Saturday, March 6, 2010

Just how incompatible is Islam with Western culture?

Standard sanitary procedures in every medical facility in the United States and elsewhere in every civilized culture in the world, calls for doctors to scrub up before performing any surgery. We have all witnessed this in countless medical dramas. But what happens when this very procedure is deemed a violation of someone's religion? How asinine can someone be to claim that female medical students who happen to be Muslims find it "immodest" to expose their arms for cleaning? Read what has been reported in the following two stories from Great Britain in the London Telegraph.
Muslim medical students are refusing to obey hygiene rules brought in to stop the spread of deadly superbugs, because they say it is against their religion.

Women training in several hospitals in England have raised objections to removing their arm coverings in theatre and to rolling up their sleeves when washing their hands, because it is regarded as immodest in Islam.

Universities and NHS trusts fear many more will refuse to co-operate with new Department of Health guidance, introduced this month, which stipulates that all doctors must be "bare below the elbow".
The measure is deemed necessary to stop the spread of infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile, which have killed hundreds.

Minutes of a clinical academics' meeting at Liverpool University revealed that female Muslim students at Alder Hey children's hospital had objected to rolling up their sleeves to wear gowns.

Similar concerns have been raised at Leicester University. Minutes from a medical school committee said that "a number of Muslim females had difficulty in complying with the procedures to roll up sleeves to the elbow for appropriate handwashing".

Sheffield University also reported a case of a Muslim medic who refused to "scrub" as this left her forearms exposed.

Documents from Birmingham University reveal that some students would prefer to quit the course rather than expose their arms, and warn that it could leave trusts open to legal action.

Hygiene experts said last night that no exceptions should be made on religious grounds.

Dr Mark Enright, professor of microbiology at Imperial College London, said: "To wash your hands properly, and reduce the risks of MRSA and C.difficile, you have to be able to wash the whole area around the wrist.

"I don't think it would be right to make an exemption for people on any grounds. The policy of bare below the elbows has to be applied universally."

Dr Charles Tannock, a Conservative MEP and former hospital consultant, said: "These students are being trained using taxpayers' money and they have a duty of care to their patients not to put their health at risk.

"Perhaps these women should not be choosing medicine as a career if they feel unable to abide by the guidelines that everyone else has to follow."

But the Islamic Medical Association insisted that covering all the body in public, except the face and hands, was a basic tenet of Islam.

"No practising Muslim woman - doctor, medical student, nurse or patient - should be forced to bare her arms below the elbow," it said.

Dr Majid Katme, the association spokesman, said: "Exposed arms can pick up germs and there is a lot of evidence to suggest skin is safer to the patient if covered. One idea might be to produce long, sterile, disposable gloves which go up to the elbows."
Muslim radiographer loses job after refusing to bare her arms

A Muslim woman was forced out of her job at a hospital after refusing to bare her arms in order to comply with new hygiene rules.

The radiographer was told by managers at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading that she must either follow the national dress code designed to combat superbugs and roll her sleeves up, or leave.
She refused to abide by the rules and left her job, claiming she was discriminated against and forced to choose between her religious beliefs and her livelihood. Islam teaches that women should dress modestly and cover their bodies while in public.
The woman, who has worked as a therapeutic radiographer for 10 years, has described her situation as a "continuous nightmare" and says she has been "emotionally torn about" over losing her job.
She said that she fears she may not be able to get another job, but has vowed to campaign against the NHS's "bare below the elbows" policy.
The woman, who did not want to be identified, said she wants to "prevent the policy from being universally applied, so other Muslim women do not experience the same trauma."
Amid growing concern about the number of patients catching superbugs such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile while in hospital, the NHS introduced a new dress code for staff in January that was designed to prevent them transmitting bacteria.
The rules require all doctors and nurses who come into contact with patients to have their arms bare below the elbows, by wearing short-sleeved clothes or rolling up their sleeves. Jewellery, watches and false nails were also banned to reduce the risk of infection by staff.
However the policy was criticised by some Muslim doctors and medical students for going against the teachings of the Qu'ran on dress.
In the latest case, the radiographer was employed by an agency to work at the Royal Berkshire on June 16 this year and was told about the dress code.
The hospital claims she initially complied with it and said it was "surprised" when weeks later she told managers that she could not abide by with the rules.
After a meeting with her bosses on August 1 she was given an ultimatum and chose to leave her post.
Clare Edmondson, Director of Human Resources for the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: "When she voiced her objection, she accepted the opportunity to meet with the Trust Chaplain and we also offered her the opportunity to meet with an Imam to discuss her concerns, but this was declined.
"The Trust Chaplain and Imam both stand behind our 'bare below the elbows policy' and support the Trust in this instance, they do not cite any diversity issue and agree that the policy is an acceptable professional requirement for everyone who works for the Trust in clinical areas."
Dr Majid Katme, spokesman for the Islamic Medical Association, said: "Any practising Muslim woman should have the right to cover her arms, as long as her job doesn't jeopardise the care of the patient.
"What's the harm in somebody in her position covering their arms, as people in radiography have done for some time?"

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