What’s Wrong with the World

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Not ready for civilization--Muslim medicos to be allowed long sleeves in UK

It's been a while since our last entry in the "not ready for civilization" category. (Here and here are the previous two entries.) Actually, a number of posts could have qualified that have not been labeled as such. (This one and this one come to mind.)

Some readers may remember a flap two years ago in the UK when Muslim nurses objected on the grounds of modesty to being required to bare their arms above the elbow to scrub. UK uniform requirements (used to) include uniforms that do not go past the elbows. At first, Britain's NHS stood firm, citing especially concerns about the spreading of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

But, perhaps predictably, they have now caved--at least in crucial part--to Muslim demands. In fact, it was so predictable that I came close to predicting it, here.

Muslims are to be allowed to wear long sleeves as long as they "roll them securely above the elbows to wash." That'll be a trick. I can't help wondering, though: Since this isn't a complete cave-in (earlier reports stated that female Muslim medics did not want to roll their sleeves up above the elbows even to scrub), will even this scrub requirement be enforced?

According to the new guidelines, after washing their hands and forearms, Muslims are going to be permitted when dealing with patients to cover the forearms back up with unwashed sleeves. For dealing with patients, they are expected to wear disposable over sleeves to maintain hygiene. That's nice. Just cover up the bacteria on your sleeves and we'll hope that'll do it, okay?

Here's a nice bureaucratic statement on the subject:

A Department of Health spokesman said: 'The overall purpose of the guidance, to ensure patient safety by adherence to good hand hygiene [no mention of good forearm hygiene--LM], is not prejudiced by the additional dress options that have now been identified.'

Oh. All right then.

Now can we reconsider Muslim immigration?

(I owe someone a hat tip on this, but since I took so long to get around to posting it, I don't have a note of who that is. My apologies. I'm guessing I found it first at Jihad Watch.)

Comments (17)

Not entirely unrelated: Here's a photo archive of what a westernized city--with westernized hospitals--Kabul used to be in the 50s & 60s.


Interesting. Short sleeves I see on those maternity nurses.

Yes! Also, we should prevent Christians from entering the country, given that Christian pharmacists won't distribute birth control and morning after pills. Also, we should preclude Jews from coming, since they perform male genital mutilation.

Uh-boy. The trolls are already out. Don't they take a rest on Memorial Day weekend? Yeah, refusing to dispense the morning after pill is _just_ like wearing bacteria-carrying long sleeves for hospital practice. Just like it.


As someone who as recently as a couple of years ago believed in the idea of a "moderate" Islam that was compatable with Western values, I'm quickly changing my views. Helping me along is the book I just picked up by Andy McCarthy called "The Grand Jihad". It is sort of like the greatest hits of Jihad Watch rolled up into one book and it makes for depressing and scary reading.

Oh, please, I have the perfect solution: since only females can't show their arms, let all Muslem nurses be male. Problem solved. I'll pick up my check at the register.

The Chicken

MC, must we then discriminate on the basis of gender to avoid discriminating on the basis of religion? And no Muslim female doctors, either, this would mean. I'm simply shocked! :-)

It took doctors, very intelligent people, decades to clue in to the fact that neckties carried diseases from patient to patient. And now this happens?

It's that kind of study, plus the rise of superbugs, that had led to stricter regulations. The exception for Sikh bangles (which are supposedly going to be rolled up for each patient) is another example of multiculturalism gone awry.

Just out of curiosity, does Islam require women not to bare their upper arms to a doctor if they are injured in the upper arm? Or does it, perhaps, make an exception for such necessity? And if it makes exception for necessity...

There are probably different strains of Islam that would answer the above questions in different ways. Suppose there is one strain says although in general women need to cover their arms, this constraint can be superceded by other considerations. Then this version probably would have to argue that the basis for the rule is something that is not fundamental, not immediately tied to Islam as a direct necessity, and therefore is capable of being made subservient to some other order of good, like health, with attendant exceptions. And presumably, those versions of Islam that say no, you can't make those kinds of exceptions, probably see the rule as being so closely tied in with basic fabric and fundamental concepts of Islam that monkeying with them upsets the whole cart.

Which means that the issue is one of internal disagreement in Islam itself.

While I think the rigorous version which cannot see making an exception for hygiene is basically dumb, as a religious freedom issue I would be hesitant to push that too far, without first tackling a more general problem: who has authority to say what Islam really requires, and why? My own (extremely limited) understanding of Islam is that its history was saddled with complete fractures along lines of organization and authority almost as soon as Muhammad died, and there has never been any reconciliation of separate lines. Similarly, any rules that have come into being after Muhammad would be subject to the same problem: on what basis do they have authority to lay down such rules? Indeed, the problems in this line end up showing (IMHO) the sheer incoherence of the Islamist notion that there is not really any division between the religion and the state (at least, there isn't supposed to be).

Tony, they have to make up their own minds. As long as we have a significant number of people endangering health in this widespread way because of their interpretation of Islam, we have to take that at face value. It doesn't, actually, matter whether there is or isn't some sweeping sense in which Islam does or doesn't "really require" this. As the link someone provided above shows, there was a time when nurses in hospitals in Afghanistan, of all places, wore short sleeves, presumably for hygienic reasons. Now we have Muslim nurses in _England_ (of all places) who won't.

