What problems are the most common?
Recently, it is rebellious children. With everything that has been taking place in the Arab world many youngsters are rebelling against their parents. They say, our parents are very old-fashioned, they don‘t understand anything, they are very backward. Parents ask me what they should do, their children are turning a deaf ear. As a clinical psychologist, I find myself conflicted. On one hand, young people shouldn‘t listen to their parents sometimes. They need to be rebellious because they have to learn to be independent. But these parents are coming from a traditional community perspective, which expects children to always obey their parents. So what I look for a phrase in the Koran that might fit …
But the Koran does not tell young people to become independent from their parents.
That’s true, but I pick phrases that express a potential for compromise. Phrases saying that parents should respect their children. Because if you are supposed to respect your child at least you should listen to what she or he is saying and thinking. So that‘s the conversation I have with parents or teachers and this dialogue is very important. Dialogue helps to calm things down. We should listen to what our children want to say. Culture can be very rigid on this point, but the Koran is not. The holy book is more flexible, which is why it can be so helpful.
But there could still be conflicting views between psychology and the Koran.
Culture is always stronger. I learnt that the hard way. As a young psychologist I had a few Arabic patients. One of them was a woman who lived together with her mother-in-law, which happens a lot and the latter made the life of the younger woman very difficult. So I asked my patient, why do you listen to her at all? I tried to encourage her to be independent, but that created a lot of problems within the family and just made things worse. So I have learnt to respect culture and not to go against it – in the end, you only do more damage than good.
I personally am in favour of independence, but I try to occupy the middle ground. The Koran says you should respect one another. I try to soften my own attitudes and if I succeed by 10, 20 or 30 percent that‘s a lot. I am not about to try and convert people to Western culture.
Interview conducted by Claudia Mende
© Qantara.de 2020
Ofer Grosbard, born in Israel in 1954, comes from a German-Lithuanian Jewish family. He is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst and author of several books, including "Israel on the Couch" (2001) and "Licence for Insanity" (2003). Grosbard lives in Haifa.