Thursday, 17 September 2020

Muslim Medics Taunted About Bacon And Alcohol – By Their Own NHS Colleagues

 Being “visibly Muslim”, such as wearing a hijab or having a long beard, made it more likely for Muslim NHS workers to face Islamophobia. One woman said she stopped wearing the hijab as it was “like wearing a sign saying ‘kick me’.”

Meanwhile, alcohol – forbidden in Islam – has been described as a “social glue” in the NHS, with many Muslims believing they have missed out on career and bonding opportunities because socialising outside work revolves around drink.

And while there are many incidents of outright bullying and harassment, it is the subtle, more difficult to prove Islamophobia within the NHS that is the “most dangerous discrimination”, say Muslim healthcare workers.

A staggering 43% admitted they had considered leaving the NHS because of Islamophobia.

Our survey conducted in conjunction with BIMA had 133 respondents from all over the country working in various NHS roles including consultants, surgeons, GPs, pharmacists and medical students.

One Muslim NHS worker said: “I think Islamophobia has increased in society at large and this is reflected in the NHS.”

Dr Salman Waqar, general secretary at BIMA, told HuffPost UK: “It reflects a wider societal unease about religion and the way spirituality and belief is seen as a problem.

“Some Muslims will not make a fuss because of fear of retribution. But making small compromises causes turbulence and unease internally.

“This creates a sense of not belonging for Muslims in the NHS and biological weathering. They feel they have to put on their uniform, turn up for work and justify their existence to colleagues.”

Dr Hina J Shahid, chair of the Muslim Doctors Association, said: “We see people celebrating diversity in all its forms in the NHS – but people generally don’t want to talk about religion. It is like a taboo subject.

“Belonging to a religious group is almost seen as going against the scientific nature of being a doctor.”

“In the NHS, you realise there’s something about the hijab that really riles people,” says Kiran Rahim, a paediatric registrar in London. “People make assumptions about you. When people first see me, they presume I don’t speak English, or I have an accent.”

She says judgements are made about women in hijabs and she is asked questions by colleagues like: “Does your husband make you wear that?” and “Do you wear your hijab when you shower?”

“I would expect people I work with to be more clued up. I am as British as they come, but my religion is part of my identity.”

Muslim women told HuffPost UK they were often perceived to be less educated due to wearing headscarves, and received backhanded compliments such as surprise at how well they spoke English – even when they were born and raised in the UK.

Zineb Mehbali, 32, a registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology, believes a culture exists within the NHS where people are discriminated against for being different.

She wears a hijab and experienced overt Islamophobia at one hospital when her locker was vandalised and had the word “hijab” scrawled across it.

“I’m quite resilient, but there have been situations where I’ve cried at work,” she said. “When my locker was vandalised for being Muslim, it made me feel vulnerable but also very hurt as I knew a colleague had done that.”


Tuesday, 15 September 2020

India: How a Muslim doctor was incarcerated for raising his voice

Dr Kafeel Khan told Al Jazeera he was physically tortured while in captivity, which included him being stripped of his clothes and beaten and deprived of food for days.

"It was very hard for the whole family. My 65-year-old mother was forced to visit the courts during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic," he said.

Dr Khan was arrested in January for a speech made a month earlier that authorities in Uttar Pradesh (UP), governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), deemed incendiary. He was later charged under the National Security Act (NSA), which stipulates that a person can be held without charge for a year.

His speech focused on major issues facing the country of 1.4 billion people such as malnutrition, lack of health facilities and unemployment crisis.

They really wanted to break me this time.

But Khan's criticism of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which bans Muslims from neighbouring South Asian countries from gaining Indian nationality, seemed to have earned him the government's ire.

The passing of the law in December sparked nationwide protests led mostly by Muslims - India’s largest minority, numbering nearly 200 million.

Yogi Adityanath, who is UP's chief minister and known for his anti-Muslim statements, ordered a crackdown against anti-CAA protests in the northern state. More than two dozens Muslims were killed in police action that was condemned by Amnesty International India.

"Who will speak up in this time of atrocities, if we are also quiet, who will raise their voice?" Khan had said during the speech in front of students of Aligarh Muslim University, located around 125km from the capital, New Delhi.

Critics and family members say the 38-year-old paediatrician was targeted because he chose to speak up against the law, which the United Nations dubbed "fundamentally discriminatory".

The UP police department in its complaint accused Dr Khan of "sowing seeds of discord towards other religious communities".
But the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday disagreed with the police, saying "a complete reading of the speech also nowhere threatens peace and tranquility of the city of Aligarh [located in UP]".

Dr Khan is rising as a prominent Muslim face in India, which the government doesn't want ... they don't want an educated Muslim person raising his voice, about their rights or equality.

"The address gives a call for national integrity and unity among the citizens. The speech also deprecates any kind of violence," the 42-page judgement read as it ordered the immediate release of Khan.

Dr Khan said that after he was slapped with the NSA, his family became "untouchable" as people avoided contact with them in their home city of Gorakhpur in UP. "Lawyers would not take my case," he said.