As long as we have that kind of pushing going on and are not willing to draw the line and push back, we cannot afford to have large numbers of people around who are going to enter the medical profession and thus compromise important considerations like public health. Since we know what _they_ say is the reason for it, we have to pay attention to that. It doesn't really matter at all that there is no central authority or whatever.

I could give example after example of this kind of organized push, push, push among immigrant Muslims. Whole meat-packing plants in Nebraska have nearly ground to a halt at sundown during Ramadan because of demands for prayer breaks among a heavily Somali workforce. Whole streets in Paris are getting clogged by people deliberately coming and filling up the whole street to lay out their prayer mats and pray. Public restrooms at the university in Dearborn, Michigan, now include _foot baths_ (hygienic considerations, anyone?) for ritual religious foot washing, and the same have been built in by Muslim demand at some airports for the Muslim cabbies.

Oh, and if you read one of my links, above, you'll find a story of a man who wouldn't let his wife be properly cared for in an emergency medical situation because the only anesthesiologist available was male.

The list goes on and on. We are noticing these things because _they_ have decided that this is the meaning and requirement of their religion. It's been their decision, and this is the verdict, time and time again.

Lydia, I agree with that. The reason I brought it up is that I think that there is a problem with a country - more properly, a state - that thinks it can be 100% neutral about what different religions claim as religious obligation. In the extreme, Islamist theory says that there is no such thing as a secular state, there is only the rule by Allah through the caliph. Everything else is just waiting for take-over. The secular state better take a dim view of this, or it will eventually cease to exist.

Without appearing to run into this extreme level, the state still has to be willing to decide that some things X really aren't a matter of religious belief that it will kow-tow to, even if it appears that someone sincerely believes he has a religious obligation to do X. Such as polygamy. Or peyote buttons. Or child sacrifice. The state can arrive at its conclusion that it doesn't have to tolerate X either because (a) X isn't really a religious belief properly understood, because it isn't part of a bona-fide religion (e.g. the Religion of Bob Smith that teaches that Bob Smith must not pay taxes); or (b) that the religion is a bona-fide religion, but Bob Smith's interpretive belief is not a bona-fide religious belief because it is utterly incoherent even to his other co-religionists; or (c) it is a bona-fide belief of a bona-fide religion, but that tolerating this religious practice endangers the state too much to accept it (on any of 15 different legal and moral theories, each more worrisome than the last).

A state that is willing to accept Wicca as a religion is not likely to dis-allow a claimed religion as in (a). A state that is willing to get into the murk of a decision like (c), while ALSO being unwilling to reject Wicca as a religion, is a state that is likely to dabble into deciding that certain things Christians claim as obligations are dangerous to the state. With the Babelonian nonsense that is taught for the theory behind freedom of religion, there is no reason to be confident that the state will keep its hands off Christianity if it gets used to making decisions like (c).

Well, I see your point, but I think c is really true in the case of a lot of things Islam does and teaches, and I also think that b just runs us into silliness and incoherence when it comes to Islam. What usually happens when people try to do b is that they

--falsify the facts about how many Muslims really think they have to do X or intend to do X and claim religious exemption


--pretend that they can ignore the dangers and problems of Islam because they can find somebody who says (usually in a carefully taqiyya-worded way) that, "Oh, no [stupid infidel], that isn't what Islam teaches,"


--make up _for themselves as non-Muslims_ some hyper-modernized version of Islam that doesn't teach X.

In other words, b is never really b. In the case of blowing people up and stuff like that, well, okay, they stop Bob (Mohammed) from doing X, but then they tell us all that despite the fact that Bob-Mohammed was _screaming_ "Allahu Akbar" when he gunned down all these people, that has _nothing_ to do with Islam.

In the case of things like, say, demanding to wear bacteria-bearing long sleeves, b never means that they really don't let Bob do X. B means that when Bob does do X, they excuse it on the grounds that it isn't really Islam, and then they let him do it anyway.

I suppose, too, that we should distinguish things that "endanger the state" from things that people shouldn't be required to accommodate. I'm not sure I would say that wearing bacteria-bearing long sleeves exactly endangers the state. Not in the sense of blowing stuff up. But it endangers health, and it should not be tolerated, whether in a public or in a private practice.

Similarly, when (yes, this has happened) Muslim checkout clerks refuse to ring up pork items, because they won't touch them, the employer should be allowed to fire them. Same with demanding prayer breaks at exactly such-and-such a time of day, which can cause major disruptions when you have multiple employees of that religion. Our notion of "reasonable accommodation" is totally out of whack. No employer should be liable to suit for refusing to accommodate such demands.

If someone spills HCl on themselves in a lab, they must strip, completely, to use the safety shower. Does this mean no female Muslim chemistry/physics/biology students in college lab courses?

The Chicken

If they have the right to wear the long sleeve, do you have the right to demand a short sleeved nurse/doctor treat you?

I'm sure not in the UK, where it's highly socialized and first-come-first-serve--both directions. But it's a good suggestion!

Our notion of "reasonable accommodation" is totally out of whack.

I agree with that. The origin of reasonable accommodation was in matters of health and disability, where a person was unable to do something due to an abnormal condition not of his choosing. If a person holds a religious tenet, that is not an abnormal condition not of his choosing. There needs to be a better sense about what that implies. Unfortunately, sense is not what we expect anymore in the areas related to any EEOC matter.

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