Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Muslim Social Workers and Imams' Recommendations in Marital and Child Custody Cases of Persons with Intellectual or Mental Disability (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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358P (see Poster Gallery) Muslim Social Workers and Imams' Recommendations in Marital and Child Custody Cases of Persons with Intellectual or Mental Disability

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Leena Badran, PhD, Post doctoral student, University of California Berkeley, Cupertino, CA
Arie Rimmerman, Prof, Professor, University of Haifs, Israel
Background and Purpose: The Arab Muslim society in Israel is in transition from modernization to conservatism. As such, its approach to disability and mental illness is still dominated by religious and traditional stereotypes. Unfortunately, the prevailing attitudes towards people with disabilities is still negative, avoiding the reliance of government and formal agencies. In recent years, this community has become more open toward inclusion of people with disabilities. Islam tends to treat persons with disabilities equally, including the right to get married and to be custodians of their children. There is a debate in these communities whether to grant people with intellectual or mental disabilities the same rights as people with physical disabilities. Muslim social workers and Imams are still caught between tradition and modern values in their daily practice. As members of their communities, they are often torn between their traditional values and norms and compliance of civil laws of the State, in providing assistance to people with disabilities and their families. Therefore, it is interesting to examine which path they will choose according to the social construction theory of Berger (1980).

The present study examines differences in Muslim social workers and Imams' recommendations in marriage/divorce and child custody cases of persons with intellectual disabilities (ID) or mental illness. The study has two goals: (1) To examine differences in recommendations between Imams and Muslim social workers; and (2) To explore variables related to their differential recommendations as observed in their responses to vignettes.

Methods: Quantitative study using vignettes resembling existing Muslim religious (Sharia) court cases in the Triangle area in Israel. Muslim social workers (138), and Imams (48) completed a background questionnaire, a religiosity questionnaire (DUREL), and a questionnaire that included 25 vignettes constructed by the researchers based on court rulings, adapted for the study.

To examine the purpose related to participant variables, a chi-square test was conducted. We used the CHAID algorithm to analyze the case description variables to examine the second purpose.

Results: The core finding was related to the family’s religiosity. When explicitly stated that the family was religious, it received special attention by Muslim social workers and Imams. Both groups (Muslim social workers and Imams) tended to make religious recommendations when a family member of the person with ID or mental illness was explicitly described as religious. Muslim social workers tended to consider the religious recommendation when the family of person with ID or mental illness was portrayed in the vignette as religious. The same applied to Imams, albeit to a greater extent. The CHAID analysis of the social workers showed that the religiosity of the person with disabilities is strongly related to the tendency to endorse the religious recommendation, followed by the variables; marriage/divorce and child custody.

Conclusions and Implications: The findings highlight the importance of addressing the cultural and traditional background of the person with a disability and particularly their family in social workers’ recommendations. They are also relevant to training social workers and planning social policy.