Addressing acute problems that specific strata of the population face are an activity that allows arousing social interest in particular groups and drawing attention to their issues and challenges. As a category for analysis and evaluation, I have selected Muslim women living in the United States of America. The reason I have chosen this population group is obvious: today, Muslim American women are forced to experience discrimination on a racial and ethnic basis due to prevailing social trends and a biased political climate. The course of intimidation is supported by the current government and, in particular, the United States Presidential Administration, which exacerbates the problem and forces Muslim women to seek safety in society.
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As I studied the proposed problem, I immersed myself in the culture of the social group in question and experienced certain aspects of the life of Muslim American women on my own. In particular, during Ramadan, I fasted for 30 days and prayed three times a day. I visited the mosque with my sponsor and felt how hard it was for the local female parishioners to sit at its back. Moreover, I had direct contact with Muslims due to my work as an elementary school teacher and had the privilege of being a guest of a Muslim family. In addition, recently, I have been able to organize an online meeting with women of different cultures and discuss with them the problems that Muslim females face and what methods of help can be effective. The experience gained is valuable for my project and has made it possible to obtain essential information regarding the problem under consideration.
In all the time I have spent studying the traditions and cultural practices of Muslim American women, I have gained in-depth knowledge of their lifestyles and assessed the social barriers they have to overcome. According to Ali et al. (2015), discrimination against members of this ethnic group manifests itself in ignoring their needs, and the situation intensified significantly after the notorious terrorist attacks of recent years. A submissive nature inherent in Muslim women is evident in their habits and manners. At the same time, despite the innate humility, some interlocutors with whom I had the honor to communicate expressed a desire to change certain aspects, for instance, to create a female-led mosque in which they could have equal rights with males. The restrictions imposed by religion, such as fasting and regular prayers, require patience and endurance, which speaks of the strong character of Muslim women. In general, when summing up the accumulated experience, I can assert social bias towards this population group and prejudices based on stereotyping and a subjective attitude towards cultural diversity.
While studying the problems of the community in question, I found that prejudices against Muslim American women were characteristic not only of ordinary citizens but also of the government. Moreover, the US President, being the guarantor of rights and freedoms, has repeatedly expressed controversial opinions concerning social equality. Hussein (2019) cites the words of Donald Trump, who, when talking to reporters, discussed the Muslim wife of his recent interlocutor and drew attention to the fact that her silence was probably due to the ban on conversations. This position demonstrates not only sexist but also racist views that the Presidential Administration holds. As a result, Muslim women are forced to not only combat bias but also endure open discrimination from the ruling elites, which, in turn, explains a challenging social position and numerous barriers.
The prevailing stereotype about the submissiveness of Muslim women living in America and, in addition, supported by the ruling elites is a catalyst for the oppression of this group of the population. According to Al Wazni (2015), these citizens are often “the targets of hate crimes and discrimination,” which is explained by stigmatization and narrow-minded thinking. The assimilation of such women into American society seems unrealistic for many people who do not accept the idea that representatives of a different nationality and cultural background can lead the same civilized lifestyle as themselves. This, in turn, generates prejudices and biases that make it difficult for Muslim women to feel equality and creates obstacles for them on the path to natural socialization. In the era of democracy and civil liberties, such a situation is unacceptable; however, as practice shows, it is possible.
Due to my position, I have an opportunity to provide all possible assistance in the formation of a healthy perception of society among the young audience and promote the ideas of justice and cultural literacy. These activities are valuable not only in the global context but also in their local manifestations since, as Eaton (2015) argues, Muslim women in the United States are often subjected to micro-aggression, which, in turn, induces them to live in constant stress. One of my main tasks as a teacher is to draw students’ attention to the importance of the human spirit and mind as the components that shape personality. In this regard, the problem raised deserves attention as a critical issue in modern society.
The problem that I plan to address relates to Muslim American women who are fearful and have to deal with bigotry, hate, and racism today amidst the current political climate and the current United States Presidential Administration. They are concerned about their place and their safety in society and are the object of oppression due to the prevailing stereotypes and bias against their cultural background. The problem is relevant to all members of this population group since Muslim women in the US are stigmatized both at the domestic and a more global level, which is expressed in racial and ethnic discrimination. Developing an intervention is an attempt to change the prevailing views on inequality and these citizens’ limited social rights. Students and their parents will be engaged in activities aimed to raise awareness of the existing issue and increase their knowledge to help the population in question. Thus, the core social action question may sound as follows: what recommendations and actions would I make about how to change the existing stereotypes about Muslim American women by engaging both young and adult audiences in joint discussions and interaction programs?
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To formulate an appropriate action plan, setting goals is the initial stage of working on the problem. While taking into account the fact that both young students and their parents are the audiences to engage, the intervention project should fit within a corresponding ethical framework and, at the same time, use rational and effective methods of working together. Because, as Terman (2017) notes, in the modern American media, Muslim women are portrayed as a dangerous social group and associated with terrorism and violence, these views need to be conveyed to all the involved participants as false and biased. In the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, interaction can be maintained online, which simplifies the mode of remote communication and makes it possible to involve different participants. Thus, despite the current restrictions and measures limiting people’s social contacts, empirical data can be collected successfully, and everyone can participate due to free access to the Internet and the use of modern applications for virtual interaction.
