Disrupting Ethnic Harmony: Fear Of Radicalization And Multicultural Awareness In A School

Background of the Case

The case manly revolves around disruption of ethnic harmony due to fear of radicalization and less awareness about multicultural surroundings. The school, in the discussion is located in a suburb, which has a low socio-economic background and has many students coming from families living is public housing estates. The suburb’s multicultural nature is reflected in the school, along with a large number of students belonging to the Islamic religion. The population of the suburb also consists of a large number of pacific islanders, a small group of Anglo cohort and a small Chinese group. Over the years, there have occurred some drastic changes in the suburb in terms of multicultural reorientation, which has become a chief reason for increased racial tensions. Numerous awareness sessions and discussions have been carried out in the school in order to prevent “radicalization” of the students and to eradicate “islamophobia”. Some students have been observed to show enormous faith in their religion despite coming from liberal backgrounds. The Anglo community has raised concerns and arguments on the community consultation day about the increased focus towards Muslim practices. This principal of the school was unable to take this discussion well and the meeting turned louder and increasingly oppositional.

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It is a known fact that terrorism and threat has a worldwide focus and there has been the rise of intolerance at intercommunal levels, and various communities have grown suspicion about each other due to recent events of “radicalization”, some cases of which are true and some are false allegations. Radicalization of young individuals and vulnerable adults is feared among most communities. These are the root causes of the disruption in ethnic harmony of the aforementioned school. The cultural diversity of the suburb is reflected in the student population of the school; however, the discrimination is caused due to the increasing fear among the small Anglo community. They are concerned that the school has a major focus on the Islamic religion and are scared about radicalization phenomenon that has the possibility of occurrence. This may also be an example of “islamophobia”. Despite creating awareness and encouraging tolerance, the multicultural nature, with the emphasis on Muslims, is a major reason of concern for the community comprising of the least population.

Getting into the things that could have been done differently, would first require an understanding of the basic concept from which the problems arise. There are two concepts that I find important for discussion. First, practicing a religion and second, religious orthodoxy. Every individual has the right the follow and practice whatever religion they deem suitable for themselves, this is because different people have different ideologies and distinctly different ways of expression. A religion is nothing but a set of beliefs and ideas held by a certain group of people. It is a cultural system, which consists of certain designated practices and behaviors, ethics, texts, worldviews and organizations (Cipriani, 2017). While there are many religions all across the world, most individuals are not aware or find the practices of a different religion uncomfortable. The main point is that following or practicing a certain religion is the fundamental freedom of action that every individual possesses. Religious orthodoxy however is a different phenomenon, where individuals not only strictly practice a certain religion, but also impose their ideas and practices on other individuals (Stepaniants, 2017). This is somewhat related to radicalization, as radicalization is a process in which individual take up extreme views about political, social or religious issues (Kruglanski et al., 2014). The parents of the minority groups fear that radicalization may occur right in the school premises because of the increasing population of Islamic students. Losing control of a situation like the one the principal was facing is absolutely the last thing to do. In sensitive situations like these, it is essential to educate people about these basic concepts, which would help widen the horizon of their perspectives.

Radicalization and Fear of Ethnic Harmony

The psychosocial theory developed by Erik Erikson states that individuals are “shaped by and react to their social environment”. The scholar has explained that one individual comes in contact with various social groups, and has to deal with various social crisis. These events help in shaping the perception of the individual and his or her social nature. The crisis may include “trust vs mistrust”, “intimacy vs isolation” and other aspects. In this particular case, the members of the Islamic faith have been influenced by their social surroundings prevailing at their home and worship places, which has led them in following the faith more seriously. However, based on the same theory the phenomenon has been perceived negatively as the individuals of the minority Anglo ethnic group has experienced various “crisis” related to the growth of “radicalization”, throughout the world and hence, they have taken serious concerns.

The ethical dilemma related to the case made it difficult for me to respond to the situation at once, as the sentiments of both the communities had to be handled duly. The minority Amglo ethnic community were in some portions justified in opposing the extra focus given by the school to the Islamic students, whereas the Islamic population where justified in their part to profess and preach their own religion. The problem was arising out of the context that the preaching of the Islamic followers and their increase in population was misbalancing the demographics, however both the sides were justified in their parts. The dilemma surrounded around the decision of whom to be held responsible for the worsening of the situation. The conclusion was that it happened because of miscommunication and lack of intercultural awareness.

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Since it is my job the handle the situation, I would like to go ahead with my basic knowledge and understanding of the situation. Firstly, I will need to make them aware about “islamophobia” and explain how discrimination against a certain group can cause damage to the emotional, economic and social wellbeing of the entire society. I would also like to explain them about the various ways we raise awareness and introduce de-radicalization programs to avoid any extremist views of the children. It is essential, that all the parents know that their children are in safe hands and the educators take responsibility to guide the students towards a positive and liberal path. I would also like to explain them about the prevent strategies that we adopt in order to educate the children against terrorism.

