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December 14, 2015

Many Muslim doctors say they face frequent workplace discrimination

Daily Briefing

Nearly a quarter of Muslim physicians in the United States say they have experienced frequent religious discrimination during their careers, according to a first-of-its-kind study, Lena Sun reports for Washington Post's "To Your Health."

For the study, published in AJOB Empirical Bioethics, researchers mailed a survey to 626 randomly selected members of the Islamic Medical Association of North America, about 40% of whom responded. The study was conducted during 2013 and 2014.

Most respondents were male, South Asian, and adult immigrants to the United States. About 90% described Islam as either the most important or a very important part of their life and about 60% said they prayed five times a day.

According to the survey:

  • 24% had experienced frequent religious discrimination during their careers;
  • 14% currently experienced religious discrimination at work; and
  • Nearly 10% said patients had refused their care because they were Muslim.

The study also found that more religious Muslim physicians were more likely to report discrimination. Sixteen respondents said they had left a job because of religious discrimination.

A worrying trend

"If Muslim physicians feel uncomfortable in the profession because their identity attracts negative experience, then the profession no longer offers a means to live out their faith in service to the profession," Aasim Padela, an emergency medicine doctor at the University of Chicago who led the study, tells "To Your Health."

Padela says he has faced discrimination himself, and that "a couple of times" patients told his supervisors they did not "want to be taken care of by a terrorist."

Some Muslim doctors say the recent terrorist attack by a Muslim couple in California and statements from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump—who called for a ban on all Muslim immigration last week—have led to more tension in the workplace.

Hospitals treat victims after mass shooting at health department party

Faisal Qazi, a Muslim California neurologist, began raising money for survivors of the San Bernardino shooting after he learned some of the victims were his neighbors. According to Qazi, a surgeon heard about the effort and confronted him, telling Qazi that "we should get rid of all the Muslims" (Sun, "To Your Health," Washington Post, 12/11).

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