Pharyngula

So…Muslims want special foot washing stations so they can tidy up in order to pray, but at the same time, Muslim doctors don’t want to have to wash their arms before they plunge them into my guts. “No practising Muslim woman — doctor, medical student, nurse or patient — should be forced to bare her arms below the elbow,” they say.

A belief system that prioritizes washing up before mumbling at an invisible man over sterile technique in surgery does not require accommodation. It needs to be the target of laughter and contempt.

Comments

  1. #1 Tom Buckner
    February 10, 2008

    “Thank God I’m an atheist!” — Aleister Crowley

  2. #2 Moses
    February 10, 2008

    These kind of people drive me nuts, take you fucking bronze age religion and shove it up your ass. If you don’t like washing Mr. Surgeon, drive a fucking taxi. If you don’t want to fill Birth Control or Morning After prescriptions, get a job roofing. You want to teach creationism in public schools, get a job at Starbucks and tell me to have a “blessed day.”

    But if you want to work in a public profession, keep your damn religiosity to yourself and take care of the people you’re in the way our society demands.

  3. #3 Escuerd
    February 10, 2008

    Not so new rule: If hygiene is against your religion, you don’t get to be a doctor.

  4. #4 Nullifidian
    February 10, 2008

    Actually, that’s Luis Buñuel, and originally in Spanish, of course: “Soy ateo, gracias a dios.” It’s from an interview he gave somewhere.

  5. #5 danley
    February 10, 2008

    Coast is a goddamn eye opener.

  6. #6 Bride of Shrek
    February 10, 2008

    Many moons ago I lived with a Bedouin hill tribe near Petra in Jordan. One winter I got terribly sick with pneumonia and had to receive treatment by a Muslim doctor in Petra. Whilst he was a lovely man and their training is first rate he still had to adhere to the silly requirements of his religion. As such, sick as a dog, I could only be examined from the other side of a sheet held up by his two giggling nurses. I explained that it didn’t worry me to be examined and to go ahead, lift up my top and listen to my lungs, but no, still had to have that damn sheet. I was in that clinic for a week and all I remember in my delerium is that fucking sheet.

  7. #7 Matt
    February 10, 2008

    Agreed. Muslims who demand others bend over backwards for their faith deserve only contempt. In the medical profession it’s just evil, I think.

    But I must be honest here and say I am yet to meet a Muslim who is so selfish in this manner. One of my English literature teachers at school was a Muslim, though besides the headscarf, you wouldn’t know it. She never talked about her faith nor demanded concessions because of it. I like to think the majority of British Muslims are as moderate as her.

    I still see niqabs and burqas sometimes, and I hear about the hate-filled mosques and the rabid imams that preach violence to their congregations… but I think they number a minority.

  8. #8 AlisonS
    February 10, 2008

    The utter stupidity of religion never ceases to amaze me. I say no more accommodation for religion when it affects other peoples lives and health.

  9. #9 breakerslion
    February 10, 2008

    Just when I think it can’t possibly get any loonier…. Perhaps we could convince them to start a Muslim version of Christian Science? Sort of like the Red Crescent, only dumber.

  10. #10 Neil B.
    February 10, 2008

    OK, good point. So I hope more here will admit that some conservative critics of multiculturalism etc. have a point when the warn us about spreading of Islam and its influence. Instead of despising such sentiments as racist, jingoistic, etc., see the rational self-interest involved (and no need to agree on anything else.)

  11. #11 woowoozy
    February 10, 2008

    If I get necrotizing fasciitis or some other nosocomial infection because a Muslim with clean feet didn’t wash his/her hands before treating me, I’ll be just as dead as if some religious zealot drives a plane into my office building. This kind of practice should be an absolute bar from treating patients, where rule #1 is “do no harm.” Moses (the poster above) had it right…get a new profession or get a different religion (or better yet, no religion at all). Unless, of course, the religionist can operate well with his/her cleanly scrubbed feet???

  12. #12 The Skeptard
    February 10, 2008

    Matt (#7), they, being the minority, are irrelevent. Unless they open thier mouths, or do SOMETHING, thier oppinions/actions of moderation mean nothing.

  13. #13 BlueIndependent
    February 10, 2008

    @ #3:

    And right after that should be: “If giving out the morning after pill is against your religion, you can’t become a pharmacist.”

  14. #14 Janine
    February 10, 2008

    A compromise: maybe they could operate with their feet?

    PZ Myers

    I am almost sure they would not agree with that. They would have to scrub their feet and legs up to their knees. The exposure of calves is immoral.

  15. #15 BlueIndependent
    February 10, 2008

    I don’t agree with this either, although the majority religion in this country will laugh and point fingers and mock this case and similar cases, while in turn demanding they be given deference whenever they want a public monument or prayer area or what have you. Guaranteed this will turn into another opportunity for Christians to thump their chest about how evil the Muslims are for wanting their ceremonial stuff, while simultaneously acting like self-righteous do-gooders about their own.

  16. #16 Moses
    February 10, 2008

    @ #3:

    And right after that should be: “If giving out the morning after pill is against your religion, you can’t become a pharmacist.”

    Posted by: BlueIndependent | February 10, 2008 9:04 PM

    Absolutely.

  17. #17 Rob
    February 10, 2008

    If 50 million Muslims are moderate and don’t go for such nonsense, but they tolerate the 50,000 crazy Muslims who do, then there are 50,050,000 Muslims who are proponents. Religious moderation is the true danger. Look what happened to the Republican party. At one time, there were reasonable people who called themselves Republicans. They had reasonable ideas. Then the religious right co-opted the entire party, and the moderates were too chicken-shit to say anything, and look at the now wacked-out Republican party. Same thing, different genre.

    The fundamentalists are NOT the problem. It is the tolerance of the fundamentalists by the main-stream religionists that is the REAL danger.

  18. #18 chris rattis
    February 10, 2008

    This is going to sound cruel, but let them not wash. However they can only be treated like wise.

    When insurance companies start seeing a rise in death and other infections from unclean doctors, I think they’ll be told to scrub to the elbow, or have their license pulled.

    People don’t care enough until it effects the bottom line. In this case the insurance companies maybe a good thing :)

    No I’m not really serious… Only partly. I don’t think the insurance companies will stand for it, and will intervene. I also don’t think the muslim doctors themselves, will let someone who hasn’t scrubbed operate on them.

  19. #19 Jesse
    February 10, 2008

    A reality check here.

    One could solve the entire problem by providing sterile latex gloves that go further up the arm– as many American hospitals here in NYC do for the orthodox Jewish hospital workers. For chrissake, if there’s a simple solution then why not use it?

    Long gloves are quite common and the Muslim doctor is quite correct when he says that would end the controversy right there and probably be better if everyone were required to use them.

    One might also provide a separate washroom for men and women if necessary. I can think of a dozen ways to accommodate this in ways nobody would ever notice, just as we accommodate Christian practice every goddamned day. Want to park for free on Madison Avenue? Just do it on Ash Wednesday. OMG! The Catholics are asking for accommodation and bending over backwards! AAAAGGH!

    As for Muslims asking for people to bend over backwards, maybe as a New Yorker I am inured to this kind of thing. The Orthodox have all kinds of rules that are rather funny to the non-Jew, in some ways, but it’s a rare event when they are a bother to anyone else. Same for the mosques — the call to prayer is no more disturbing than the bells of St. Patricks, which I happen to live near. I sometimes wonder if the people who are most concerned with accommodating people have ever met anyone from a different tradition or know any Muslims– or Jews or Hindus — at all.

  20. #20 truth machine
    February 10, 2008

    So I hope more here will admit that some conservative critics of multiculturalism etc. have a point when the warn us about spreading of Islam and its influence.

    “I hope more here will admit that devil worshippers, Nazis, and serial murderers have a point when they warn about running red lights”.

  21. #21 truth machine
    February 10, 2008

    So I hope more here will admit that some conservative critics of multiculturalism etc. have a point when the warn us about spreading of Islam and its influence.

    “I hope more here will admit that devil worshippers, Nazis, and serial murderers have a point when they warn about running red lights”.

  22. #22 Neil B.
    February 10, 2008

    Hello TM! Man, what an edge there. Well I often don’t agree with conservatives, but in this case their caution is more directly related to their typical themes (“xenophobia” and wariness of “tolerance” etc.) than being against running red lights is to the thought of Nazis, etc. It was a good enough call in principle. Of course they ran it into the ground in keeping with their proclivities. They aren’t always wrong, are they?

  23. #23 the_Astrocreep
    February 10, 2008

    if they want to do that then they should invest in private hospitals just for Muslims. Theoretically, there is a higher chance of these Muslims getting infected and dying, and when they notice that happening, what are they going to say? “Women weren’t meant to be doctors”

    or will they learn to use Occam’s razor, start washing their hands, and stop believing in deities?

  24. #24 Alex
    February 10, 2008

    Are these Muslims just stupid or something?

  25. #25 woowoozy
    February 10, 2008

    Another possible solution…many hospitals here publish infection rates following surgeries or other invasive procedures. Have the infectious disease monitor for the hospital publish the data on post-op infections. If a trend becomes apparent for higher infection rates after instituting this non-washing practice, the hospital or the doctors practicing this way could lose business. That is bound to prompt a reassessment. Also, as any ID doc will tell you, gloves, even longer gloves, are no substitute for good hand washing.

  26. #26 Rob
    February 10, 2008

    Another solution:

    Tell the stupid Muslims to join the 21st century.

    Religious tolerance is stupid. If they’re so unhappy and pissed-off by Western culture, and if they feel they can’t survive unless their 10th century mores are implemented in a society that has long since emerged from the darkness, then why don’t they form their own countries where they can do as they wish?

    Oh, sorry. They have, and these countries are shitholes.

    Sorry, I’m so sick of this that I want to move to the Yukon.

    Unfortunately, that’s way north of Minnesota, where only crazy hosers live.

  27. #27 w1lp33
    February 10, 2008

    #19 –

    “One could solve the entire problem by providing sterile latex gloves that go further up the arm”

    yeah! why shouldnt the hospitals spend money out of their budget to buy an additional product at (likely) higher expense, to appease the small minority who could just keep their private beliefs out of their public employment and wash their damn hands like everyone else?

    i dont know. maybe extra long gloves wouldnt be too much of a financial hit for a hospital, but why should they even have to bother? not to mention that wouldnt a muslim doctor presumably have to roll up their sleeves anyways to get the glove on? and aren’t latex gloves um…. translucent/transparent? what exactly is the difference?

    not to mention that it does’nt solve the problem of hygeine. in the same way that i wouldnt rely on just a condom to prevent pregnancy, i wouldnt feel as safe having a doctor touch me with an unwashed gloved hand than with a washed gloved hand. if the glove makes you perfectly hygenic, why are doctors washing their hands at all?

