Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Muslim Physicians on the Front Line of National Health Care Battle

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

MASNET (July 29, 2009) – The titanic political struggle that continues today in the 110th U.S. Congress, emerging from the resounding challenge to the medical status quo in America made by President Barack Obama through his call (VIDEO) for health care reform in the United States, resonates across the nation as negotiations continue in an attempt to make a final push to rescue a deal before adjourning for the August recess. In the balance: America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200), legislation proposed July 14, 2009, intended to provide quality health care for uninsured Americans, while slowing the rise of insurance premiums and health care costs which, if left unchecked, could cripple the national economy.

On the Republican side of the debate, most officials and operatives are claiming that the proposed reforms are "too costly and too big", and that they are the harbingers of that anathema to the U.S. system otherwise known as "socialized" health care.

Not to be left out of the debate, Muslim physicians and allied health care professionals have staked their own claim in this critical national discourse.

Earlier this month, the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) of Illinois, hosted an important briefing at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. on some of the perspectives that Muslim medical care providers have on the issue of health care reform.

IMANA Executive Director, Rasheed Ahmed, Ms. Karen Davenport, Director of Health Policy at the Center for American Progress, Dr. Khalid Quzi and Dr. Khalique Zahir, made presentations offering insight into the significant size and impact that Muslim medical professionals have within the national health care system.

Of the 800,000 medical doctors in America, for example, more than 60,000 are Muslim.

These Muslim physicians contribute in excess of $40 billion in health care services to the national economy.

Additionally, some 25 to 30 percent of physicians who received their medical degrees from foreign institutions are Muslim.

But more than the monetary value of Muslim generated health care services, there is the importance of Islamic values as they relate to health care policies in America.

IMANA, more than a mere professional association, is deeply committed to the idea that health care is a human right, and that the best available technology and most advanced care should be available to every person, regardless of their financial circumstances, medical insurance status, or ability to pay.

Individual IMANA physicians already contribute generous amounts of free medical care for indigent patients, including expensive and complicated surgeries for poor or uninsured patients.

Moreover, IMANA physicians provide services and staff numerous clinics throughout the United States, including the UMMAH clinic in Los Angeles, acclaimed by our very own U.S. Congress.

MAS Freedom, through its 12-Point 2008-2012 Legislative Agenda (Point III), has endorsed the movement for comprehensive national health care reform, including the need to provide medical insurance for the more than 47 million people in America who have no health insurance at all.

As the political debate about health care reform intensifies, and as the enormous quantity of health care proposals and counter-proposals are sifted through, one thing is for certain: Muslim professionals in the health care arena will remain true to the prophetic calling for compassion and mercy, not only for the fortunate Americans who can afford quality medical care, but for every human being in this nation.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ethnic Tensions in China Turn Bloody as Uighurs and Han Chinese Clash in Western China

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

Most of the world is aware of the tension in China over the occupation, and some might say, oppression of the Buddhist majority of Tibet by the majority Han people who rule the People's Republic. Since 1950, untold numbers of monasteries and other Tibetan cultural institutions have been destroyed, while the massive resettlement of ethnic Han Chinese in Tibet has altered the cultural landscape of the region perhaps for all time.

Now we are witnessing yet another spasm of ethnic/racial violence in the world's most populous nation; but this time the killing involves people of the Uighur nationality, made up of roughly 20 million Chinese Muslims.

To date, news reports indicate numerous clashes in the streets of the city of Urumqi in China's western Xingiang province, with more than 150 persons – likely far more - killed and scores seriously injured.

After an incident in which two Uighurs were killed in a factory fight, Uighurs began attacking Han people on the streets, which led to the retaliation of local Han residents along with a crackdown on local news reporting, internet and Twitter access in the region.

There are also reports of systematic Han reprisals against Uighur Muslims who seek to pray, or to fast during the upcoming month of Ramadan.

But the deeper underlying conflicts are not widely known. The Uighur population of China, like the people of Tibet, has been dealing with attempts by the central Chinese government to vigorously oppose the free practice of Islam, and to enforce the secularization of the Uighur society, including the imposition of Communist/atheist education in local schools. Moreover, the Uighur people, like the Tibetans, have witnessed the displacement of vast areas of their pastoral lands by energy and industrial operations. Like in Tibet, ethnic Han people have also been massively settled by the government into the region.

This spasm of mass killing should force us to confront some central questions: do all Chinese ethnic groups have equal access to the Chinese economic miracle. Is freedom of religion a right for Chinese citizens who belong to religious minorities? And are there any mechanisms in place to deal with the frustrations of the Uighurs (and others) who are regarded as marginalized within the larger society.

Certainly, mob violence – regardless of who instigates it or suffers from it – cannot be a way forward for Chinese Muslims or Chinese of any description.

The killing must stop immediately, for the sake of all human beings.

We should morn the deaths and injuries resulting from this latest wave of violent attacks. But the Muslim population of Xinjiang, from all indications, has numerous legitimate grievances that can only be addressed by negotiation with the Chinese national government. And the world is waiting to see if such possibilities exist, or if mechanisms for settling the disputes might be operative.

Muslim Uighurs, like Buddhists in Tibet, should enjoy the full human rights afforded to all citizens of their nation. These rights include the freedom of worship and cultural expression. They are conveyed upon human beings by our creator, and they must never be arbitrarily abolished or truncated by the powers of a state.

The majority Han government may be a powerful one, but Muslims should be prepared to voice their concern for the freedoms of our brothers and sisters in faith, and indeed, the human rights of all the citizens of China.

If the world cares about the situation in Tibet – as we should – we must also care about the sad plight of religious Muslims in China.