In our August Wellbeing Wednesday cafe, we had the privilege of hosting two inspiring speakers. The first was Dr Ahmed Hankir, an award winning psychiatrist, survivor of conflict and mental illness, performing artist and campaigner. The second was our own Dr Batool Abdulkareem, a GP who found herself at the receiving end of discriminatory dress code policies in the NHS, and went on to set up MDA’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion subcommittee and co-founded the NHS Religion Equality Advisory Group. Both shared their personal stories of overcoming trauma and using their experiences and insights to propel positive social change, inspired by Islamic values of integrity, justice and compassion.
We heard personal stories of overcoming trauma and how difficult experiences and insights were used to propel positive social change, inspired by their Islamic values of integrity, justice and compassion
We discussed Islamophobia as a deeply entrenched, systemic, pervasive and insidious form of oppression which creates intergenerational trauma and cycles of disadvantage and marginalisation. This is demonstrated by poorer outcomes in health, education, employment and over-representation in the prison and social housing system among Muslims in the UK, resulting in unequal access to the social determinants of mental health. Islamophobic hate crime continues to increases year on year, but there is evidence that everyday micro-aggressions may have a more detrimental impact on long term mental health.
We know that Muslims face the highest religious discrimination in the NHS and Muslim, ethnic minority and female workers face a Triple Penalty. We heard from our speakers how denial and stigma of Islamophobic experiences and stereotypes can lead to psychological distress and unfair discrimination at work with escalated disciplinary actions in similar ways to race-based differential patterns in fitness to practice procedures in the NHS. We also discussed the recent MedAct report which shows that Muslims are eight times more likely than non-Muslims to be referred to Prevent in the NHS (the government’s counter-terrorism programme) and Asians four times more likely than non-Asians, raising concerns about Institutional Islamophobia in the NHS.
So what tips did our speakers give to become active survivors and social change agents?
Seek space and support for self-healing
Be guided by Islamic teachings
Own the narrative and write your own script
Build authentic alliances and action
"The most beloved of deeds to God are those that are most consistent, even if small” ~Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
Dr Hina J Shahid is Chair of the Muslim Doctors Association and a General Practitioner in London. She has an MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Her interest is social epidemiology, trauma and health inequities amongst marginalised communities.