  28. #28 brightmoon
    February 10, 2008

    “Your right to swing your fist stops at my nose.”

    if i were in control of british medical schools, id vote to kick them out of med school if they refuse to follow hygienic practices

    sometimes, my way or the highway, is the reasonable path

  29. #29 PalMD
    February 10, 2008

    #19
    We wash our hands before gloving…washing is half the process, latex the rest. Both are important. The hands more so because they will be in the body.

    As to the rest…I live in a very arabic area, and work with tons of muslim doctors and have never seen a problem….most of them would think it ridiculous.

  30. #30 Rick T.
    February 10, 2008

    “Look what happened to the Republican party. At one time, there were reasonable people who called themselves Republicans. They had reasonable ideas. Then the religious right co-opted the entire party”

    Not entirely true. The Republicans courted the religious right in order to win the Southern vote. In other words, they sold their soul to the devil. How reasonable were they after all?

  31. #31 ema
    February 10, 2008

    Neil B,

    I wouldn’t call substituting one Sky Fairy-based practice of medicine (refusal to scrub properly) for another (refusal to prescribe/dispense ECP) rational self-interest.

  32. #32 Escuerd
    February 10, 2008

    #19 Jesse: “Same for the mosques — the call to prayer is no more disturbing than the bells of St. Patricks, which I happen to live near.”

    This works better as an indictment of the bells than a defense of the adhaan. Maybe I should open a store that plays a tornado siren every time we have a sale. Hey, it won’t be any more irritating than church bells, after all.

    More seriously, if there are restrictions on noise, let them apply to churches and mosques too. At the very least have a system for granting licenses that can weight the costs and benefits in each case. Speaking as someone who grew up next to a drag-racing track and has lived with someone whose computer played the call to prayer five times a day, I can see some utility in having some noise restrictions.

  33. #33 shrimplate
    February 10, 2008

    A whole lotta Muslim surgeons gonna be sued. Big time.

  34. #34 Ebonmuse
    February 10, 2008

    Any belief system that teaches doctors and nurses to follow unsanitary practices that may endanger their patients’ lives needs to be treated with a lot more than just laughter and contempt. We need to immediately make a rule which says any medical worker who will not follow basic procedures for preventing the spread of nosocomial disease will lose their license to practice until they agree to comply. If they’re students and they won’t comply, then they need to be expelled from medical school. If you want to practice science-based medicine, you need to come and live in reality with everyone else.

  35. #35 Shane
    February 10, 2008

    I thought surgeons wore gloves and washed their hands and arms before putting the gloves on? Therefore the point of using longer gloves is moot.

  36. #36 craig
    February 10, 2008

    “One could solve the entire problem by providing sterile latex gloves that go further up the arm– as many American hospitals here in NYC do for the orthodox Jewish hospital workers. For chrissake, if there’s a simple solution then why not use it?”

    You mean like soap? And sanity? (Well, maybe sanity isn’t that simple.)

  37. #37 Mold
    February 10, 2008

    Infection control (Semmelweiss) discovered the utility to hand-washing many decades ago. The idiocy of allowing long latex gloves is only as good as the pre-donning washing. Want to bet that Orthodox don’t? Not me.

    If you can’t conform to the proven dictates of the medical sciences, do as Moses stated and find another profession. And don’t give me any s**t that it’s your conscience. The patient comes first.

  38. #38 Ken Cope
    February 10, 2008

    The otiose stylings of Neil B.:

    They aren’t always wrong, are they?

    If it’s anything written by Neil B., it’s the way to bet.

    Hey, Neil B.: what makes you think that you’re different, in principle, with your magic pixie dust explanation for consciousness, from people who reject the germ theory of disease?

  39. #39 Jesse
    February 10, 2008

    Hey look, I was just saying that accommodations to religious beliefs happen all over the place and nobody says anything.

    In hospitals,as others have noted, I honestly have never heard before this of any Muslim doctors refusing to wash their hands, and this bit about modesty — well, let’s just say there are some things about the story that are a little weird, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

    As to hospitals having to purchase anything at additional cost to accommodate people, well, they put a whole stack of money in to having separate men’s and women’s bathrooms, which are dollar for dollar a crapload more expensive given what they add to construction and water costs. But hey, I think that’s a stupid distinction. Unisex crappers for all, dammit!

    More seriously, it was not clear to me from the piece linked whether someone had asked a Muslim doctor about refusal to wash hands or refusal to wash hands in front of other people or what. I ask this because in most Islamic cultures hand-washing (as it is for Jews, by the way) is an important and frequent thing to do.

    Something tells me something is getting lost in translation here. I’m not saying various religions don’t have silly precepts sometimes. But if a non-Jew who knew zero about Judaism were to ask me about the separation of sexes, for example, or the practice by Orthodox women of wearing wigs I can see a lot of weird answers appearing in the local paper.

  40. #40 Hrafn
    February 10, 2008

    The core piece of this is:
    “But the Islamic Medical Association insisted that covering all the body in public, except the face and hands, was a basic tenet of Islam.

    “No practising Muslim woman – doctor, medical student, nurse or patient – should be forced to bare her arms below the elbow,” it said.”

    I have two problems with this:
    1) As far I know the “basic tenet” isn’t a specific dress-code, but an admonition to dress modestly. Baring one’s forearms in a clinical setting is hardly immodest.
    2) Isn’t it odd how this purported “basic tenet” only applies to women, and that the IMA artfully skips over this element?

  41. #41 Ian H Spedding FCD
    February 10, 2008

    But the Islamic Medical Association insisted that covering all the body in public, except the face and hands, was a basic tenet of Islam.

    And how will Islamic doctors and nurses answer to their God and their fellow human beings for the patients who die from infections contracted from the medical staff who are supposed to care for and treat them?

  42. #42 ema
    February 11, 2008

    More seriously, it was not clear to me from the piece linked whether someone had asked a Muslim doctor about refusal to wash hands or refusal to wash hands in front of other people or what.

    It’s about a refusal to wash hands according to some new UK ID control guidelines (instituted because of a rise in nosocomial infections, if I remember correctly)–forearms must be uncovered.

  43. #43 Michele
    February 11, 2008

    And what about those healthcare workers (or patients) allergic to latex? Now we need long latex free gloves? Get over your damn selves and wash.

  44. #44 truth machine
    February 11, 2008

    They aren’t always wrong, are they?

    Nor are devil worshippers, Nazis, and serial murderers always wrong. Nonetheless, we don’t take that as a reason to pay attention to them. Regardless of whether serial murderers or “conservative critics of multiculturalism etc.” have some pony buried in their shit, we don’t need to look to them for ponies. And the pony here is not about “spreading of Islam and its influence”, but about treating religion as some sort of trump card that overrides civil liberties.

    Instead of despising such sentiments as racist, jingoistic, etc.

    But in fact the sentiments of “conservative critics of multiculturalism etc.” are racist and jingoistic. Their views are a lot closer to those of the practitioners of Sharia law than to mine.

  45. #45 truth machine
    February 11, 2008

    I often don’t agree with conservatives

    As opposed to not often agreeing with conservatives.

  46. #46 CanadianChick
    February 11, 2008

    unless I missed something in the article (and it’s possible I did) all I see is some people making a ridiculous demand, and the the authorities saying “no fucking way”

    sounds like a tempest in a teapot at this point – maybe when it actually becomes an issue in practice I’ll think it’s worth this much discussion…

    (personally, I suspect that if the issue was any group other than muslims, there wouldn’t be a news story about it at all…)

  47. #47 Troublesome Frog
    February 11, 2008

    I guess that my practice of spitting into the body cavities of the people I operate on before closing them up is next venerable tradition on the chopping block?

    I can’t believe you people. Bigots, the lot of you.

  48. #48 sacredchao
    February 11, 2008

    Wow, that is basically the epitome of stupid.

  49. #49 Bob
    February 11, 2008

    As has been said elsewhere, if they can find a way to comply with their personal religious preference and the requirements of their chosen occupation without affecting the convenience or safety of anyone else, more power to them. Male Sikh members of Canadian police departments found a way to wear turbans while still meeting departmental guidelines. Public safety wasn’t affected and everyone got what they wanted.

    Even with long gloves, the defense-in-depth approach of both washing and wearing gloves is compromised if female Muslims avoid washing to comply with their chosen religious beliefs. Public safety is compromised.

    I’m having a hard time mustering any sympathy for people who expect to be exempted from basic job requirements (hygiene, customer service) due to their religious beliefs, Catholic, Muslim, Scientologist, Zoroastrian, Pastafarian — whatever. If Muslim women aren’t willing to roll up their sleeves, then maybe they should choose careers that don’t involve arm washing or, for that matter, rotating machinery. Life is too short to suffer these sorts of fools.

  50. #50 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “But I must be honest here and say I am yet to meet a Muslim who is so selfish in this manner. One of my English literature teachers at school was a Muslim, though besides the headscarf, you wouldn’t know it.”

    Didn’t you read the initial post this isn’t “some Muslims” this is “Muslims”. all of them.

    You know, like all Jews are money-grubbing and all blacks can’t be trusted around white women.

  51. #51 JoSummertime
    February 11, 2008

    If your medical practitioner does not know to practice basic hygiene – then I highly doubt they are qualified to be giving you any medical advice whatsoever.

  52. #52 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    Oh and the source for all this?

    The Daily Telegraph a far right, racist, bigoted xenophobic British tabloid.

    So it must be true.

  53. #53 EWG Gestalt
    February 11, 2008

    As a Muslim, I just want to chip in my few cents here in support of the poster @ 39.

    Before those five daily prayers, Muslims–including women–must perform ablutions, which require washing the arms all the way up to the elbows. So it’s not as if the notion of washing is foreign to Muslims. As for why the tenet of modesty is only arising for women, that’s because the concept of “hijab” (the dress code requiring long sleeves, skirt, head scarf) doesn’t apply to men (although they’re not supposed to dress flamboyantly, either).

    However, the article doesn’t make clear what the scope of these changes are: parts of the report seems as if this change will apply to all physicians, regardless of setting, while other parts make it seem as if it applies only to surgery settings.

    I have no issues with requiring those changes in surgeries–it’s too critical a situation to insist on less. When surgery isn’t involved, I don’t see why a doctor can’t scrub up in a bathroom or other environment where men aren’t around (which is when the dress code rules apply). So a blanket rule strikes me as overkill: is a radiologist, for instance, supposed to have bare forearms while reading X-ray results? Is a psychiatrist required to scrub up before meeting with a patient?

    I really would like to know what the actual changes are, and then draw conclusions about how rational the response is. (Without knowing all the facts, it just becomes a rush to judgment.)

