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British Muslim medics face 'shocking Islamophobia' from patients: report

The investigation surveyed more than 100 Muslim medics [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 September, 2020

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More than 100 British Muslim medics surveyed for an investigation into Islamophobia at the NHS said they faced abuse from managers, colleagues and patients.
Muslim frontline medical workers have disclosed Islamophobic abuse they face from patients under their care, senior management and colleagues according to a Huffington Post report.

The NHS workers revealed they were described as terrorists and warned to "go back" to their own country, even though most were born, raised and educated in the UK.

The report surveyed more than 100 Muslim medics in partnership with British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) and exposed institutional and systemic Islamophobia across the NHS, with many accusing senior managers and colleagues of racism and discrimination.

Some 80% of those surveyed said they face abuse from patients, some of which were rejected by patients from carrying out their job.

"I've had patients say they don't want to be treated by me because I am Muslim," graduate paramedic, Madiyah Bandali said, according to the report.

"One patient asked: 'What's Osama Bin Laden's daughter doing here?' after seeing my hijab.

"I get Islamophobic remarks at least once a week. It's worse when something has happened and Islam is in the news.

"People make terrorist comments and tell me: 'Go back to your own country'. Most colleagues stick up for me. The most hurtful thing is when they don't and tell me to grin and bear it," the 21-year-old said.

Meanwhile, hijab-wearing trainee GP, Sabeeta Farooqi said she has been asked unwarranted questions about terrorism and bombings by patients.

"The conversation came out of nowhere and I tried to get him back to his clinical problem and reminded him that’s why he was there," she said. "I avoided his questions as I didn’t want a confrontation."

Kiran Rahim, 34, a paediatric registrar working in London, revealed she was trained to accept such comments.

When subjected to abuse from patients, the medics are taught to say: "I'm sorry you feel that way."

"It was very much a view of: 'The patient is always right'," she said. "But I did not feel comfortable apologising for someone’s Islamophobia.

"As I've become more senior, I have realised NHS staff are not here to be abused. I now simply tell patients I don’t have to stand for their abuse or treat them."

In some cases, the comments are a lot more sinister.

"So many times, I have been told to 'go back to my country' by patients," a 35-year-old male nursing associate said. "Sometimes, they tell me I smell, and I have been called a P*** and terrorist so many times. 

"I was on one ward where a patient passed away and his family came and said: ‘You bloody P***. You killed our dad. Go back to your country.' I hadn't even looked after that patient. I was just on the ward."

Muslims in the UK regularly face anti-Muslim abuse across all aspects of life, in rhetoric that is regularly spewed by the country’s most senior politicians and echoed by right-wing media.

In July, a study on the UK government’s counter-terrorism strategy found that it reinforced negative stereotypes about Muslims and Islam.

The study, published by SOAS University of London in conjunction with universities of Durham, Coventry and Lancaster, said students who supported Prevent were nearly three times more likely to see Islam as intolerant to non-Muslims, compared to those who believed Prevent was damaging university life.

Read also: Dropping the word 'jihadi' won't fix an inherently racist UK police

Forty-three per cent of the 2,000 students surveyed thought that Islam was a religion that discriminated against women.

"It appears that Prevent has become strongly associated with the presumed dangers of radical Islam and with a perception that Muslims are dogmatic, intolerant and prone to violence," Mathew Guest, one of the report's authors, wrote in an op-ed for Open Democracy.

"Our research suggests that universities could do much more to tackle the roots of Islamophobia and ensure that they are not complicit in maintaining racism," Guest said.

"As centres of critical thinking, universities have the capacity and the moral obligation to take a lead in addressing our latest 'acceptable' prejudice."

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