Goal and Strategy 1
One of the goals of the upcoming work plan implies involving interested parties to disseminate the issue specifics. This is as follows: during the next academic year, we plan to hold a series of joint online meetings with representatives of different cultures in a joint conversation mode and include pre-prepared questions of all participants to one another to subsequently draw up a list of the most common myths and stereotypes. For instance, Al Wazni (2015) states that, according to many citizens, Muslim women are disenfranchised and have no voice in their families. Therefore, over one month, weekly online meetings can help introduce people with distinctive cultural and ethnic backgrounds to one another so that they could get the most detailed understanding of their interlocutors and, at the same time, answer their questions about themselves. During January, this strategy can be implemented, and after several online meetings, the corresponding results need to be evaluated, and concrete outcomes of the conversations will be summarized by using the information obtained as a basis for drawing a general picture of the main myths and stereotypes of the culture of Muslim women.
The strategy of providing the necessary data may be of good use to disseminate information about the challenges and obstacles that the population in question faces regularly. As an intervention algorithm, organizing online meetings is a suitable method of attracting public attention to the issue. This objective may be achieved by offering relevant skills training in strengthening people’s awareness of the threats of racial discrimination and its severe consequences. Moreover, according to Garner and Selod (2015), this practice is a valuable intervention in bringing together people of distinctive cultures and creating a common focus on raising awareness. To implement the intervention project for this strategy, one of the tasks involves scheduling online meetings and conducting preliminary discussions with different people about their participation. Preparing discussion papers implies compiling relevant questions and tools to assess them based on the most frequent or rare answers. At this stage, attendees from Charleston, South Carolina, will be involved, but later, discussion meetings may be expanded by increasing the audience. This will help raise the problem to the federal level and draw global attention to it.
Another intervention strategy is communicating with some representatives of the authorities. To realize this strategy, the task of organizing interaction with the officials requires preliminary calls on the possible participation of individual representatives of the city council in the proposed program. This task is of particular importance, given the current state of affairs. Nagel (2016) cites the results of a 2016 poll in which supporters of the Republican party were involved, and the results showed that 74% of those surveyed spoke out with anti-Muslim sentiments and demands to protect social interaction with representatives of this culture (p. 283). While fears of terrorism threats were the key reasons for this behavior, this stereotyping was common not only for citizens but also for the state government. Therefore, establishing interaction with representatives of the governing apparatus is a crucial task to promote a solution to the problem of social bias against Muslim women and involve as many stakeholders as possible.
Goal and Strategy 2
Another goal is as follows: by the spring of 2021, we plan to involve at least 50% of the Muslim students of our school and their parents in a joint project aimed to popularize and address the problem of discrimination. This step will provide an opportunity to implement a credible assistance program and disseminate relevant information about the existing prejudices among as many people as possible. A large number of Muslim citizens, including women, will have a chance to talk about their challenges individually, which will be an occasion to evaluate the current obstacles and methods to eliminate them. This, in turn, will contribute to eliminating bias towards the population in question and popularizing the idea of abandoning social stigmas and stereotypes.
As an intervention to work in this direction, the personal experience of the participants will be utilized to compose the general picture of the issue. The strategy of changing behaviors towards Muslim women may be realized by providing free opportunities for community members to volunteer. For instance, as Oyewuwo-Gassikia (2016) notes, the problem of violence against Muslim women is not raised due to social indifference. Therefore, in the framework of behavior change, volunteers’ and stakeholders’ help implemented through public speeches and initiative letters is a significant tool. The major task for this intervention is to organize a single community in which the data obtained will be collected and grouped by specific themes, for instance, violence, racial discrimination, or social barriers. As part of the proposed work, we plan to prepare oral and written proposals to the parents of the school, and in the future, more participants can join the program due to disseminating information among the population.
Another intervention to introduce as a method of achieving the stated goal implies assessing the readiness of Muslim women and other interested parties to join the program. According to Ali et al. (2015), in addition to the variables of ethnicity and religiosity, some more aspects need to be taken into account when analyzing the issue in question, for instance, workplace discrimination. Given the problem of social bias, individuals in this community may not be willing to participate in our work plan for fear of criticism and censure from radical citizens. However, the goal of our work is to attract public attention, and one of the major tasks for this intervention is to create an engagement algorithm based on a system of mutual support. In case the project outcomes are successful, and at least 50% of Muslim families in our school are members of the social program, this will allow the minority to convey their position to the majority. Therefore, the task of applying adequate engagement mechanisms by communicating the ultimate goals of the plan is significant.