  54. #54 Sigmund
    February 11, 2008

    I’m not sure how seriously you should take the “Islamic Medical Association”. Whenever I hear this name it always involves the same single lunatic who comes on the radio and says stupid things that have no connection to any muslim medic that I have ever met. I honestly suspect that he is the only one in the organization. I think its like what Kathy Griffin said about the Catholic League – “its just one guy and a computer”.

  55. #55 James
    February 11, 2008

    What was cleanliness next to again….?

  56. #56 Klayton
    February 11, 2008

    I’m a nursing student in Washington and all of the Muslim women in my class (mostly from Iran) don’t wear a headscarf or long sleeves. @ #53 Wearing long sleeves while practicing medicine is a bad idea in general. You can wash your arms many times a day but unless you change your shirt between patients (like with surgical gowns) you will be carrying around more bacteria on your sleeves than you would on your bare arms. This is why doctors should not wear ties because they brush up against things and become vectors for infection.

    p.s. Proper technique while scrubbing in (AKA washing from fingertips to elbows) is an essential part of maintaining surgical asepsis regardless of glove use.

  57. #57 Kat
    February 11, 2008

    Uh-oh. Expect a fatwa against PZ any day now……..

  58. #58 Ernst Hot
    February 11, 2008

    My religion requires me to wear copius amounts of body piercing.

    Seing as I want to work with an MR scanner they’d better turn of the magnetic field.

  59. #59 Spike
    February 11, 2008

    Ian (@52), the Telegraph would be very upset at being described as a tabloid. They are a broadsheet, and proud of it. The rest of the comment still applies, but to a lesser extent than it would apply to, say, the Daily Mail, compared to which they are only moderately right.

  60. #60 Darwin's Minion
    February 11, 2008

    So we have Catholic pharmacists who want the right to refuse giving people the morning after pill or contraception, and Muslim doctors who want the right to refuse to scrub.

    What’s next? Quakers joining the Marines, and then wanting the right to refuse to have any part in it because they’re pacifists?

    If you’re unable to comply with the requirements of your job, get yourself another job. It’s not that hard. Hundreds of people do it every day for non-spiritual reasons.

  61. #61 Brandon P.
    February 11, 2008

    OK, good point. So I hope more here will admit that some conservative critics of multiculturalism etc. have a point when the warn us about spreading of Islam and its influence.

    This isn’t necessarily a multiculturalism issue. Multiculturalism as I understand it deals with culture or ethnicity—we’re dealing with religion, which is not the same as culture (though it can sometimes influence it).

  62. #62 Mrs Tilton
    February 11, 2008

    Question for EWG Gestalt, the Muslim commenter. I know very little about Islam, but do know that it is essentially a religious legal system, meaning it is a lot more like Judaism than either is like Christianity.

    Jewish law has a principle called pikuach nefesh, which not only permits but requires an observant Jew to break almost any other commandment of Jewish law if somebody’s life or health is at stake. There is a tiny number of exceptions: I believe the pikuach nefesh principle does not permit violation of the prohibitions against murder or idolatry. But otherwise, all bets are off: if someone’s life or health require you to feast on pork chops while juggling coins on the sabbath, you do it. (I am not Jewish, let alone a rabbinical authority, so if I have got this wrong I would welcome correction from any of the hasidic grand rebbes who frequent Pharyngula. But I’m pretty sure that’s the way it works.)

    So my question is, does Islam have a similar principle? Especially given that exposure of a woman’s forearm has got to be a relatively trivial infraction, wouldn’t health concerns outweigh the very minor loss of “modesty”? (I recognise that there are several competing schools of Islamic jurisprudence and that some might take a more lenient view than others.)

    Whether or not there is some form of Islamic rule that would permit or require medical personnel to bare their arms, it seems from comments here and from my own observations that most Muslim physicians, nurses etc. simply ignore any requirement about keeping the forearm covered. BTW, while I would not be surprised to learn that there are some Muslim physicians who act stupidly for religious reasons, I share Ian Gould’s scepticism; the Torygraph is a source that needs deep discounting.

  63. #63 maureen
    February 11, 2008

    EWG Gestalt,

    The policy is supposed to be that anyone – doctors, nurses, allied professions – who is in physical contact with the patient or in a situation where physical contact may occur, as with a student observing who may be asked to touch the patient, should be bare below the elbow. Bare and thoroughly washed.

    So your radiologist while reading x-ray results may wear anything he chooses from a space suit to a diamond-encrusted thong. While positioning the patient for x-ray, though, he will be expected to follow the rules.

    I seem to remember – no source available to check – that one of Semmelweis’ problems in enforcing his hygiene rule was that his colleagues refused to believe that they – middle-class, respectable and male – could possibly transfer infection TO one of those poor, smelly and female creatures in the maternity ward!

    Just google the phrase “bare below the elbow” for more on both implementation and reaction.

  64. #64 melior
    February 11, 2008

    Avicenna, or Ibn Sina, a Muslim, is credited by many as one of the discoverers of the germ theory of infectious diseases, over a thousand years ago.

    Is it possible that religious people are simply getting stupider with each generation of their idiocy?

  65. #65 Duvelman
    February 11, 2008

    The Islamic Medical Association seems to be a one man and a dog operation which holds some pretty extreme views. I suspect that the real issue for the IMA is that women are practicing as doctors in the first place.

  66. #66 Tom
    February 11, 2008

    As an associate professor I find that you have some reading comprehension problems as your post wreaks of Islamophobia. No one said they aren’t scrubing before procedures. The outcry is on a new NHS policy that all persons must be exposed from the elbow down in the hopes of stopping the spread of MRSA. They would do well to require doctors to forego ties as well. The point is that you must be careful when you start posts like this because you fan the flames of hate against Muslims. You sir are nothing more than a bigot hiding behind the shield of science.

  67. #67 Iain George
    February 11, 2008

    Seems duvelman is right. There is very little net presence for any IMA UK organisation (in contrast to the US IMA). Seems their main spokesman is a homophobe too.

    Caution should always be exercised when reading a statement from a muslim (or any other religion/special interest) group – we should not assume that the person making the statement is representing anyone other than themselves.

  68. #68 Moses
    February 11, 2008

    Not entirely true. The Republicans courted the religious right in order to win the Southern vote. In other words, they sold their soul to the devil. How reasonable were they after all?

    Posted by: Rick T. | February 10, 2008 10:14 PM

    SOME Republicans did that. Many of us, who were moderate Republicans, went “Oh, no! Not them! We didn’t like them when they were DEMOCRATS. They’re horrible people!” We eventually left the party as our socially moderate-to-liberal views were no longer tolerated and we couldn’t stand what the “conservatives” were doing.

  69. #69 Jesse
    February 11, 2008

    Tom, while I wouldn’t go so far as that, I would say that there are a couple of observations that make this story not pass the smell test.

    1. Nobody here in the medical profession has run into this before.

    2. The Islamic Medical Association is in Illinois. I googled a bit and didn’t see one in London. Mehtinks something is amiss.

    3. THe only other mentions of the IMA in England come from the Daily Mail. There was a piece they did about Muslim students refusing to take courses in sexuality or learn about alcohol. Could the reporters find the students? No.

    4. When you wash hands you have to roll up your sleeves anyway to keep them from getting wet. EWG explained the ablutions.

    5. The reporter nowhere interviewed anyone who said “I refuse to wash my hands in this manner” he only got an explanation of modesty from Dr. Majid Katme. The reportes could find no actual refusenik students. I’m a reporter. That is basic. If I ran a stroy like that by my editor it would get spiked.

    PZ, I love reading your blog. But I think you dropped the ball on this one.

    Before I lived in London I wouldn’t have recognized the Independent or the Daily Mail as the rags they are either– they are like the New York Post more than the New York Times. The London Times or the Guardian, or my personal favorite, the Financial Times seem to be more serious than a lot of others and don’t get things so blatantly wrong.

  70. #70 Scrofulum
    February 11, 2008

    I find the story title a little misleading (for the Telegraph, I can hardly believe it!). A few students getting all uppity about their daft religious constraints does not a new general medical policy make.

    The huge number of muslim doctors in this country don’t seem to have any problem with evidence based medicine and evidence based hygiene procedures as far as I can see. It’s a pity they can’t bring this clarity of thought to some evidence based philosophy as well, though.

    Media hate-and-fear story, IMHO.

  71. #71 koloman
    February 11, 2008

    Great write-up. The issue is exactly as simple as you make it out to be.

  72. #72 Moses
    February 11, 2008

    Jewish law has a principle called pikuach nefesh, which not only permits but requires an observant Jew to break almost any other commandment of Jewish law if somebody’s life or health is at stake. There is a tiny number of exceptions: I believe the pikuach nefesh principle does not permit violation of the prohibitions against murder or idolatry. But otherwise, all bets are off: if someone’s life or health require you to feast on pork chops while juggling coins on the sabbath, you do it.

    Posted by: Mrs Tilton | February 11, 2008 5:04 AM

    Wow. Haven’t heard that in years. Not a bad summary. There’s a bit about kosher food, too. The aunt of a girl I dated for years came from a kosher, but not Orthodox, family. She had to, in best medical practice of the 30′s, eat a highly enriched diet which included non-kosher organs.

    Can’t answer the rest of your questions because when I went from being a Denominational Christian to a General Christian to reformed Jew to an Atheist, I didn’t pass through a Muslim phase as it was clear that Islam was at least as made up from bull-crap as my religion of origin.

  73. #73 The Atheist Jew
    February 11, 2008

    I’m beginning to think that multiculturalism is OK, as long as Muslims aren’t involved.

  74. #74 Moses
    February 11, 2008

    Whoops.

    This: She had to, in best medical practice of the 30′s, eat a highly enriched diet which included non-kosher organs.

    Should have said this: She had to, in best medical practice of the 30′s, eat a highly enriched diet which included non-kosher organs, which was permissible under pikuach nefesh.

    Edited out too much when I found myself rambling about how her mother had to cook separate meals, get the Rabbi in to explain how to make the kitchen kosher before each family meal, etc…

  75. #75 Lilly de Lure
    February 11, 2008

    I’ll agree with other commentators here, this post basically takes the view of one tiny group of people whom no one has heard of and assumes that they represent the views of the majority of Muslim doctors. They do not (far from it in fact).

    Given the tenuous position of Muslim communities here in the West, such carping without cause is simply picking on an already dangerously exposed and frequently demonised group and comes perilously close to unacceptable race-baiting. A post that is distinctly unworthy of you PZ.

  76. #76 maxi
    February 11, 2008

    What was cleanliness next to again….?

    Only in a very abridged dictionary.

  77. #77 Foster Foskin
    February 11, 2008

    People who don’t want their beliefs laughed at shouldn’t have such funny beliefs

  78. #78 Matt Penfold
    February 11, 2008

    “Given the tenuous position of Muslim communities here in the West, such carping without cause is simply picking on an already dangerously exposed and frequently demonised group and comes perilously close to unacceptable race-baiting. A post that is distinctly unworthy of you PZ.”

