Although an Iranian native, I have lived in the West for the entirety of my adult life and have received all my academic education in the United States. However, I have been very closely and deeply connected to Eastern cultural dynamics and have grown to appreciate the very diverse richness of the Eastern backdrop, particularly as it is juxtaposed with my Western way of life on a daily basis. I have been trained as a marriage and family therapist and provided numerous hours of couple and family therapy to European Americans and countless therapy sessions to Eastern families, including Muslims. As an academician, I have taught various courses in family therapy theories and have supervised numerous European and Eastern American therapists alike. I have trained Western family therapists to provide culturally sensitive couple and family therapy to Muslim families and have trained Eastern international students to provide therapy relevant to the current Western cultural context. Although I served as somewhat of an ambassador between the Western and Eastern therapy mindset, much of my research efforts and publications have been centered on Muslim family dynamics—not as a religious group but as a cultural group—an arena in which I have grown both comfortable and quite familiar.
Drawing from my experiences over the years, I have found Muslim families, like any other minority group, to be both intricately unique and simplistically typical in so many ways. As Easterners in general, we operate based on many collectivistic cultural values first, while as Muslims in particular we use a mixture of local cultural rituals and Islamic ideologies as a way of life second. Indeed, I am very much a realist and pragmatist in my view of Islamic cultures and family dynamics. As a researcher, I am duly conscious that Muslim families deal with the same issues as other cultural groups. However, our culturally based Islamic values often prevent us from identifying, discussing, and delving into solutions for these shared struggles that many other Eastern, non-Muslim cultural groups have admitted to and attempted to resolve before we were even willing to admit them. My Western and Eastern colleagues alike have often confronted me in regard to where I stand with respect to these cultural and religious issues. On the one hand, I wear hijab, which cross-culturally represents a deep connection to Islam as a religion. On the other, I wear this headpiece as a representation of my sociopolitical agenda, which attempts to challenge both the Eastern and Western notion of how an educated, open-minded, and modern woman should appear physically.
My sociopolitical, religious, clinical, and academic backgrounds are deep foundations for the urgency to share my professional knowledge, experience, and expertise.