Due to the historical and political realities of the world in which we live, it is necessary for Americans, especially counselors who work with clients from diverse cultures, to have an understanding of how individuals are influenced by their religious beliefs when dealing with mental health issues or making decisions based upon these beliefs.
For example, when counseling a client with a strong religious belief, it may be beneficial for the counselor to consider his/her own feelings towards religion when guiding this client through treatment recommendations that may conflict with that client’s faith-based expectations or practices. This article will focus on two major areas in which religion can influence our interactions with others- friendships and acceptance of another are different cultures/religions.
A brief history of the Jewish people in Europe is helpful in understanding how they are perceived by others. Beginning in medieval times, Jews were often accused of being Christ-killers, thus having a negative religious or spiritual connotation among non-Jews even today. During this same period, Jews were confined to living in specific areas, which increased their social isolation and eventually led to ghettoization.
This confinement also meant that most interaction between Jews and Christians was with the upper class, who tended to be financially better off than other classes yet still held anti-Semitic attitudes toward these lower class citizens resulting in limited interactions with daily business dealings because both groups refrained from buying/selling goods/services within each other’s territory for fear of violence against them if caught doing so. This, in turn, led to the development of a culture of fear between these groups.
France is one country where Jews have resided for a millennium, yet this history has not always been peaceful, with periods of French pogroms against Jews, the most notorious being the annual celebration of burning “the dirty Jew” at stake during carnival celebrations in medieval times up until Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte outlawed such religious intolerance in 1806. However, despite these past atrocities, anti-Semitism still exists today in France, which was evident when Islamic extremist Mohammed Merah murdered IlanHalimi, 23, and two soldiers in 2012.
As An end result of this flawed thinking, Jewish men were often victims of street crime that targeted them specifically because they were known to carry large sums of money. This led to Jews limiting contact with non-Jews for fear of being robbed or killed because they were different. It is this experience that now influences the Jewish people’s perception of their relationship with other cultures/religions, leading them to be more accepting of those who are similar in religion and culture while maintaining an aloof distance from those who are not similar.
The latter group includes Muslims due to religious violence between these two groups forcing the Jewish community to keep a safe distance from individuals who may view them as enemies solely based upon their religion even though they have no personal quarrel with this marginalized subculture within French society.
However, among Lebanese Muslims living in France, there are still negative feelings regarding again Jews, which lead again to isolation among these two groups. This is because Muslims are taught to hate Jews based upon religious scriptures (Quran), which state that God’s wrath will fall upon the Jewish people for rejecting Muhammad as their prophet.
As documented in Stephanie Lipiner-Ross’ study regarding theological violence against Jews, the Quran has references to the death of Jesus and that he will be sent back to punish the Jews once again; Even though Muslims believe Jesus was a great prophet, they also see him as part of an ongoing intra-religious struggle between good and evil, where good is defined by Muslims. Muslims identified Judaism with evil, referring to passages of the Quran or stories from their tradition describing how Jews killed their prophets.
The result is this belief system causes many Muslims to view Jews as enemies regardless of whether they believe in the Quran or not, which is why anti-Semitism is still an issue within this culture. The same can be said regarding Muslim immigration into French society, where many Muslims maintain their own beliefs and customs (Isolationism) instead of integrating into Parisian life to advance beyond socioeconomic barriers that prevent them from full participation in France’s liberal democracy.