Goal and Strategy 3
Finally, by the summer of 2021, we plan to develop and introduce a policy project as part of the city statute with the necessary legislative proposals and clarifications to help Muslim women feel like equal members of society by applying the joint efforts of volunteers and government representatives. As an objective outcome of this practice, the total number of approved initiatives will be considered. Initially, we aim to develop a program for engaging and addressing the concerns of the target population in Charleston, and subsequently, if there is a positive trend, appropriate initiatives can be launched at the national level. For instance, according to Eaton (2015), the wearing of national clothes by Muslim women is often condemned and criticized, which is direct evidence of prejudices and intolerance in modern society. Promoting specific initiatives, and attracting the attention of policymakers is a valuable outcome of the joint intervention program, and bringing this issue up for discussion at the federal level may be a beneficial outcome of our project.
To target this strategy, the intervention may involve designing a policy program based on the survey results and data obtained directly from Muslim women engaged in the program. This principle is justified given the existing empirical evidence: Alimahomed-Wilson (2017) cites research outcomes according to which “68 percent of Americans would change their views if Muslims would take measures to improve the status of Muslim women” (p. 79). In other words, real measures aimed to help the target population can increase their social status and reduce discrimination and bias. The major task to develop to implement this intervention is to draw up a mechanism that implies highlights the most important aspects identified by Muslim women and agreed with other program participants. This solution is objective in terms of the credibility of the policy confirmed by empirical research and real figures collected due to a large sample.
In addition to developing the policy content, the intervention may include compiling the correlations among the data obtained and highlighting the key topics to include in the upcoming document. As Padela et al. (2016) state, according to their research, workplace discrimination and religious bias are the key issues that participants in their study encounter most frequently. In this regard, after the completion of the stage of data collection and discussions with all the parties involved, we need to determine the basic topics to address in the planned policy. The major task to apply is to statistically sample and isolate specific issues that are the most valuable for Muslim women to resolve. The availability of these data will make the policy program as accurate as possible and, at the same time, concise to be approved by the city council and submitted for consideration at the federal level in the future.
To evaluate the successful completion of Goal 1 which implies involving interested parties to disseminate the information about the obstacles and social barriers faced by Muslim American women, an assessment plan should be complied with, which consists of two stages. Firstly, interest in participating in this program will be considered by seeking feedback and ideas from potential project members. To complete this stage, the survey method will be utilized, which will provide objective and complete information regarding public activity. Secondly, the relevance of the topic of bias and discrimination against Muslim women will be assessed. The same data collection method will be applied, and this will make it possible to find out how obvious this issue is in society and whether participants are ready to help in addressing the existing challenges faced by the target population. After completing these two stages, the readiness for analysis and specific interventions will be evaluated due to the survey results.
The evaluation plan for Goal 2 that implies involving at least 50% of the Muslim students of our school and their parents may be based on the total number of participants engaged. Once the online meeting stage is complete and the preparation for the policy is in place, the existing membership information will be assessed. For this purpose, the number of invited participants and real members will be compared, and in case the final figure is not less than the initial indicators by 50%, this will mean that the goal has been achieved successfully. Standard statistical methods will be utilized to perform the necessary calculations.
Goal 3 that implies developing and introducing a policy project should be evaluated in two steps. Initially, the readiness of the officials to participate in the program will be assessed. A survey will be conducted to identify whether representatives of the authorities agree with the need to intervene to help Muslim women get rid of social bias and discrimination. At the following stage, the measures taken in the city council will be reviewed, and as the data for the assessment, the timing of the relevant amendments to the city statute will be analyzed, as well as the transfer of the initiative to the federal boards. The existing records will be applied as an evaluation method, and making adequate decisions at the national level will mean success in achieving this goal.
Al Wazni, A. B. (2015). Muslim women in America and hijab: A study of empowerment, feminist identity, and body image. Social Work, 60(4), 325-333.
Ali, S. R., Yamada, T., & Mahmood, A. (2015). Relationships of the practice of hijab, workplace discrimination, social class, job stress, and job satisfaction among Muslim American women. Journal of Employment Counseling, 52(4), 146-157.
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Alimahomed-Wilson, S. (2017). Invisible violence: Gender, Islamophobia, and the hidden assault on US Muslim women. Women, Gender, and Families of Color, 5(1), 73-97.
Eaton, N. R. (2015). Hijab, religiosity, and psychological wellbeing of Muslim women in the United States. Journal of Muslim Mental Health, 9(2), 25-40.
Garner, S., & Selod, S. (2015). The racialization of Muslims: Empirical studies of Islamophobia. Critical Sociology, 41(1), 9-19.
Nagel, C. (2016). Southern hospitality? Islamophobia and the politicization of refugees in South Carolina during the 2016 election season. Southeastern Geographer, 56(3), 283-290.
Oyewuwo-Gassikia, O. B. (2016). American Muslim women and domestic violence service seeking: A literature review. Affilia, 31(4), 450-462.
Padela, A. I., Adam, H., Ahmad, M., Hosseinian, Z., & Curlin, F. (2016). Religious identity and workplace discrimination: A national survey of American Muslim physicians. AJOB Empirical Bioethics, 7(3), 149-159.
Terman, R. (2017). Islamophobia and media portrayals of Muslim women: A computational text analysis of US news coverage. International Studies Quarterly, 61(3), 489-502.