In meeting with ethnic minorities, a knowledge of the culture is important in order to give advice, according to family counselors at the Grenland (Telemark, Norway) Family services office. They are now arranging a seminar on the family structure in Islam.
Family counselor Gjertrud Jonassen explains that they had invited anybody who works with family protection in the region. A hundred people signed up from the health, social and school services, crisis center, police and asylum services. Together with colleague Hanna Rossavik she intends to give the best possible support in a difficult situation.
She says that the more couples who come to them with a Muslim background, the more they need an increased competency. They meet ethnic minorities most in mediation cases. Muslim families seek advice from the extended family and from the imam. It's unusual to go to the family services office, but the office does see a trend of more advice seekers.
Rossavik says that in order to help they must know more about the family structure. In talking the counselors need to adapt to the other culture, just as the immigrants need to adapt to Norwegian law. There's a balance.
To increase their ability and to offer better support for couples of Muslim background, the family services office invited a teacher of religious studies, Jan Opsal. Opsal, who specializes in Islam, had conducted a similar seminar in Skien in March, 2006, for the family services office.
Rossavik says the response was very good. The subjects of the seminar this time is marriage, divorce and child custody, gender roles in Muslim families, honor and shame in marriage and the family as a problem and resource for Muslim immigrants.
Source: TA (Norwegian)