Practicing a Religion and Religious Orthodoxy

There are some necessary steps that need to be taken by the school management and that includes the educators’ intervention, introducing more preventive strategies so that the children are not drawn towards an aggressive or extremist path (Sarma, 2017). However, the most important event that needs to be included is a “community talk” which would require the parents and children of every community to talk about their religion and religious practices, so that the ignorance and discomfort between the ethnic groups can be controlled to a certain extent. Programs should be hosted by the school, which promotes education about the multicultural context, which could thereby promote harmony.

Summary of the case

This case allotted to me is about a family who refuses to send their children to school, as they do not believe in the concept of formal education. They also refuse to vaccinate their children owing to their disbelief in the scientific vaccinating practice. The family lives in the edge of the town on a property owned by them which consists of make shift accommodations like a double Decker bus and a communal food preparing and eating area. They have mentioned that they live within an economy of their own; however, they do not appear to have any fixed paid employment or any social security benefits.  Several other adults also live in the same property; however, this is the only couple with children. My team leader thinks that the wellbeing of the children are at risk because of these factors and that this family is considered as being at risk of a child protection intervention. My team leader thinks that these are “hippie” people and that they do not have any right to live the way that they do when the future of children are involved. She believes the group to me a part of a commune or a cult. My colleague and I on reaching the place find the children happily doing their chores and playing while the mother was coming to greet us.

 Why did this happen?

There are many reasons that can be attributed as a cause for such a situation. These individuals in the present case deny conforming to the rules of the society. They have created a counterculture of their own, which revolves around freedom of love and peace. They want to reject the rules and conventional systems and rebel against the idea of work and ambition. This probably why they do not believe in the formal education system and do not want to involve their children in schools.

Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

The conflict theory in social science describes how the disparities in power structure impact people’s lives in the societies (Lenski, 2013). Therefore, many people who cannot conform with the existing socio-politico-cultural situation have to detach themselves from the defined “social” borders and live in the way they believe is suitable for “natural” living. The theory states “Power is unequally divided in every society, and all societies perpetuate various forms of oppression and injustice through structural inequality—from the wealth gap to racial discrimination.”

Another possible reason for their disbelief in science could be their ignorance or lack of knowledge about the health benefits that could come from vaccinations. Their way of living is their freedom of action and expression as they have decided to choose a path of their own, However, when it comes to their children, it is a different scenario altogether. The children are young and will adapt cognitive understanding from their parents, yet would like to make their own choices when they grow up.

What can be done differently?

Making a blind judgment about their culture is not something that I feel should be done, also making adamant decisions for them regarding their children without delving deep into their scenario and understanding their positions carefully would be of no use, except disrupting the harmony of their living. Firstly, it is essential for my colleague and me to not just meet them but mingle with them and acculturate ourselves with their culture before trying to come to any strict decision. Acculturation is important because not only would we get an insight to their perspectives and way of life, but also we will be able to gain their trust and gradually make them understand how education and vaccination can be important for their children.

We could get an idea of the reasons due to their non-conforming beliefs and try to fix them at the roots if necessary. However, here it is important that we are able to gain their faith and trust for us to be able to influence them, in case influencing them is required.

How can this be approached?

The General Systems Theory of social science deals with the “reciprocal relationships” between various elements of a society (Payne, 2015). The approach of the intermingling of various sections should follow a holistic and organized approach, and the social workers must recognize various groups, organizations, and congregations within the society, and take care of their developmental needs. This theory enables the social worker to understand “human behavior” in the “social environment”. This will be helpful for us to deal with these people.

Once, we gain the trust and friendship of the community we will gradually talk to them about the benefits of a formal education. We will need to explain them that their children are completely dependent on their decisions now, however they might grow up to have different perspectives and would want to live a conventional life. Therefore, they must respect the fact that their children are individuals who might have a mind of their own and if are devoid of a formal education now, would face consequences of unemployment and social exclusion. This would lead to many other factors mainly involving mental health issues. We would try and explain to them how the various social determinants of health would be harmed, thereby preventing them from becoming well adjusted adults (Strandh et al., 2014) . We also need to shed some light on the scientific advantages of vaccines and how the various vaccinations can prevent their children from having serious physical health issues in the future. These views need to be incorporated gradually and it is important that we strategize in influencing them to provide their children the required education and vaccinations. In case they are still reluctant to understand our views, we can incorporate a reward system in educating the children formally.


Cipriani, R. (2017). Sociology of religion: An historical introduction. Routledge.

Kruglanski, A. W., Gelfand, M. J., Bélanger, J. J., Sheveland, A., Hetiarachchi, M., & Gunaratna, R. (2014). The psychology of radicalization and deradicalization: How significance quest impacts violent extremism. Political Psychology, 35(S1), 69-93.

Lenski, G. E. (2013). Power and privilege: A theory of social stratification. UNC Press Books.

Payne, M. (2015). Modern social work theory. Oxford University Press.

Sarma, K. M. (2017). Risk assessment and the prevention of radicalization from nonviolence into terrorism. American Psychologist, 72(3), 278.

Stepaniants, M. (2017). Religion and identity in modern Russia: The revival of Orthodoxy and Islam. Routledge.

Strandh, M., Winefield, A., Nilsson, K., & Hammarström, A. (2014). Unemployment and mental health scarring during the life course. The European Journal of Public Health, 24(3), 440-445.