OBJECTIVE: Muslims are one of the most rapidly growing minority groups in
the United States and have experienced increased stress since September 11,
2001. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the roles of imams,
Islamic clergy, in meeting the counseling needs of their communities.
METHODS: An anonymous self-report questionnaire was mailed to 730 mosques
across the United States.
RESULTS: Sixty-two responses were received from a diverse group of imams,
few of whom had received formal counseling training. Imams reported that
their congregants came to them most often for religious or spiritual
guidance and relationship or marital concerns. Imams reported that since
September 11, 2001, there has been an increased need to counsel persons for
discrimination. An increased need to counsel persons who were discriminated
against was reported by all imams with congregations in which a majority
are Arab American, 60 percent of imams with congregations in which a
majority are South Asian American, and 50 percent of imams with
congregations in which a majority are African American.
CONCLUSIONS: Although imams have little formal training in counseling, they
are asked to help congregants who come to them with mental health and
social service issues. Imams need more support from mental health
professionals to fulfill a potentially vital role in improving access to
services for minority Muslim communities in which there currently appear to
be unmet psychosocial needs