    Islam is not a race. What do a black person from Northern Nigeria, a white person from the Balkans, an Arab from Egypt, a person from Turkey, a Persian from Iran, an Asian from Pakistan and an Asian from Indonesia have in common other than all might be Mulisms ?

  79. #79 Brian
    February 11, 2008

    Wait…the same brand of Islam that prioritizes footwashing and forbids the exposure of women’s skin from wrist to shoulder actually allows women to be doctors?! I think you people may be missing a great leap forward, here! /snark

    Seriously…why can’t the female doctors just scrub up in private, if it’s such a BFD?

  80. #80 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    The point is that you must be careful when you start posts like this because you fan the flames of hate against Muslims.

    Go perform an anatomically improbable act on yourself. Insanity shouldn’t get a free pass, regardless of whether it’s Muslim insanity, Christian insanity, or any other flavor.

  81. #81 abb
    February 11, 2008

    One thing I’m curious about after reading that article (and I don’t think it has been mentioned yet) is how medical procedures are performed on Muslim women! Obviously they must make some exceptions to the requirement of ‘modesty’ when, for example, an appendectomy is being performed. You couldn’t operate through a sheet! So why allow an exception there, as they simply must, and forbid it here when it is no less necessary? Operating on a woman fully clothed makes no sense, and not taking serious precautions to ensure cleanliness during surgery makes no sense either.

  82. #82 Strakh
    February 11, 2008

    What Lilly de Lure in post #75 fails to understand is that while no one here thinks (nor ever even states) that the insane freaks mentioned in the article represent ALL the deluded humans who ‘believe’ islam, if ANY college, medical school, etc, EVER gives in to ANY of these disgustingly idiotic demands, ALL muslims will have an excuse to whine and cry for ALL to receive them.
    NO demand, by ANY deluded human, for ANY religious reason, can EVER be given precedence over evidence.
    And Lilly, I would seriously counsel your getting out of whatever hole you molder in and learning about reality. “Muslim communities here in the West,” are NOT “dangerously exposed and frequently demonised.” Would that they were. But due to mush heads like you, they are quite safe and gaining much firmer ground every day. Just several years ago if some deluded human asked for a foot washing station they would have been laughed out of the office, which is much, much better treatment than the scum deserve.
    Now, they are not only given audience, they are given the chance to keep petitioning until they get what they want.

    Thank you, mush head Lilly and all your ignorant ilk.

  83. #83 E in MD
    February 11, 2008

    Personally I think that religion is a crutch for the weak minded and weak willed. But because I believe in the idea of freedom of expression I am willing to tolerate a lot from religious people. I will respect their beliefs in so much as they do not attempt to cram them down my throat or rule my life with their superstitious nonsense. You wanna wear a big black sack over your whole body except your eyes? Go to town. Set yourself on fire, I don’t give a damn. Your body is your own business.

    But your right to religious expression ends the moment it places the life of another in danger. You don’t want to wash your hands? Then don’t fucking become a doctor. You don’t have the right to put my life on the line because of your religious beliefs any more than I have the right to shoot you in the head for being a dumbass.

  84. #84 AllanW
    February 11, 2008

    To mushy head Lilly :)

    here’s a link to the same controversy at Med schools;

    http://islamineurope.blogspot.com/2008/02/uk-medical-students-refusing-to-follow.html

    There are other links with national broadsheets as well. Still think it’s a non-story and unworthy of PZ?

  85. #85 Lilly de Lure
    February 11, 2008

    You don’t want to wash your hands? Then don’t fucking become a doctor. You don’t have the right to put my life on the line because of your religious beliefs any more than I have the right to shoot you in the head for being a dumbass.

    The point I was making was that there is absolutely no evidence that Muslim medics are actually asking for any such thing. We have one tiny group making noise and a rabid British “news”paper, well known for publishing any right wing c**p it thinks will sell papers picking up on it because badmouthing Muslims is what it’s readership want to hear. This is pretty much par for the course but PZ is quite happily repeating it without checking whether any medical school or hospital has received such a demand from its Muslim staff members. That’s sloppy and arguably irresponsible, which is why I called him out on it.

    Just several years ago if some deluded human asked for a foot washing station they would have been laughed out of the office, which is much, much better treatment than the scum deserve.

    Really? Personally I would have thought that being laughed at for making an idiotic request is perfectly acceptable treatment. So do tell me precisely what is the treatment you would recommend for these s**m (and incidentally is that really a word you would feel comfortable about using to describe any other group of people)?

  86. #86 EWG Gestalt
    February 11, 2008

    @62: I’m not a Muslim legal scholar, so I don’t have all the technical details down, but I suspect a similar principle applies in Islam as well. One of the teachings of the religion is that “To save one life is as to save all of mankind,” so I’m pretty sure that medical care is considered a high priority.

    As for the level of the infraction, that’s largely a function of how much local traditions have intruded onto the actual religious principles. (A lot of the stupidity that is being associated with “radical Islam” is not part of the original religion, but are 19th and 20th century add-ons meant to ensure control and reflect tribal practices.)

    @79: Islam doesn’t forbid women from working–anyone who claims otherwise should consider that the prophet Muhammad’s first wife was his employer! Local rules that forbid women from working, driving, teaching, etc., are not part of the original faith; they are reinterpretations intended to preserve a patriarchal power structure that the clerics are loath to abandon.

  87. #87 N in T
    February 11, 2008

    you know it’s interesting how people outside a religion come up with these weird and illogical “out-of-context” points…. i am a muslim physician and currently as i type i’m wearing a t-shirt that leaves my elbows exposed…. the covering of an elbow is a recommendation and certainly not a requirement…. i don’t know why people come up with these weird things about muslims, christians and even jews when they don’t even understand their religions properly…. you can’t begin to assume anything without having properly studied it…. if you do study it you will realize the error of your misunderstandings….

  88. #88 xebecs
    February 11, 2008

    “I hope more here will admit that devil worshippers, Nazis, and serial murderers have a point when they warn about running red lights”.

    truth machine: When I don’t hate you, I love you. On balance, I love you.

  89. #89 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    i don’t know why people come up with these weird things about muslims

    Maybe if you read the linked newspaper article you’d know?

  90. #90 Mrs Tilton
    February 11, 2008

    Strakh @82,

    “Muslim communities here in the West,” are NOT “dangerously exposed and frequently demonised.” Would that they were. [Emph. added.]

    So you want Muslims to be demonised and exposed to danger. That’s special. Why are you reading Pharyngula, when Gates of Vienna would clearly be more your cup of tea?

  91. #91 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “I’m not sure how seriously you should take the “Islamic Medical Association”. Whenever I hear this name it always involves the same single lunatic who comes on the radio and says stupid things that have no connection to any muslim medic that I have ever met.”

    Surely you aren’t suggesting that the Muslims aren’t a single subhuman mass and that we superior westerners can’t slaughter or discriminate against as will while congratulating ourselves on our ineffable moral superiority?

  92. #92 Lilly de Lure
    February 11, 2008

    Thank You Mrs Tilton!

    For the record may I say that if these demands were being made seriously I would oppose them and point and laugh at the fools making them.

    However there is a difference between doing this and assuming that said fools speak for muslim medical staff as a whole or using the issue as an excuse for spewing venom over muslims as a group.

  93. #93 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “You sir are nothing more than a bigot hiding behind the shield of science.”

    I don’t think PZ is a bigot, I do think that he has repeatedly made careless comments regarding Muslims that can and have been seized upon by bigots.

  94. #94 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    Nobody’s suggesting that all Muslims or even most are this crazy. I don’t think all or even most Christians are as dangerously insane as Pat Robertson, either. But in both cases the loonies need to be firmly opposed and there’s no valid excuse for refusing to do so.

  95. #95 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “Jewish law has a principle called pikuach nefesh, which not only permits but requires an observant Jew to break almost any other commandment of Jewish law if somebody’s life or health is at stake.”

    Actually that’s only true if the life in question is that of another Jew.

    It is permissible to violate Jewish law to save the life of a gentile but only if the primary underlying objective of doing so is to create good will towards the Jews amongst gentiles and thereby benefits Jews in future.

    Hypothetically, if, for example, one were alone on a life raft with a gentile and there was no likelihood of your actions being known to others then only such actions to save the gentile’s life as did not conflict with Jewish law should be undertaken.

  96. #96 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “I’m beginning to think that multiculturalism is OK, as long as Muslims aren’t involved.”

    I’m beginning to think that any group of humans no matter how tolerant and rational they proclaim themselves to be are capable of bigotry and stupidity.

    And that’s coming from another “atheest Jew”.

  97. #97 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “Islam is not a race.”

    Neither is Judaism.

    I’m sure that was a great comfort to the Jews (observant and nonobservant alike) who founf themselves in the territories of the Deutsche Reich between 1934 and 1945.

    Tell me, is it “religious bigot” really a less objectionable label than “racist”?

  98. #98 Dean
    February 11, 2008

    “Nobody’s suggesting that all Muslims or even most are this crazy.”

    I live in Tower Hamlets in London where 36.4% of the population is Muslim and these kind of situation just *never* seem to arise.

    The vast majority of Muslims just want to get on with their lives, raise their kids etc. And aren’t overly concerned with Christian baiting.

  99. #99 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “Go perform an anatomically improbable act on yourself. Insanity shouldn’t get a free pass, regardless of whether it’s Muslim insanity, Christian insanity, or any other flavor.”

    Similarly of course, racist diatribes against Dutch-Americans or Latvian Americans are EXACTLY the same as anti-semitic or anti-black diatribes.

  100. #100 Mrs Tilton
    February 11, 2008

    Allan @84,

    you, umm, might want to pay more attention to the links you use to bolster your arguments. The link you posted is to a website that simply quotes the same Telegraph article PZ linked to in this post. So you have done precisely nothing to answer the question whether this is “a non-story or not”.

    My own is view that there probably have been a few Muslim medical personnel who’ve taken this stupid view; there are lots of people in the world and one can find examples of anything a human is capable of doing. And if there are such people, they need to be made to choose between following a stupid rule and working in the medical field.

    But with the exception of an article in a rightwing paper with form for xenophobia, quoting a statement by some Muslim organisation that, if it exists at all, seems to be (as someone put it upthread) one guy and his dog — and I’m not sure about the dog — nobody in this thread with experience of Muslim medical personnel has heard of the bare-forearm thing being any sort of issue. If there are one or two Muslim doctors/nurses/etc. who think that way, then sure (as I’ve said), they are in the wrong line of work. But this article strikes me as being just more whacking material for those who, like Strakh @82, find gratification in fantasies that ZOMG teh Islamics under my bed are coming to kill us!!!!111!!