His activism has also brought troubles to his family. His brother Adeel Khan said his business has been targeted since Kafeel Khan was arrested in 2017. Another brother survived a gun attack.

The 38-year-old doctor's release on Tuesday ends his third stint in prison [Courtesy family of Dr Kafeel Khan]
Harjit Singh Bhatti, a doctor based in New Delhi, has been one of Khan's most vocal supporters. He said that Khan has been presumably targeted because of his religion.

"Dr Khan is rising as a prominent Muslim face in India, which the government doesn't want ... they don't want an educated Muslim person raising his voice, about their rights or equality," Bhatti told Al Jazeera.

Dr Khan has spent nearly 500 days in prison in the last three years, as his case has become a symbol of state repression on dissent.

And he is not the only one. Several activists behind the peaceful anti-CAA protests are still behind bars for opposing the government's alleged anti-minority policies.

The address gives a call for national integrity and unity among the citizens.

Rights groups have condemned their continued incarceration as the coronavirus virus pandemic poses a threat to their life in India's crowded prisons. On Monday, India overtook Brazil to become the second-worst country hit by COVID-19 with over 4.2 million cases.

The 38-year-old doctor's release on Tuesday ends his third stint in prison.

His ordeal with the BJP-led UP government began in September 2017, when he was arrested in the wake of the deaths of 70 children due to lack of oxygen supply at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur, Khan's hometown.

Then a junior doctor in the paediatrics department, Dr Khan was hailed as a hero for securing a supply of oxygen tanks for the hospital ward from his personal money.

However, according to Dr Khan, the incident did not go down well, with Adityanath chastising Khan for his efforts upon meeting him days after the incident.

Khan was arrested with eight others for the deaths of the minors, and jailed for seven months.

He was arrested again a year later for 45 days, after authorities claimed he had barged into a hospital in the Bahraich district in UP, leading to an alleged ruckus.

The doctor claims he went to the hospital to enquire about the deaths of children at the hospital from encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Thousands of children have died in Uttar Pradesh and in neighbouring Bihar state due to episodic outbreaks of encephalitis since the 1970s.

In 2018, an investigating team looking into the BRD hospital tragedy exonerated the paediatrician of any criminal wrongdoing. Khan has sought an apology from the Adityanath-led government and the reinstatement of his job.

But instead, the government ordered another inquiry into the children's death case.

Dr Bhatti, who is also the President of Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum, said Khan has been made a "scapegoat".

"Khan has been continuously made a scapegoat for the BRD tragedy, despite being a junior doctor at the hospital," Bhatti told Al Jazeera.

Bhatti has been an outspoken critic of the Modi government's coronavirus pandemic policy, as the country has emerged as the epicentre of the virus in Asia.

Khan, who has moved to western Rajasthan state since his release, says he feared for his life inside the jail. "For the first four to five days of my incarceration, I did not receive any food. I wore the same clothes ... I was not able to take a bath or brush my teeth."

"To go to the toilet there was a queue of 30 minutes," he said, adding that he had to share the barrack with some 150 people while it actually had the capacity to hold 40.

"They really wanted to break me this time," he told Al Jazeera.

The paediatrician said at times he would bite on his sleeves to distract himself from the excruciating hunger he experienced. "I was in so much pain I could have eaten grass," he said.

He said that jail authorities asked him to stop talking about the BRD hospital tragedy, and also demanded that he stop criticising CAA and a proposed citizenship register, which critics fear will likely be used to disenfranchise Muslims.

Despite the immense hardships, Khan revealed that his fellow prisoners, who were aware of his heroics during the BRD episode, would help him with food and other requests during his incarceration.

Khan has temporarily moved to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan state, where he has been reunited with his family, including his two children, wife and brother.

He said his most pressing concern is to demand the UP government revoke his suspension from his previous post at the BRD hospital so that he could resume his work.

"For the past three years," he said, "I have written 25 letters to the UP government to either revoke my suspension or terminate me, so that I can go work somewhere else."


Tuesday, 8 September 2020

With mosques closed during the pandemic, Muslim converts navigate their new spiritual path online

Sitting at his dining room table, Artemis Rivera said the words “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” in Arabic as he recited the Islamic profession of faith known as the shahada on a Zoom call during his mosque’s online Friday service. He felt a sense of peace, he said, as he became a Muslim in front of the virtual congregation.

Taking the shahada and converting last April, as the coronavirus pandemic began to spread quickly, was the right time for the 25-year-old from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“Everyone around us is, like, dying, so you want to make sure that you have faith settled, like with God before anything were to happen,” Rivera said. “There’s that feeling of, like, ‘Hey, I need to make sure that this [converting] is actually happening.’ ”

Conversion in Islam is a simple process in which a person says the testimony of faith with witnesses present. It’s typically done at a mosque in front of a large gathering, with hugs and well wishes from the congregation afterward.

