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Discrimination and the Hijab: The Role of Social Workers

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Published: Fri, 15 Sep 2017

Melissa Sadaka

The aftermath of several political, legal, and historical events has led to the negative representations and tensions towards Islam and its practices in Western society. These depictions have impacted Muslim women who wear the hijab as they are religiously identifiable (Hyder, Parrington, & Hussain, 2015). It is evident in the literature and media that discrimination towards the hijab continues to remain a social problem in the West. Discrimination is the mistreatment of an individual due to their race status or background (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2015). Not only does it result in a marginalised society, discrimination is ideologically offensive and negatively effects the individual and society as whole. As demonstrated in the literature, the hijab is discriminated against due the misinterpreted views, held by non-Muslims, that the women who wear it are oppressed and associated with terrorism (Al Wazni, 2015,). These views have proved to negatively affect the daily experiences and identity of Muslim women as they face difficulties and acts of discrimination in settings such as school, work and the public.

Social work essentially aims to focus on and draw attention to discriminatory beliefs and customs that lead to both poor public principles and mental health (Hosken, 2013). It mandatory for all social workers to participate in socially and racially proficient education and advocacy that encourages diversity while concurrently reducing fear and doubt (Australian Association of Social Workers, 2010) . As an occupation and discipline, social work has come to accept the responsibility of tackling and eliminating discrimination in the lives of individuals it assists through both direct and indirect methods (Graham, Bradshaw, & Trew, 2009). The current paper will analyse and critique the role of social work and its function in responding to discrimination towards Muslim women particularly in Australia. Recent and alternate social work approaches such as policy, education, research and practice in response to the social problem will also be identified.

Social workers recognise the power of diversity as it is competent in characterising and shaping the human experience and is significant to the development of identity. All individuals have basic and fundamental human rights despite their position in society. Securing and ensuring that these rights are protected and believing in the value of the individual are important responsibilities in social work today (Graham, Bradshaw, & Trew, 2009)

Historically, social work has been criticised due its previous practices in failing to respond to present circumstances and endorsing the standards of a white middle class society(Matsuoka & Thompson). Present approaches for social workers mandates them to understand the power of diversity and harness it in order to build a better human society and experience. It is a social worker’s responsibility to uphold any human being’s right and their values and to eradicate discrimination under any basis (Ressler & Hodge). The Code of ethics of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW, 2010) provides a set of ethical principle and standards to govern social work behavior in relation to discrimination. The organization’s Code of Ethics in Australia includes the principle that social workers should challenge social injustice-focusing primarily on issues of poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and other manifestations-and that their activities should promote sensitivity to and knowledge about oppression and cultural and ethnic diversity. Further, the Code states, social workers should strive to “ensure access to needed information, services, and resources; equality of opportunity; and meaningful participation in decision-making for all people.” (AASW, 2010, p.17).

A Muslim woman in Australia who has experienced a form of discrimination has access to a range of services and programs that can assist her. The Department of Social Services (DSS), the main source of accessing social policies in Australia, is designed to support and enhance the lives of Australians (2015). The DSS promotes a Multicultural Australia and can provide those who have been discriminated against with multiple resources and support services. The DSS can assist A Muslim woman who has been discriminated against by providing her with information and referrals to programs and policies. The DSS will provide her with information on current Australian anti-discrimination laws and provide her with the option of submitting a complaint to the Australia human rights commission who will then further deliver additional assistance. The Department of human services (DHS) is the main source of access to health, payment and social support for Australians and includes a team of social workers that can also assist those who use their service (2015). Ghumman and Ryan (2013) study determined that wearing a Hijab amplified both formal and informal discrimination when applying for work. In this example[MS1], a Muslim woman who is using DHS services can contact a DHS social worker for further support if she feels that her hijab is effecting her chances in gaining a full-time job. The DHS social work services can deliver short term counselling, referrals to a range of services and support information.

Overall, to sustain both professionalism and diversity in social work it is required to understand basic human rights and reasonable practices to assist victims of discrimination. Their voices should be heard and necessary support should be provided as with every human being. The discrimination towards people based on what they wear and what religion they practice will be ongoing as the current generation and society is poisoned by the narrow thoughts and vague ideas generated from power sources such a media and politics. An individual’s choice to wear a garment that represents their faith should be respected within the social work profession. Though Australia is multicultural and embraces diversity and tolerance, discrimination towards the hijab remains existent. Social workers need to be able to demonstrate an understanding of cultural and religious customs, such as the hijab, to establish a justified and enhanced interaction with clients. Social workers should challenge social injustice by embracing diversity through advocacy. Muslim women who wear the hijab should be viewed as positive assets to work with and learn from.

References

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. doi:10.1093/sw/swv033

Australian Association of Social Workers. (2010). Code of Ethics – AASW. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from https://www.aasw.asn.au/practitioner-resources/code-of-ethics

Australian Human Rights Commission. (2015). Complaint information. Retrieved March 7, 2017, from https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/WEB_Info_making_unlawful_discrimination.pdf

Department of Human Services. (2017). Social work services – Australian Government Department of Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/social-work-services

Department Social Services. (2015). What We Do | Department of Social Services, Australian Government. Retrieved March 7, 2017, from https://www.dss.gov.au/about-the-department/overview/what-we-do

Ghumman, S., & Ryan, A. M. (2013). Not welcome here: Discrimination towards women who wear the Muslim headscarf. Human Relations, 66(5), 671-698. doi:10.1177/0018726712469540

Graham, J. R., Bradshaw, C., & Trew, J. L. (2009). Adapting Social Work in Working with Muslim Clients. Social Work Education, 28(5), 544-561. doi:10.1080/02615470802400729

Hosken, N. (2013). Social work supervision and discrimination. Advances in Social Work and Welfare Education, 15(1), 92-104. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=479428906488362;res=IELHSS

Hyder, N., Parrington, C. A., & Hussain, P. (2015). Experiences of Hijabi Women: Finding a Way Through the Looking Glass for Muslim Americans. Advancing Women in Leadership, 35, 172-177. Retrieved from http://advancingwomen.com/awl/awl_wordpress/

Matsuoka, A. K., & Thompson, A. (2009). Combating Stigma and Discrimination Among Social Work Students. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 28(2), 95-98. doi:10.7870/cjcmh-2009-0025

Ressler, L. E., & Hodge, D. R. (2006). Religious Discrimination in Social Work. Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought, 24(4), 55-74. doi:10.1300/j377v24n04_05


[MS1]Not too sure if I should us this and don’t know what else to use


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