    Somebody in comments on some other website I read today noted that The Muslims are, for a lot of people today, what The Papists were to Britons a couple of hundred years ago. A perceptive comment, that.

  101. #101 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “One thing I’m curious about after reading that article (and I don’t think it has been mentioned yet) is how medical procedures are performed on Muslim women!”

    Well in the consensual reality shared by about 99% of us, the rantings of the IMA as trumpeted by the Saily Telegraph are regarded as a load of horseshit.

    By ignoring said horseshit, female Muslim doctors can and do perform all sorts of medical procedures countless times a day all over the planet.

    But don’t tell that to the IMA or the “Muslims are stoopid” faction here.

  102. #102 Matt Penfold
    February 11, 2008

    “Neither is Judaism.

    I’m sure that was a great comfort to the Jews (observant and nonobservant alike) who founf themselves in the territories of the Deutsche Reich between 1934 and 1945.

    Tell me, is it “religious bigot” really a less objectionable label than “racist”?”

    It would depend if the label was accurate. Race is about more than just religion. There are many groups of people who though professing the same religion have little else in common. The Muslims that are found in the Balkans have little in common with a Nigerian Muslims, other than that they are both Muslims. Likewise a Copt in Egypt has little in common with a Protestant from Northern Europe other than both are Christians.

  103. #103 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “What Lilly de Lure in post #75 fails to understand is that while no one here thinks (nor ever even states) that the insane freaks mentioned in the article represent ALL the deluded humans who ‘believe’ islam, if ANY college, medical school, etc, EVER gives in to ANY of these disgustingly idiotic demands, ALL muslims will have an excuse to whine and cry for ALL to receive them.
    NO demand, by ANY deluded human, for ANY religious reason, can EVER be given precedence over evidence. ”

    Yes because ALL Muslims are a bunch of religious fanatics constantly trying to erode the firm erect bastions of western civilisations and pollute our purely bodily fluids.

    Just like those damn Jews and their refusal to work on Saturdays.

  104. #104 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “Muslim communities here in the West,” are NOT “dangerously exposed and frequently demonised.” Would that they were.”

    Yeah, we haven’t had a decent pogrom here in ages.

    And last time, my (Jewish) family were on the wrong side of it.

    I’m sure running with the hounds will be much more fun.

  105. #105 Mrs Tilton
    February 11, 2008

    Ian @95,

    thanks, I hadn’t heard that before. Is that a universally accepted position, or is it more a Beit Shammai kind of thing? I ask because I recall, from my limited studies of Jewish law, lots of discussions amongst authorities whether one should do X (“X” being something good, done for the benefit of a non-Jew) for its own sake, or rather for the sake of peace and good relations with the non-Jewish community. Opinions seemed to differ. (Of course, the two views aren’t really mutually exclusive, are they?)

  106. #106 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “you know it’s interesting how people outside a religion come up with these weird and illogical “out-of-context” points…. i am a muslim physician and currently as i type i’m wearing a t-shirt that leaves my elbows exposed….” N in T

    The simple fact is that most westerners, including the overwhelmingly majority of those who feel entitled to make snap judgments about Islam, know next to nothing about either the history of Islam or Islam in the modern world. (Like the fact that the three most populous Islamic countries are all secular republics.)

    But knowledge just gets in the way of hate and smug self congratulation at one’s own superiority so who cares if they don’t know the difference between an Alevi and a Salafi or can’t name even one of the schools of Islamic law.

  107. #107 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    Similarly of course, racist diatribes against Dutch-Americans or Latvian Americans are EXACTLY the same as anti-semitic or anti-black diatribes.

    I can see that logic is not your strong point. Neither “Muslim” nor “Christian” is an ethnicity.

    And we’re talking about not bending over backwards to accommodate medieval stupidity (of a degree found only in a small minority of adherents of either of the above religions), not about molesting anyone in any way.

  108. #108 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    ‘The Muslims that are found in the Balkans have little in common with a Nigerian Muslims, other than that they are both Muslims. Likewise a Copt in Egypt has little in common with a Protestant from Northern Europe other than both are Christians.”

    Which is why it is ridiculous to pretend that the sort of gross generalisations contained in the original article apply to all Muslims.

    Of course, what all those Muslim groups you mention have in common is the stereotyping and profiling of them in contemporary western society as potential terrorists and misogynistic religious fanatics.

  109. #109 tom p
    February 11, 2008

    PZ – I’ve great respect for you and greatly enjoy reading pharyngula, but I think you’re in danger of barking up the wrong tree here. Since you’re on the wrong side of the Atlantic you’re probably unaware of some small cultural nuances relating to the English media. The Telegraph, The Daily Mail (who I think you’ve quoted from/linked to before), The Daily Express, The Sun and The Daily Star are all right-wing rags, happy to twist the truth beyond breaking point in order to produce a story about muslims being pricks in order to whip up racial hatred in the UK, where the vast majority of Muslims are originally from Pakistan or Bangladesh (or are 2nd/3rd generation immigrants) and are usually quite poor (unlike the largely middle-class asian muslim population in the US).
    If you see a story in any of these, then it’s best to take it with a huge pinch of salt and at least do a preliminary googling into the organisation that is claimed to be saying such nonsense.
    You should probably also avoid taking anything from Sky News or The Times at face value too, since they are (like The Sun) owned by Fox owner Rupert Murdoch.
    Regarding the Islamic Medical Association/UK, they’re based in a house on the main ring road round London. It’s got to be a one-man and a dog operation, ‘cos nobody would choose to have an office or a house there if they could afford to be anywhere else. Therefore they can’t have many members, therefore they can’t be said to represent anyone other than a tiny handful of pricks, therefore they should be ignored and therefore the problem with this story is an attempt by the right-wing media to whip up hatred of Muslims (for which, in the UK, read Pakistanis), which it has clearly done as the comments here show.

    As for the meat of the story, 1 student in sheffield and a few others in 3 other med schools hardly make for a huge movement, especially given the large number of muslim doctors in the country. A dozen students may be being pricks, but then they’ll fail medical school and go home to their families in disgrace.

  110. #110 Strakh
    February 11, 2008

    Ah, Mrs. Tilton (nice independent name, there, do you enjoying subverting your identity to a man?) and Lilly de Lure:

    While you sit around simpering and congratulating yourselves on your oh-so-REASONABLE accomodation of religious freaks, those said religious freaks are slowly, steadily, and quite successfully planning to take over the entire planet in the name of their god.
    A measure of their success can be seen in the fact that supposedly oh-so-REASONABLE people like you two mush heads are so ignorantly saying, “oh, I know there are some bad eggs in that bunch, but really now, we can’t say being muslim is wrong, can we?”
    If you would take the time to actually READ the quran and the bible and the torah and the endless other pornography of religious insanity you would know what saner and far more practical people than yourselves are saying.
    Religion is mind cancer. You can ignore it, deny it, live without it personally, but it will kill you in the end, like all cancers do. Unless you cut the cancer out of your body, you die. Until humanity recognizes that religion, and those weak enough to slobberingly cling to it need to be excised from the gene pool, humanity’s future is null.

    Yeah, I know, you’ll call me a bigot and coo and murmer about how ‘enlightened’ and ‘tolerant’ you are, but until you actually have to deal with a true muslim (not the sniveling weaklings who cannot or will not live up to the prophet’s call), or a true xian(one who fights satan, not the cowards who just go to church), or a true jew(one who knows only THEY are chosen and the rest of us are all oh yuck, gentiles) you are just so many twittering, ‘tolerant’ boobs lining up to be sent to the gallows for the ‘infidels.’
    Enjoy your tea, ladies, while stronger humans fight for freedom from religion.

  111. #111 Lilly de Lure
    February 11, 2008

    There are many groups of people who though professing the same religion have little else in common. The Muslims that are found in the Balkans have little in common with a Nigerian Muslims, other than that they are both Muslims. Likewise a Copt in Egypt has little in common with a Protestant from Northern Europe other than both are Christians.

    You could also say the same about the many branches of Judaism and for that matter, could most definitely say that same thing about people of the same “race” (whatever that actually means, in terms of biology the answer appears to be pretty much nothing) who live vastly different lives and have nothing in common. So why is it OK to smear all Muslims with this article again (which is the clear intention of the Telegraph article even if I don’t think it is the point of PZ’s post)?

  112. #112 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    A dozen students may be being pricks, but then they’ll fail medical school and go home to their families in disgrace.

    Well, whether you like it or not, that’s news. ONE medical student refusing to wash up properly for supposed religious reasons is one too many. Also, I suggest that you read Bride of Shrek’s comment @ #6 if you think that a negative impact of ultra-Islamist whims on medical care is an isolated novelty.

  113. #113 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    Mrs Tilton:”thanks, I hadn’t heard that before. Is that a universally accepted position, or is it more a Beit Shammai kind of thing?”

    Honestly, that was from a single friend of mine who is an extremely devout Hassidic Jew and one of the nicest, kindest, gentlest people you could hope to meet.

    He confessed to me that the “Only help the non-Jew if it will help the Jews” interpretation was one propounded by his Rebbe and that it was one of the few commandments he had real problems with.

  114. #114 Vittorio Rinaldo
    February 11, 2008

    It’s funny how this mockery is coming from a culture who had no idea of cleanliness until they mingled with muslims during and after crusades. Before prayers, muslims are required to wash all the way up to their elbows. So they are not alien to the concept, I disagree with these ladies… As a muslim, I believe they should be even cleaner than their colleagues.

  115. #115 AJS
    February 11, 2008

    The London Daily Telegraph (not to be confused with my local paper, the Evening Telegraph) is a rather right-wing paper, having earned the nickname “Daily Torygraph”. I wouldn’t put it past them to slant a story to bash muslims, though.

    At the moment, muslims and immigrants in Britain are in approximately the same position that jews were in in Germany in the 1930s: every social failing is being blamed — by some — on muslims, or immigrants.

    We really need a change of government, and a new secular basis for the law which absolutely rejects religious privilege. But before that can happen, the church that was founded on the principle of “easy access to divorce” has to undergo a divorce of its own.

  116. #116 tom p
    February 11, 2008

    Strakh @ post 82 – In the UK Muslim communities ARE dangerously exposed and frequently demonised. The BNP (a neo-fascist gang of thugs masquerading as a political party) has for the last few years got around the racial hatred laws by doing a find and replace in all of their pamphlets and replacing the words “Paki” or “Pakistani” with Muslim, but otherwise keeping the racist lies intact.

    The religion is used as a code for the race and these lies lead to people being beaten and even killed whenever the BNP get active in an area. This has been going on long before September 11th 2001 and was the primary reason why the british government tried to introduce a (fundamentally flawed) piece of legislation outlawing religious hatred.

  117. #117 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “I can see that logic is not your strong point. Neither “Muslim” nor “Christian” is an ethnicity.”