But with mosques closed and people practicing social distancing, recent and longtime converts are embracing a new normal, doing virtual conversions and finding Muslim communities online to help them navigate their spiritual path.

Giving shahadas online has been rare in the past. Imam Omar Suleiman, founder and director of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, has done them pre-pandemic for converts in remote locations or for those who fear their families finding out about their conversion.

In-person shahadas are preferred because the ceremony is attended by Muslims who can help converts stay connected and get support from the community. Without sufficient support, converts sometimes drop off or disappear from the community.

“Coming to the masjid [mosque] to take shahada is part of entering into the community and has a ceremonial element to it, with the people celebrating with takbir [praise] and hugs,” Suleiman said. “I would worry that if online shahadas become the norm, [converts] will even more easily disappear. So, like with other rituals, it’s suboptimal but better than nothing.”

Online services have mostly been used for national Islamic organizations to connect with Muslims nationwide. Since the pandemic began, those programs have expanded, and local mosques have started streaming their services.

Spiritual services are important for Muslims in general but sometimes more so for converts who did not grow up with Islamic practices and rely on community guidance. The increase in online resources has helped them further their connection to Allah and the Muslim community.

Converts often refer to themselves as “reverts,” believing that people are born Muslim, but eventually make their way back to Islam when they take their shahada.

Rivera started his journey back to Islam in 2017 when he took a history of theology class in college. He read the Koran for the first time in that class and said he felt an “all-over kind of peace” in his soul.

“I knew I was, like, on the right path and heading in the right direction and doing what I was supposed to be doing,” Rivera said.

Rivera, who identifies as queer, visited his local mosque a few times before the pandemic but found it to be “a very gendered and inaccessible space.” He found Masjid al-Rabia, a Chicago queer-oriented mosque, on Twitter earlier this year when he was searching for fellow queer Muslims to follow.

But because Rivera lives in Iowa, he had no way to attend services at the mosque until it made streaming available at the beginning of the year. The day he said his shahada was his first time attending the mosque’s online service.

“I love that Masjid al-Rabia centers both on queer and disabled Muslims in the services they provide,” Rivera said.

The Yaqeen Institute saw an increase in conversions this year as the spiritual presence online grew with the increase of resources and viewership, Suleiman said.

About 22 people converted via Zoom with the institute since the beginning of the pandemic. About 10 converted during Ramadan, which was observed this year from April 23 to May 23, compared to previous years when about two or three converted at his local mosque.

“You have a lot of people that otherwise would have maybe gone to a local masjid and ask some questions that were just sort of online and ended up being a part of that online community,” Suleiman said. “And so it kind of became a trend where someone says I’ve been following along and I wanted to convert to Islam as well.”

Jordan Pearson, who lives in Boston, is one of the 22 who converted with the Yaqeen Institute. He had planned to take his shahada at his local mosque, but it was closed because of the pandemic. Instead, he opted to say his shahada online.

The 26-year-old grew up in a Christian household and had a lot of questions about faith and religion in general. He was introduced to Islam when he moved from South Carolina to Boston in 2018 and met a friend who answered those questions.

He was inspired to research and learn more about the religion when his friend mentioned prominent Black Muslims such as Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and Mansa Musa, a 14th-century West African ruler thought to be the wealthiest person of all time. He decided to convert during Black History Month after he saw a video from the Yaqeen Institute.

As he sat in his bedroom, he took his shahada with Suleiman and his friend over Zoom in May.

“They embraced me, and it was amazing,” Pearson said. “It was kind of surreal for a couple of days that I'm Muslim.”

Yusef Brebner converted last September in a traditional ceremony at his local mosque after having long conversations with the imam there.

The 16-year-old from Durham, N.C., skipped school to take his shahada during Friday prayers in front of 80 or so people at the mosque. Afterward, he was welcomed with hugs and congratulations from “uncles at the masjid,” which he said made it all “really affirming and validating.”

But with the mosque now closed because of the pandemic, he has been able to stay connected to fellow Muslims through online services and study groups.

The Muslim community can be a “found family,” as Brebner puts it, for converts who may not have the support of their relatives. Brebner has his immediate family’s support but knows not everyone does.

During his first Ramadan, Brebner got involved with an online group in which he was able to finish reading the Koran and attended Zoom calls where they discussed the different chapters. He was even able to witness a Zoom conversion and virtually be there for a fellow convert.

“I’d say that was definitely the best part of Ramadan, that I was able to connect virtually with a Muslim community that I was not necessarily able to if it had not been for the pandemic,” Brebner said.


Thursday, 3 September 2020

Hadith: Do not seek faults

Abu Barzah al-Aslami reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “O you who have faith with their tongues but faith has not entered their hearts! Do not backbite the Muslims or seek their faults. Whoever seeks their faults, Allah will seek his faults. And if Allah seeks his faults, He will expose him even in the privacy of his own house.”

Source: Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4880

Mu’awiyah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, if you seek out the faults of people, you will corrupt them or nearly corrupt them.”

Source: Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4888