Abstract: Verbal Abuse and American Islamic Community: Which Muslims Are Disproportionately Likely to be Victimized By Name-Calling? (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Verbal Abuse and American Islamic Community: Which Muslims Are Disproportionately Likely to be Victimized By Name-Calling?

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Supreme Court, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Altaf Husain, PhD, Associate Professor, Howard University
Tarek Zidan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Indiana University, South Bend, IN
David R. Hodge, PhD, Professor, Arizona State University
Background: The effects of being verbally referred to in ways that are perceived to be offensive are well established. Calling people disparaging names functions to stigmatize those targeted and can be seen as a form of psychological abuse that negatively impacts wellness. 

One population for whom this issue is especially salient is American Muslims, who have been subject to increased targeting since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Little research, however, has been conducted with American Muslims, despite the increasing number of hate crimes directed toward the Islamic community in the past year. The objective of the present study is to identify which Muslims are most likely to report being called offensive names. Understanding those who are targeted in this way better positions social workers to create a more socially just society. 

Methods: To obtain a national sample of self-identified Muslims, a snowball sampling strategy was used to identify Islamic organizations in the US (N=22). The study design was cross-sectional. After pilot testing, surveys were administered online to members who agreed to participate in the study. A post-hoc power analysis indicated that the resulting study sample size (N=275) had sufficient power (.86) to identify significant relationships (≤ .05) given an odds ratio or effect size of 1.6. The mean age of the sample was approximately 38 years (SD =11.55), and a majority were: Sunni (85%), female (69%), married (56%), held graduate degrees (54%), born outside the US (51%), and a plurality self-identified as Middle Eastern (38%). 

The dependent variable was measured with an item drawn from the Pew Research Center’s (2017) work with American Muslims. Respondents were asked if they have had been called offensive names because of their faith during the past twelve months (0=no, has not happened, 1=yes, has happened). Logistic regression was used to identify variables that might be associated with being called offensive names.

Results: The overall model was significant (c2(11)=63.08, p<0.001). The results revealed that Muslims who were younger and single were comparatively more likely to report being called offensive names within the past twelve months. Conversely, both Asian and African American Muslims were less likely to be called offensive names compared to European American Muslims. The two largest effect sizes were both associated with the race/ethnicity variable. Compared to European Americans, African American Muslims were roughly 6.5 times more likely not to be called offensive names while Asian Muslims were roughly 2.7 times more likely not to be called offensive names.

Implications: The results have important implications for social workers committed to alleviating oppression and violence directed toward members of the Islamic community. Pejorative acts, such as name calling, are often artifacts of structural systems of oppression. Applying the precepts of anti-oppressive can help create a more inclusive society. Practitioners should be aware of the potential negative effects of name calling when interacting with all Muslim clients. However, there may be a tendency to overlook clients who are younger, single, and European American. Yet, such clients may be particularly likely to be victimized by name calling.