    So you’re okay with bigotry provided it’s on rtelgious not racial grounds.

    Gotcha.

    I’m sure that’d be a great comfort to, for example, a Harijan.

    “And we’re talking about not bending over backwards to accommodate medieval stupidity (of a degree found only in a small minority of adherents of either of the above religions), not about molesting anyone in any way.”

    Except, of course, that the original article PZ posted, tPZ’s initial post and the first dozen or so responses made absolutely no such distinction.

    You know, I once knew an avowed neo-Nazi who assured me that he had no problem with acculturated, assimilated non-practising Jews such as myself.

    I’m tempted to tell you what I told him.

  118. #118 Matt Penfold
    February 11, 2008

    “Which is why it is ridiculous to pretend that the sort of gross generalaisations contined in the original article apply to all Muslims.

    Of course, what all those Muslim groups you mention have in common is the stereotyping and profiling of them in contemporary western society as potential terrorists and misogynistic religious fanatics.”

    If you bothered to read what I have said you would find I have not grouped all Muslims together. Indeed Elsewhere on PZ’s blog I have made it clear that there is not even a cohesive unified Muslim community within the UK, let alone globally.

    So please, cut out all the indignant self-righteousness. If you cannot be bothered to read what I have said then just keep quiet. That way I will not need to call you a fool.

    Yes I object to Muslims demanding special treatment to accommodate their religious views, but the I object to any religious group doing so. I am not exactly quiet in my condemnation of the Catholic Church demanding that their adoption agencies be exempted from legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of a person’s sexuality. No doubt you will consider that to be Anti-Papist.

  119. #119 Steve_C
    February 11, 2008

    Yeah, because only washing up to the elbows is enough?

    No one is calling all muslims dirty.

  120. #120 AGuy
    February 11, 2008

    So…Muslims want special foot washing stations

    Incorrect. They did not ask for it – it was decided upon by a non-Muslim administrator for safety reasons. The comparison with the medical students is a false one.

  121. #121 Matt Penfold
    February 11, 2008

    “You could also say the same about the many branches of Judaism and for that matter, could most definitely say that same thing about people of the same “race” (whatever that actually means, in terms of biology the answer appears to be pretty much nothing) who live vastly different lives and have nothing in common. So why is it OK to smear all Muslims with this article again (which is the clear intention of the Telegraph article even if I don’t think it is the point of PZ’s post)?”

    Please show me where I am smearing all Muslims. I think you will have problems doing so.

  122. #122 Lilly de Lure
    February 11, 2008

    Yes I object to Muslims demanding special treatment to accommodate their religious views, but the I object to any religious group doing so. I am not exactly quiet in my condemnation of the Catholic Church demanding that their adoption agencies be exempted from legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of a person’s sexuality. No doubt you will consider that to be Anti-Papist.

    But the whole point of what we have been saying is that Muslims have been doing no such thing and that this is a scare story. If they had I would be pointing and laughing, at the fools who wanted the exemption rather than at Muslims as a whole (see comment #92). Now do you see what we are getting at?

  123. #123 tom p
    February 11, 2008

    Steve La Boune – it’s news if these pricks are being allowed through to become doctors or if it was doctors refusing to wash their hands properly, but there’s no evidence that they are.
    Students are (mainly) idiots (I know I was, but in an entirely different way to the ones in the article), and many muslim students are retreating into a reactionary shell of hardcore islam in response to the increased demonisation of muslims since 11/9, which only makes things worse for all concerned.
    The students will either grow up or they’ll fail, it’s as simple as that.

  124. #124 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    So you’re okay with bigotry provided it’s on rtelgious not racial grounds.

    Gotcha.I see we can add poor reading comprehension to your list of cognitive deficits. But do carry on making an idiot of yourself.

  125. #125 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “It’s funny how this mockery is coming from a culture who had no idea of cleanliness until they mingled with muslims during and after crusades.”

    Really Rinaldo next you’ll be raising t6he issue of the Alexandria ghetto.

    (In his European campaigns, Napoleon made great propaganda out of visiting the Jewish ghetto of each city he “liberated” and pulling down the gates/knocking down the walls of the Jewish ghettoes. When he “liberated” Alexandria during his Egyptian campaign he tried to repeat this practice only to be stymied by the fact the3re was no ghetto in Alexandria.

    Still he did bring back the concept of the “abbatoir” to Europe raising the standards of food hygiene in Europe to those that had applied in the Islamic world for the preceding millenium or so.)

  126. #126 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2008

    “Yeah, I know, you’ll call me a bigot and coo and murmer about how ‘enlightened’ and ‘tolerant’ you are, but until you actually have to deal with a true muslim (not the sniveling weaklings who cannot or will not live up to the prophet’s call), or a true xian(one who fights satan, not the cowards who just go to church), or a true jew(one who knows only THEY are chosen and the rest of us are all oh yuck, gentiles) you are just so many twittering, ‘tolerant’ boobs lining up to be sent to the gallows for the ‘infidels.’”

    So only the vanishingly small minorities of Christians, Muslims and Jews who live up (down?) to your stereotypes are real Christians etc?

    Similarly I guess the aggressively atheistic/social Darwinist Neonazis I’ve encountered are the only real atheists.

  127. #127 Matt Penfold
    February 11, 2008

    “But the whole point of what we have been saying is that Muslims have been doing no such thing and that this is a scare story. If they had I would be pointing and laughing, at the fools who wanted the exemption rather than at Muslims as a whole (see comment #92). Now do you see what we are getting at?”

    No, because you are wrong. There is in the UK a number of Muslims who are demanding that UK law be change to accommodate the principles of Sharia law. The numbers making such a call may be open to some speculation, it is by no means all but also it is by no means an insignificant minority either. An ICM poll in 2006 found that 40% of British Muslims wanted to see Sharia law in the UK, with 41% saying no. 40% is not a majority but it is a significant minority.

    So sorry Lilly, just because the data does not suit your position does not mean you get to ignore it.

  128. #128 Mrs Tilton
    February 11, 2008

    Ian @126,

    I guess the aggressively atheistic/social Darwinist Neonazis I’ve encountered are the only real atheists

    In the case of your current correspondent, you might be closer to the mark than you suspect.

  129. #129 Bob
    February 11, 2008

    Let me propose a challenge: confirm the main elements of the original news story. This should be right up our alley since Pharyngula is predominantly a science blog and the community here values independent and evidential confirmation of statements rather than accepting them at face value, no matter the source.

    We already have one bit of information from tomp (@109) – the location of this so-called Islamic Medical Association/UK.

    Are we being manipulated by a right-wing rag or is public health in the UK under assault by a religious minority? Neither? Both?

  130. #130 Strakh
    February 11, 2008

    Ah, how easily the rock turns and the slime slithers into the discussion.
    The infantile baiting begins even here. Everything, everything, EVERYTHING is about the jews, eh, ig? All history, all bigotry, EVERYTHING is about the poor, poor, POOR jews, eh?
    Literally nothing anyone says will ever NOT be about the jews to you and your oh-so-REASONABLE take on how since the jews were the ONLY people to ever REALLY know persecution, only jews can comment on anything about it.
    Take your little cry-baby whiney-assed sophisms and just slither back under your paranoid rock.
    No one cares to listen to a perpetual victim, anyway.

  131. #131 Lilly de Lure
    February 11, 2008

    Mrs Tilton @128

    Wow, I hadn’t expected you to be proved right quite THAT soon (see #130).

  132. #132 DrFrank
    February 11, 2008

    @N in T, #87

    you know it’s interesting how people outside a religion come up with these weird and illogical “out-of-context” points

    You mean, those people outside the religion like Dr. Majid Katme, the spokesman of the Islamic Medical Association?

    But the Islamic Medical Association insisted that covering all the body in public, except the face and hands, was a basic tenet of Islam.

    “No practising Muslim woman – doctor, medical student, nurse or patient – should be forced to bare her arms below the elbow,” it said.

    Dr Majid Katme, the association spokesman, said: “Exposed arms can pick up germs and there is a lot of evidence to suggest skin is safer to the patient if covered. One idea might be to produce long, sterile, disposable gloves which go up to the elbows.”

    Damn him and his misunderstanding of Islam!

  133. #133 DrFrank
    February 11, 2008

    Obviously, I screwed up the end of the italics there for quoting, but you can probably guess where they should go.

    Continuing a little, though, you shouldn’t really be complaining about us ignorant heathens misinterpreting your religion when we’re basing our statements directly on press releases from Islamic organisations.

    If you want to complain to anyone, contact Dr Katme and tell him how wrong he is in his interpretation of Islam. You may also want to criticise his turning out for a protest against gay rights.

  134. #134 DrFrank
    February 11, 2008

    Wow, I really need to refresh more :|

    Someone further up referred to the Islamic Medical Association as being crazies, and I’m inclined to agree from a bit more of a search on the interwebs.

  135. #135 Matt Penfold
    February 11, 2008

    There does not seem to be much on the web about the Islamic Medical Association in the UK. I did find this article on the head of that organisation. It would seem that whilst he holds some pretty wacky views, he does seem to have a role within the Muslim Council of Britain. For those who do not know the Muslim Council of Britain is the largest organisation for Muslim interests in the UK.
    http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/brian_whitaker/2007/05/doctor_in_the_mosque.html

  136. #136 Strakh
    February 11, 2008

    Ladies, ladies, really, how bad is your comprehension?
    The people on this post were discussing the insanity of giving in to muslim delusion when at post #50, ig broke in with a COMPLETELY irrelavent, baiting comment.
    ANY response to this baiting is then labled ‘right wing’ or ‘anti semetic’ when all it really is is frustrated disgust at the childish self-absorption of making EVERYTHING a jewish problem.
    From then on we get useless talk over archaic jewish law which is every bit as disgusting as xian, muslim, mormon, etc., writings.
    The point, useless ones, is that NO religion, even judiasm, should get any respect, ever, or any tolerance when it interferes with evidence, such as hand washing to prevent diseases.

  137. #137 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    From TFA, as they would say on Slashdot:

    Minutes of a clinical academics’ meeting at Liverpool University revealed that female Muslim students at Alder Hey children’s hospital had objected to rolling up their sleeves to wear gowns.

    Similar concerns have been raised at Leicester University. Minutes from a medical school committee said that “a number of Muslim females had difficulty in complying with the procedures to roll up sleeves to the elbow for appropriate handwashing”.

    Sheffield University also reported a case of a Muslim medic who refused to “scrub” as this left her forearms exposed.

    Documents from Birmingham University reveal that some students would prefer to quit the course rather than expose their arms, and warn that it could leave trusts open to legal action.

