental health. This challenge is further aggravated by multiple barriers to seeking help, including mental health stigma, lack of culturally and religiously sensitive mental health services, and fear of discrimination by mental health providers.

In this chapter, we discuss the importance of engaging Muslim American communities and incorporating indigenous cultural practices in reducing the negative health effects of Islamophobia. We present innovative case studies from projects conducted in California that use community participatory approaches to engage Muslim Americans in mental health care in order to build resilient communities.


Islamophobia Muslim mental health Community engagement Community-based participatory research Public mental health 


  1. 1.
    Abdel-Khalek AM. Religiosity and well-being in a Muslim context. In: Religion and spirituality across cultures. Dordrecht: Springer; 2014. p. 71–85.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Abu-Ras W, Gheith A, Cournos F. The imam’s role in mental health promotion: a study at 22 mosques in New York City’s Muslim community. J Muslim Ment Health. 2008;3(2):155–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ahmed S, Reddy LA. Understanding the mental health needs of American Muslims: recommendations and considerations for practice. J Multicult Couns Dev. 2007;35:207–18. Scholar
  4. 4.
    Aloud N, Rathur A. Mental health and psychological services among Arab Muslim populations. J Muslim Ment Health. 2009;4:79–103. Scholar
  5. 5.
    Amer MM, Bagasra A. Psychological research with Muslim Americans in the age of islamophobia: trends, challenges, and recommendations. Am Psychol. 2013;68(3):134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    American Psychological Association (APA). The road to resilience. Retrieved on 3/22/18 from
  7. 7.
    Amri SA, Nassar-McMillan SC, Meisenhimer M, Bryan SA. Counseling Arab Americans. In: Lee CC, editor. Counseling for diversity. 3rd ed. Alexandria: American Counseling Association; 2013. p. 135–47.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Amri S, Bemak F. Mental health help-seeking behaviors of Muslim immigrants in the United States: overcoming social stigma and cultural mistrust. J Muslim Ment Health. 2013;7(1):43–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Aroian KJ, Norris AE. Depression trajectories in relatively recent immigrants. Compr Psychiatry. 2003;44(5):420–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Awaad R. A journey of mutual growth: mental health awareness in the Muslim community. In: Roberts LW, et al., editors. Partnerships in mental health. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing; 2015.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Awaad R. A Muslim graduate student from Sudan trapped by the travel ban. Am J Psychiatr. 2017;174(10):925–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    CAIR. CAIR Islamophobia update. Retrieved on 4/29/18 from 2017.
  13. 13.
    Carranza ME. Building resilience and resistance against racism and discrimination among Salvadorian female youth in Canada. Child Fam Soc Work. 2007;12(4):390–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Understanding bullying fact sheet. retrieved on 3/22/18 at 2016.
  15. 15.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Principles of community engagement. 1st ed. Atlanta, CDC/ATSDR Committee on Community Engagement; 1997.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Council On American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The bullying of Muslim students and the unwavering movement to eradicate it. Retrieved on 3/22/18 from 2016.
  17. 17.
    Council On American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The empowerment of hate. Retrieved on 4/29/18 from 2017.
  18. 18.
    Council on American-Islamic Relations: Civil Rights Report 2017. The empowerment of hate. Washington, DC: Council on American-Islamic Relations; 2017.
  19. 19.
    Eaton NR. Hijab, religiosity, and psychological wellbeing of Muslim women in the United States. J Muslim Mental Health. 2015;9(2):1–16.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Forrest-Bank SS. The relationship between risk and resilience, racial microaggression, ethnic identity, and well-being in young adulthood. 2012.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Harden A, Oliver S. Who’s listening? Systematically reviewing for ethics and empowerment. In: Using research for effective health promotion. Buckingham: Open University Press; 2012. p. 123–37.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Hussain-Gambles M, Atkin K, Leese B. Why ethnic minority groups are under-represented in clinical trials: a review of the literature. Health Soc Care Community. 2004;12(5):382–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Inayat Q. Islamophobia and the therapeutic dialogue: some reflections. Couns Psychol Q. 2007;20(3):287–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Killawi A, Heisler M, Hamid H, Padela AI. Using CBPR for health research in American Muslim mosque communities: lessons learned. Prog Community Health Partnerships: Res Edu Action. 2015;9(1):65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Knox SA, Britt H. A comparison of general practice encounters with patients from English-speaking and non-English speaking backgrounds. Med J Aust. 2002;177(2):98–101.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kunst JR, Sam DL, Ulleberg P. Perceived islamophobia: scale development and validation. Int J Intercult Relat. 2013;37(2):225–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Lotfi A. Creating Muslim space in the USA: masjid and Islamic centers. Islam Christ-Muslim Relat. 2001;12(2):235–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Nadal KL, Griffin KE, Hamit S, Leon J, Tobio M, Rivera DP. Subtle and overt forms of islamophobia: microaggressions toward Muslim Americans. J Muslim Ment Health. 2012;6(2):15–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    O’Mara-Eves A, Brunton G, Oliver S, Kavanagh J, Jamal F, Thomas J. The effectiveness of community engagement in public health interventions for disadvantaged groups: a meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. 2015;15(1):129.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    O’Mara-Eves A, Brunton G, Kavanagh J, Jamal F, Thomas J. Community engagement in public health interventions to reduce health inequalities: mapping the evidence against policy objectives. Lancet. 2012;380(3):S59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Padela AI, Heisler M. The association of perceived abuse and discrimination after September 11, 2001, with psychological distress, level of happiness, and health status among Arab Americans. Am J Public Health. 2010a;100(2):284–91. Scholar
  32. 32.
    Perry B. Gendered islamophobia: hate crime against Muslim women. Soc Identities. 2014;20(1):74–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Rogers EM. Diffusion of innovations. New York: Simon and Schuster; 2010.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Samari G. Islamophobia and public health in the United States. Am J Public Health. 2016;106(11):1920–5.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Sheikh A. Why are ethnic minorities under-represented in US research studies? PLoS Med. 2005;3(2):e49.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Shore N. Re-conceptualizing the Belmont report: a community-based participatory research perspective. J Community Pract. 2006;14(4):5–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The year in hate and extremism. 2017. Retrieved on 5/2/18 from
  38. 38.
    Spence ND, Wells S, Graham K, George J. Racial discrimination, cultural resilience, and stress. Can J Psychiatry. 2016;61(5):298–307.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Terman R. Islamophobia and media portrayals of Muslim women: a computational text analysis of US news coverage. Int Stud Q. 2017;61(3):489–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Wallerstein N. Empowerment to reduce health disparities. Scand J Public Health. 2002;30(59_suppl):72–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Wallerstein N, Duran B. Community-based participatory research contributions to intervention research: the intersection of science and practice to improve health equity. Am J Public Health. 2010;100(S1):S40–6.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara Ali
    • 1
  • Rania Awaad
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  2. 2.Muslim Mental Health Lab and Wellness Program, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

Personalised recommendations