IT is so rare to hear something sensible from a Muslim, that, when we do catch one making sense, we feel obliged to give him or her a hearty pat on the back.
That was our original intention when we heard Dr Abdul Majid Katme use the words “silly and stupid” to describe the following excerpt from today’s You and Yours programme on BBC Radio 4:
Some Muslim medical students last year refused to attend lectures, and answer exam questions about alcohol-related, or sexually transmitted diseases, because they claimed it offended their religious beliefs. One student also allegedly refused to examine women.
(See last year’s Times report here.)
Dr Katme responded that doctors had a duty to deal with all conditions and all patients. He also made the point that among patients suffering these conditions there would also, inevitably, be Muslims.
Then it all went pear-shaped. The name Katme suddenly sounded bells. Alarm bells. Was this the same Katme, an NHS psychiatrist and head of the Muslim Medical Association, who last year urged British Muslims not to vaccinate their children against diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella because they contain substances making them unlawful for Muslims to take?
Indeed it was.
He said almost all vaccines contain un-Islamic “haram” derivatives of animal or human tissue, and that Muslim parents are better off letting childrens’ immune systems develop on their own.
If you breastfeed your child for two years – as the Koran says – and you eat Koranic food like olives and black seed, and you do ablution each time you pray, then you will have a strong defence system.
The Department of Health and the British Medical Association criticised Katme at the time, saying his suggestions were likely to increase infection rates of children in Muslim communities. Other Muslim groups also condemned the suggestion.
At about the same time last year, Katme urged Muslims to join protests against the “unjust” Sexual Orientation Regulations designed to boost gay rights.
Katme made his plea to Muslims in a letter circulated to several hundred supporters and 40 imams, who were expected to publicise the issue during Friday prayers. Urging Muslims to “join our Christian friends in their campaign against the new proposed law on sexual orientation”, he trumpeted:
It is against our religious rights and against our human rights and against our conscience and religious beliefs to have this new unjust law forced on all of us British Muslims.
So, the pat on the back is rescinded, and replaced with a well-aimed kick up the arse.
We now switch our congratulations to another member of today’s You and Yours panel – LibDem MP Dr Evan Harris, an honorary associate of the National Secular Society – who gamely stood up to a tidal wave of tosh spouted by Peter Saunders, general secretary of the Christian Medical Fellowship:
There is a lot of literature linking faith with good health. People who have religious faith live longer lives with less illness, and enjoy better physical and mental health. They have less divorce, less suicide, less alcohol and substance abuse – this is very well documented.
All Harris could get in, before being interrupted, was:
I don’t think that’s true …
Indeed, it is completely untrue, as this 2005 report from The Times indicates.
In a programme examining how the religious beliefs of doctors might impact negatively on their patients, Saunders also claimed that a whopping 83 percent of patients in the UK “desire spiritual guidance from their doctors.”
Harris had more luck here:
I do not think it can be allowed to be said that there is ANY role for a doctor to provide spiritual guidance. A doctor can say to a patient, by all means, go and see your priest, because that’s the job of a priest … but as soon as doctors go down that path [of providing spiritual guidance] they will be at real risk of breaching new General Medical Council guidelines.
The new guidelines were drawn up in response to the growing number of doctors asking the GMC for ethical guidance on how they should treat patients. The new guidelines say that doctors must be open with patients about any ethical objections they have which might influence the way they will treat them.