    Contempt for the Telegraph is well-deserved, but are they making ALL this stuff up? People who claim this is not a story are in effect claiming exactly that. It’s interesting that some people are instead focusing on the bona fides if the Islamic Medical Association. If the above reports are indeed correct, that’s pretty much a red herring, because in that case there is an issue with actual medical students in actual hospitals.

  138. #138 DrFrank
    February 11, 2008

    @Matt #135
    You’re right (I just found out), he’s mentioned here as the “MCB spokesperson on halal meat and food for the Muslim Council of Britain”, which is found next to the “Department of Automatically True Tautologies Department”.

    Methinks the MCB need to shed some crazies.

  139. #139 Mrs Tilton
    February 11, 2008

    Lilly @131,

    yeah, charming. S/he managed to keep the mask on at first, but it didn’t take long at all for the goose-stepping to begin, did it?

    The irony is that Jews with the same kind of personality disorder that Strakh displays can join in the Islamofascistophobic fun. (One thinks, for example, of that horrible Long Island woman who supplies the Sadly, No! crew with endless material.) In the old days, the more traditional form of hatin’ excluded Jewish arseholes by definition. But now they have an outlet for their arseholery, and there’s nothing Strakh can do to keep them out!

  140. #140 aziz
    February 11, 2008

    Dude I’m a muslim and this is not right. Hygiene is essential in worship AND daily life.
    The lady should do it or quit, down to her, but AGAIN, jumping on one imbecile’s dumb interpretation of teachings to blanket ridicule all Muslims is wrong.
    Come on, you know it’s unfair.

  141. #141 Mold
    February 11, 2008

    PZ is correct to share this. I attend a class with roughly 90 people, most of whom are Nursing students. Out of this group, only about 5 accept evolution as science. Some have said that they want their children exposed to the “controversy”. The instructor is a Bio PhD and has shown interest in a non-evoutionary course of study. In the US, even!

  142. #142 mds
    February 11, 2008

    But the Islamic Medical Association insisted that covering all the body in public, except the face and hands, was a basic tenet of Islam.

    Except that it isn’t.

    I’m beginning to think that multiculturalism is OK, as long as Muslims aren’t involved.

    Indeed, I too am growing tired of Professor Myers always singling out the religious beliefs of Muslims alone for ridicule.

    It’s funny how this mockery is coming from a culture who had no idea of cleanliness until they mingled with muslims during and after crusades.

    This is a bit of an over-generalization, as the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire retained a penchant for cleanliness, which to the West was a clear sign of their decadence, just like eating with forks. The basic point still stands, though, especially in the context of physicians washing up.

    Damn him and his misunderstanding of Islam!

    Yeah, it’s pretty blatantly off-the-mark, given the age-old link in Islam between prayer before medical treatment, which mandated washing up to the elbows… Wait, you were being sarcastic? At least you’ve since noticed that the IMA is extra-nutty.

    To be fair, though, even if the number of Muslims thinking this way might be small, it’s still non-zero, and the belief is thus fair game.

  143. #143 Matt Penfold
    February 11, 2008

    “Dude I’m a muslim and this is not right. Hygiene is essential in worship AND daily life.
    The lady should do it or quit, down to her, but AGAIN, jumping on one imbecile’s dumb interpretation of teachings to blanket ridicule all Muslims is wrong.
    Come on, you know it’s unfair.”

    It would seem to be a bit more than just one person’s interpretation of the Koran. The issue seems have been raised in more than one medical school in the UK enough to cause sufficient concern that the clinical teaching staff saw need to raise the issue.

    It is to be hoped that for the moment the number of people objecting to having bare arms when performing procedures is small. If a robust enough stance is taken at this stage, and it is made clear to both qualified medical personal, and those in training, that it is not acceptable to refuse to adhere to hygiene standards then the issue may not cause problems in the future. One possibility I could see working is for medical schools to bring onboard an Islamic scholar who can advise those refusing to adhere to the standards.

  144. #144 Matt Penfold
    February 11, 2008

    “Indeed, I too am growing tired of Professor Myers always singling out the religious beliefs of Muslims alone for ridicule.”

    I think you will find PZ holds all religious views up to ridicule. You may have noticed only the other day he ridiculed the Archbishop of Canterbury, and today has ridiculed Catholic exorcisms. I am not sure how you managed to miss those but find this thread.

  145. #145 Omar
    February 11, 2008

    Another cliché atheistic ego-centric article that ironically question the open mindedness of the subject but never the author. Other than the crude humor, the skewing of the facts is troubling. The Islamic religion (not the Bin Laden or Fox remix) has a real pragmatic dimension that warrants evolution based on circumstance. For example, Pork is not allowed, however if a person is starving then it is allowed.
    Muslims are to be in a state of cleanliness at all times. Cleanliness rituals dictate the washing of feet before prayer. Not washing your hands before an operation is a neglect of duty and is simply intolerable by the Islamic Religion.
    I would like to add that if the attributes of the God that you deem imaginary were derived by the same near sighted cynicism that you have shown in this article, then I too do not believe in that God.

  146. #146 DrFrank
    February 11, 2008

    @mds #142

    Yes, the IMA is extra nutty, but via Katme it has links with the MCB, which is supposed to be reasonably sensible.

    I’m sure that to any vaguely reasonable interpretation of Islam that none of this would be a problem in any way, but my point is that there are people out there speaking loudly for Islam in a way that makes it look terrible. Why is no one jumping up and down on them, and instead blaming non-believers for getting the wrong impression?

  147. #147 Moses
    February 11, 2008

    Wow. What a degenerative thread.

    I’ll point out that RELATING TO THE MEAT OF THIS STORY, the REACTION (and point) WAS THE SAME when we had the CHRISTIAN PHARMACIST refusing to dispense a MORNING AFTER pill. I realize these things go down the memory hole. ESPECIALLY WHEN THE FROTHING BEGINS, but the charges of racism, etc., being leveled are horseshit.

    Not to put words in his mouth, but it seems to me the metanarrative underlying the position of Dr. Myers, illustrated by this post, is that the RELIGIOUS NUTTERS, regardless of affiliation, always want their mouldy, bronze-age/iron-age beliefs accommodated and treated with respect, REGARDLESS of how they may negatively effect others, including potential life-threatening causes. And that when their beliefs aren’t “respected” as they’d like, they whine and bitch and complain like fucking children.

    As far as I’m concerned, MRSA and other hospital infections, are becoming a serious problem to the point where hospitals are getting dangerous (one of my clients was almost killed with an MRSA infection last year). Reasonable steps have to be taken to remove the risk of transmittal. If that includes short-sleeves, washing to elbows, removing ties, etc., tough shit.

    And anyone, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Sikh, Hindu, etc., who wants to put his religious beliefs above someone else’s life and/or proper medical treatment, he (or she) can fuck him (or her) self blind. And I don’t care if it’s ten or ten-thousand. They can all get fucked. Their privilege to be Muslims, Christians, etc. doesn’t give them a right to potentially kill others, or deny them medicine, because it may violate their delusional belief system.

  148. #148 Matt Penfold
    February 11, 2008

    “I’m sure that to any vaguely reasonable interpretation of Islam that none of this would be a problem in any way, but my point is that there are people out there speaking loudly for Islam in a way that makes it look terrible. Why is no one jumping up and down on them, and instead blaming non-believers for getting the wrong impression?”

    Probably for the same reason that Christians who have no issues with evolution seem to be less vocal in telling their fundamentalist co-religionists that they know nothing about science than the “angry” atheists.

  149. #149 Mrs Tilton
    February 11, 2008

    Steve @137,

    Contempt for the Telegraph is well-deserved, but are they making ALL this stuff up? People who claim this is not a story are in effect claiming exactly that

    That’s not what I’m claiming. If there are such people — and apparently there are a few, which does not surprise me — they need to change their practice or else change their profession.

    What I am claiming is that the actual story — which appears to be “A few Muslim medical personnel are behaving like idiots, and some batshit-lunatic Muslim equivalent of Bill Donoghue has their back” — has been transmogrified by a xenophobic rightwing paper into “Teh Muslims refuse to scrub!!!!!111!!”. There are huge numbers of Muslim medical personnel in the UK (actually, I imagine there may be in the US as well.) Presumably some are non-religious, purely “cultural” Muslims, but presumably some portion are believers. Yet almost none of them make an issue of this. That fact is more significant, surely, than the fact that a vanishingly small number of their co-religionist colleagues are idiots.

  150. #150 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    Sorry Mrs Tilton, your special pleading does not make this a non-story. If you’re not claiming the Telegraph made this stuff up, then we’re looking at multiple incidents at several hospitals. That suggests the spread of a very troublesome meme, and one that should not be ignored, or about which reporting should be suppressed ,due to “cultural sensitivities”.

    Look, I’m actually in favor of accommodations for silly superstitions as long as the accommodations are not injurious to non-believers. For example, I think the Turkish parliament has done a very good thing by voting to remove the infamous headscarf-ban law. But this is in a very different category, and should not be given a free pass any more than the harmful beliefs of wacko-fringe Christians should be. And nobody can say that PZ fails to devote plenty of attention to the latter.

  151. #151 Lilly de Lure
    February 11, 2008

    Mrs Tilton

    Thanks once more – beat me to the drop though! To reiterate none of us are saying that medical practice should be compromised to cater to religious belief, we just don’t like the way this issue has been hijacked as a way to beat up on Muslims, including ones who think that this is as loopy as we do.

  152. #152 Matt Penfold
    February 11, 2008

    Mrs Tilton,

    Can you tell us what article you a reading because it clearly is not the one in The Telegraph that PZ linked to.

    Journalism in the UK is not the same as journalism in the US. Maybe you are not taking into account those differences.

  153. #153 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    Let’s get something entirely damn straight here: every nonbeliever has a perfect right to mock Muslims, Christians, and all other purveyors of childish superstitions as often as he or she sees fit. Don’t like it? Tough.

  154. #154 Mrs Tilton
    February 11, 2008

    Matt @144,

    I think you will find PZ holds all religious views up to ridicule

    Important point. PZ is no Malkin; his anti-religiosity is equal-opportunity.* I don’t know why some commenters here think he is waging a special crusade against Islam. If anything, he usually focuses much more closely on Christian whackjobbery than on the Muslim version; probably because the former is the overwhelmingly dominant variety of whackjobbery where he lives.

    * I’m pretty sure he has even had a go at that nice Dalai Lama. Sadly, though, he is falling down on the job when it comes to Zoroastrianism, Cao Daism and Australian Aboriginal dreamtime beliefs.

  155. #155 mds
    February 11, 2008

    I am not sure how you managed to miss those but find this thread.

    Mr. Penfold, with all due respect, I am not sure how you manage to miss sarcasm but read Pharyngula.

  156. #156 Matt Penfold
    February 11, 2008

    There is only about 30 medical schools in the whole of the UK. For four of them to indicate that there are problems with some of their female Muslim students and the new Department of Health guidelines on keeping arms bare to avoid sources of possible infection is news, and is a significant problem.Clearly one needs to be addresses now rather than later.

