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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: A new report details the shocking extent of Islamophobia and marginalization faced by Muslim members of staff in the UK’s National Health Service.
A survey of dozens of Muslim healthcare workers, conducted jointly by the Muslim Doctors Association and campaign group The Grey Area, found evidence “of discrimination, racism and Islamophobia” in the nation’s cherished public healthcare system.
According the report, which was published this week, “Muslim HCPs (Healthcare Professionals) experience bias at work from both colleagues and patients.” It added that almost four in 10 workers had experienced verbal abuse about their faith from colleagues.
In addition, “the majority of Muslim HCPs have experienced othering and stereotype threat associated with identity concealment and inability to bring their full selves to work,” the report said, and “two-thirds do not feel comfortable raising concerns at work.”
Aside from outright abuse, Muslims also face softer barriers to advancement in their NHS careers, the researchers found.
“Almost nine in 10 Muslim HCPs do not know Muslims in leadership and management positions and over two-thirds can not identify role models whom they can relate to and give them confidence in career progression,” according to the report. “Almost half have reported they have had thoughts of leaving their profession,” it added.
One anonymous survey respondent said: “I had zero days sick leave in three years. I took one day sick and I got a call from a colleague saying people, including my boss, were talking about me behind my back that I was faking it. I went back to work the next day despite not being ready.”
Another said that they “heard directly from patients that I am not to be trusted as I am a Muslim.”
The report includes a series of recommendations on how the NHS could improve its policies to better accommodate Muslim staff and stamp out Islamophobia within the sprawling organization.
It encourages hospitals and other healthcare facilities to appoint more Muslims to senior positions to ensure proper representation, and to create an “Islamophobia zero-tolerance policy.”
The report said: “The NHS has a zero-tolerance policy to abuse and discrimination and this must be implemented, with perpetrators held accountable. Zero-tolerance policies should also explicitly include Islamophobia. Where Muslim colleagues report incidents of Islamophobia, these must be taken seriously, with safe psychological passages for raising concerns.”
It also called on the NHS to look beyond its own organization to tackle the Islamophobia within it.
“Change is not possible unless the policy environment changes,” the report said. “This requires authentic allies to push their MPs and government to adopt a definition for Islamophobia and to challenge the negative media stereotyping of Muslims, which fuels bias, prejudice and discrimination.”
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