Medical students: getting picky with the facts

Muslim medical students get picky - Times Online

This is an attempt to incite hostility to Muslims, based on the reported actions of a handful of ill-advised Muslim medical students. By the way, read this regarding the Abul Taher character who co-wrote this article.

It alleges that some Muslim medical students are refusing to examine patients of the opposite sex, or to treat sexually-transmitted or alcohol-induced illnesses, on the grounds that it conflicts with Islam. The fact is that thousands of Muslims pass through medical school every year, and only a handful have objected to treating patients of the opposite sex. This article bases its findings on the word of one female GP who knew somebody who took this line when she was at medical school (several years ago, before her several years in house officer training). One of the brothers on DeenPort noted that in all the time he spent at medical school, he never saw a single such incident.

The article raises the “issue” of Muslims seeking, or even getting, exemptions from parts of their work which conflict with Islam, such as handling alcohol when working for Sainsbury’s. Never mind the fact that this, like the business with the medical students, has happened in a tiny number of cases, or the fact that there is an impending take-over bid for Sainsbury’s coming from Qatar. What a company allows its employees to do, of course, is entirely their business and the employees’, much as is the case when a company offers a service to its customers. It’s not a scandal unless it is illegal or unfair.

However, the issue of Muslims refusing to sell the pill is not new, and is not confined to Muslims - there have been numerous incidents, particularly in the United States, of religious people refusing to sell the contraceptive or morning-after pill, usually on the grounds that they are abortifacients rather than contraceptives. I’ve seen this position in books explaining Catholicism in a British bookshop - a “for dummies” type book - and if the Times wanted to produced a balanced report, they might have investigated whether the Catholic church maintains this position here. It is, however, not the unanimous view of Islamic scholars, as I understand it, that these pills are unlawful, given the very early stage at which the fertilised egg - not even an embryo - is expelled from the body.

The Times makes a pretence of balance by interviewing Muslims who oppose these students’ actions, and it’s true that male doctors do need to know how to treat women, because a man might end up as the only doctor for miles, male or female, and the human race being what it is (unless he ends up somewhere like Mount Athos), there are likely to be women. Even in many developed countries, a woman cannot be guaranteed a female obstetrician or gynaecologist. These students need to be persuaded that what every other Muslim medical student does is permissible, although if he or she is sold on one obscure scholar, it might not be possible. However, the fact remains that this is a tiny minority, and the headline - “Muslim medical students get picky” - is inflammatory and dishonest.

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