Discrimination, Harassment Takes a Mental Health Toll on Muslims

August 10, 2006

Source: USA Today


On August 10, 2006 USA Today reported, "Motaz Elshafi, 28, a software engineer, casually opened an internal e-mail at work last month. The message began, 'Dear Terrorist.' The note from a co-worker was sent to Muslims working at Cisco Systems in Research Triangle Park, N.C., a few days after train bombings in India that killed 207. The e-mail warned that such violent acts wouldn't intimidate people, but only make them stronger. 'I was furious,' says Elshafi, who is New Jersey-born and bred. 'What did I have to do with this violence?' Reports of such harassment and discrimination against Muslims are rising, advocacy groups say. A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,007 Americans shows strong anti-Muslim feeling. And the hard feelings are damaging the mental health of U.S. Muslims, suggest new studies to be released at the American Psychological Association meeting starting Thursday in New Orleans. Thirty-nine percent of respondents to the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll said they felt at least some prejudice against Muslims. The same percentage favored requiring Muslims, including U.S. citizens, to carry a special ID 'as a means of preventing terrorist attacks in the United States.' About one-third said U.S. Muslims were sympathetic to al-Qaeda, and 22% said they wouldn't want Muslims as neighbors. Verbal harassment and discrimination correlate with worse mental health in studies of Muslims and Arab-Americans since 9/11, says psychologist Mona Amer of Yale University School of Medicine. In her new study of 611 adults, thought to be the largest ever done on Arab-Americans, they had much worse mental health than Americans overall. About half had symptoms of clinical depression, compared with 20% in an average U.S. group, Amer says."