Half of Muslim doctors in US feel discrimination: National survey

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American Muslims, even those in one the most highly regarded professions in the US, encounter a less-than-inclusive and welcoming work environment during their career, a national survey has revealed.

The survey that comprised 255 US Muslim physicians found that nearly half of the respondents felt greater scrutiny at work compared to their peers.

Nearly one in four said workplace religious discrimination had taken place sometimes — or more — often during their career.

The same percentage of Muslim physicians believe they have been passed over for career advancement owing to their religion.

The likelihood of religious discrimination over one’s career was greater among the respondents who consider their religion to be a very important part of their lives, said the study funded by the John Templeton Foundation and conducted at the University of Chicago.

“This national survey of American Muslim physicians provides some encouraging findings regarding the extent to which Muslim religious identity attracts negative workplace experiences, but also some findings that merit concern,” explained study author Aasim Padela, director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine at the University of Chicago.

“It is further evidence that the acknowledgment of the religious identity of one’s co-workers should be an added focus within workforce diversity efforts that today focus primarily on reducing discrimination directed at racial, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation identities,” Padela added.

American Muslims from diverse backgrounds make up about five percent of US physicians.

Recent reports, including a Pew Research Centre survey and a Zogby national poll, found Muslims to be the most negatively viewed religious group in the US.

The findings suggest that data-driven programmes are needed to eliminate religion-directed discrimination in the health care workplace.

“Achieving an inclusive and diverse workforce requires policies that cultivate respect and accommodation for the religious identity of physicians of minority religions,” Padela noted.

American Muslim doctors provide a valued service to this country.

“If they can’t feel comfortable being who they are in their workplace, we may marginalise them to practice medicine in some locales and not others, and also may create a ceiling on their upward career trajectory or even limit their openness about their identity,” the authors emphasised.

Notably, the study found that neither indications of religious practice (such as a more frequent habit of performing ritual prayer) nor religious appearance (such as wearing a beard or hijab — a headscarf worn by some Muslim women) was associated with perceived religious discrimination at the health care workplace.

“When these things happen, these accomplished, respected members of our society lose some of their ability to serve as positive role models in their own religious communities and more broadly within American society,” Padela stressed.

“We restrict their ability to ultimately counter negative stereotypes and create a positive narrative of Muslims in the US,” added the author, who has received the Ibn Sina Award from the Compassionate Care Network of Chicago for his contributions to the field of Islamic medical ethics.

The study was published in the journal AJOB Empirical Bioethics.

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