  157. #157 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    I used to be married to a Zoroastrian (a sensibly non-observant one though) and would be happy to dilate on the multitude of truly idiotic rituals followed by orthodox Zoroastrians. But it would bore everyone to death. ;)

  158. #158 Omar
    February 11, 2008

    Mrs Tilton makes a legitimate point. The claim made by this article is based on a fallible induction that makes a generality on Islam as whole based on an instance where a lunatic happened to be muslim. If this not the case then it should be simple for Mrs. Tilton’s critics to produce proof where Islamic text would endorse this sort of lunacy.

  159. #159 Matt Penfold
    February 11, 2008

    “Important point. PZ is no Malkin; his anti-religiosity is equal-opportunity.* I don’t know why some commenters here think he is waging a special crusade against Islam. If anything, he usually focuses much more closely on Christian whackjobbery than on the Muslim version; probably because the former is the overwhelmingly dominant variety of whackjobbery where he lives.”

    I am almost certain that in the US the most common religious lunacy comes from Christians. Here in the UK I am not sure that is the case. Apart from the last week when the shit really has been flying, the Anglicans are normally pretty uncontraversial. The Catholics here also tend to be pretty sane, apart from when abortion is being discussed and it is a long time since I heard much stupidity coming from the Methodists. Anglicanism, Catholicism and Methodism are the main denominations in the UK.

    Unfortunately there is a element within Islam within the UK that is a regular source of stupidity, and worse. It is not a majority but nor is it a insignificant minority. This element supports the Taliban, and the killing of British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was were the suicide bombers (and would-be bombers) came from. Most are British born, although their dissatisfaction is fueled by Imams from the Indian sub-continent. I rather suspect it is this element that Katme is a part of.

  160. #160 Mrs Tilton
    February 11, 2008

    Steve @150,

    what part of “they need to change their practice or else change their profession” do you think is special pleading for devout Muslim doctors to be excused scrubbing? And I’d be grateful if you’d point out to me the part of my comment where I suggest that reporting should be suppressed for reasons of cultural sensitivity.

    The irony is that you and I are, I think, broadly in agreement here. You’re right, this “meme” is troublesome and must not be ignored. The need for sound hygienic practice has to be hammered home to every Muslim in medical training (just as it does to everybody else). And religious beliefs are no grounds for varying from that practice, even if the beliefs in question are universally-held fundamentals of a faith (which the bare-forearm thing does not appear to be).

    Correct me if I am misreading you, but where we differ is that you are, I think, assigning far more significance to this than it deserves. A handful of Muslim students saying they don’t want to expose their forearms is bad news and needs to be shut down fast. But it’s a handful, not a whole religion. Lots of UK Muslims are in the medical field, and you’re not going to get rich betting that any given one of them entertains this ludicrous notion.

    Matt @152,

    Journalism in the UK is not the same as journalism in the US. Maybe you are not taking into account those differences

    Thanks for that interesting observation, Matt. Given that I am not in the US and that the English-language journalism I read is much more often UK- than US-based, though, I’m not sure why it is relevant.

  161. #161 Matt Penfpld
    February 11, 2008

    “Mrs Tilton makes a legitimate point. The claim made by this article is based on a fallible induction that makes a generality on Islam as whole based on an instance where a lunatic happened to be muslim. If this not the case then it should be simple for Mrs. Tilton’s critics to produce proof where Islamic text would endorse this sort of lunacy.”

    This is about more than just Kitme. The article talks of female medical students. Kitme is a male and already a qualified doctor so clearly he is not one of those who are refusing to scrub in accordance with the new guidelines. These students got their ideas on what Islam says from somewhere, and since they have managed to get into medical school they clearly are not totally stupid. I can fully willing to accept that most Muslims would not agree with them on this issue. However this misses the point. The fact of the matter is there are some medical students, in more than just one medical school (which would seem to rule out a single malign influence), who are refusing to act in a manner that is expected of them. It is perfectly reasonable for those students to be told either they follow the guidelines, reach a compromise that is workable (separate scrub areas would likely be unworkable for example) or leave medicine.

  162. #162 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    Yes, you’re misreading me. I attach much the same level of significance to the story as you do- it’s troubling and requires attention, but I nowhere said and certainly do not think that it’s in any way characteristic of Muslim doctors (full disclosure- my daughter’s pediatrician is a headscarf-wearing Indian Muslim female. And I think very highly of her.)

    And that’s why I’m having trouble understanding precisely what you’re objecting to. If you’re not saying that the Telegraph shouldn’t have printed the story or that PZ shouldn’t have commented on it, then about what, exactly, are you going on at such length?

  163. #163 Mrs Tilton
    February 11, 2008

    Matt @161,

    The fact of the matter is there are some medical students … who are refusing to act in a manner that is expected of them. It is perfectly reasonable for those students to be told either they follow the guidelines, reach a compromise that is workable (separate scrub areas would likely be unworkable for example) or leave medicine

    Well, I would certainly agree with that. And though I do not speak for Lilly or Ian or the other commenters who have been critical of the Telegraph article, I would be surprised if they disagreed with it.

  164. #164 Strakh
    February 11, 2008

    Re#147 by Moses:

    Exactly my point (and the point of PZ Meyers and every other rational being posting here) before I was rudely and incorrectly attacked by butthole-loving morons lableing me ‘jackbooted.’
    It is interesting how quickly these shit-eating trolls can divert the blog from the simple fact that religion, ALL religions, you scummy trolls, xianity, judaism, etc., are just shit that needs to be eradicated from humanity.
    And nobody’s religious beliefs deserve ANY respect, EVER, ESPECIALLY when human lives are at stake, ridiculous apologists for their particular insanely ignorant superstitions notwithstanding.
    Thanks again, Moses, for stating it simply and clearly.

  165. #165 Mrs Tilton
    February 11, 2008

    Steve @162,

    But I don’t have a problem with PZ posting about this. His website, after all, is mostly about (i) science and (ii) religion, and here is something that touches on both.

    Nor would I prohibit the Telegraph from printing this story. I do, however, question their good faith in printing it. The refusal-to-scrub thing is a serious (if, apparently, small-scale and recent) problem for medical educators and hospital administrators. Burning headline news, I’d think, for (say) a medical educators’ or hospital administrators’ professional journal. I’m not certain, though, whether a problem of medical pedagogy is, as such, of really significant interest to the Telegraph’s readership.

    Now, it’s always possible that the paper has recently set a new editorial goal of increasing popular awareness of the need for sound medcial hygiene. Given its past form, though, I think I’ll stick with “their editorial goal is to pander to xenophobes” as the safer bet. That they cite as an ostensibly serious authority a source that several Pharyngula commenters, armed only with Google’s URL and about fifteen seconds of time, have identified as a marginal nutcase doesn’t really argue for their good faith. And some of the comments even on a generally enlightened website like this one (e.g., “Tell the stupid Muslims to join the 21st century”, as though the vast majority of Muslim medical personnel in the UK are not already there) suggest that the Telegraph has done its work all too effectively.

  166. #166 Lilly de Lure
    February 11, 2008

    “The fact of the matter is there are some medical students … who are refusing to act in a manner that is expected of them. It is perfectly reasonable for those students to be told either they follow the guidelines, reach a compromise that is workable (separate scrub areas would likely be unworkable for example) or leave medicine”

    Well, I would certainly agree with that. And though I do not speak for Lilly or Ian or the other commenters who have been critical of the Telegraph article, I would be surprised if they disagreed with it.

    I’d certainly endorse that, indeed I have, several times, I don’t like any kind of “cultural sensitivity” that puts people at risk. My point is that from the tone of both the Daily Telegraphy article and PZ’s post the impression was given that this was a major movement endorsed by a sizeable proportion of Muslims in the medical profession, for example from PZ’s post:

    So…Muslims want special foot washing stations so they can tidy up in order to pray, but at the same time, Muslim doctors don’t want to have to wash their arms before they plunge them into my guts. “No practising Muslim woman — doctor, medical student, nurse or patient — should be forced to bare her arms below the elbow,” they say.

    There is nothing here about this being a release from one crazy endorsed by a handful of sad fanatics (if that), just “Muslims” this and “Muslims” that.

    To be fair to PZ this is because the Telegraph article fails to make the same distinction but it is an important one and I would have had no problem at all if he had, say noted who was endorsing this and done a “look at what this (individual) idiot has said” point and laugh piece but that is not what this post is. It reads like it’s having a go at Muslims generally for what a small group of idiots have said and that is not fair (it is also unusual for what I know of PZ, usually if he’s doing a point and laugh piece he doesn’t just say “Christians”, he’ll say precisely who he is laughing at and why clearly throughout the piece).

    Incidentally whilst berating PZ for his fact checking I should point out deficiencies in my own. Unlike Matt Penfold I failed to find the link to the students in the hospitals so I thought this was just one guy and his dog. Apologies for that as I can now see the point of posting about this matter, but my point about the tone of the post remains.

  167. #167 Barklikeadog
    February 11, 2008

    Having worked in healthcare in these last 27 years I have encountered numerous muslims. Not once did I ever see one clean his/her feet but I have seen them scrub up. Although I didn’t personnaly watch them all the time (the hall monitor job was taken) I can honestly “believe” they did because it is mandated to do so. No exceptions. I’m not sure where this would be a problem in the US. If it turns out to be a problem then I agree w/ Moses. Don’t work in healthcare. There are plenty of quickstops to manage.

  168. #168 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    Apologies for that as I can now see the point of posting about this matter, but my point about the tone of the post remains.

    So you admit couldn’t be bothered to read the whole post or the linked articles before ranting, but you think we should still care about your opinion? Dream on.

  169. #169 Lilly de Lure
    February 11, 2008

    So you admit couldn’t be bothered to read the whole post or the linked articles before ranting, but you think we should still care about your opinion? Dream on.

    No, I admit that I overlooked something and that when I discovered it I altered my opinion somewhat. In science this is called “altering the theory to fit the facts”. What do you do when you find out additional information that contradicts your initial ideas?

  170. #170 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    Mrs Tilton, each of your “clarifications” leaves me even more confused than the last. So you agree that this is a real story, and a matter of genuine concern that needed to be aired in some way, but you just think that it shouldn’t have been reported by The Telegraph because of (entirely justified, as I’m well aware) suspicions about the motives of that rag’s editors in doing so? (Should stories only be reported by journalists whose motives for doing so are simon-pure? How do we determine this, and how enforce it?) But nevertheless, it was fine for PZ to comment on it? I mean, this is well beyond nuance and deeply into the territory of plain old incoherence.

  171. #171 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    What do you do when you find out additional information that contradicts your initial ideas?

    Unlike you, I do not go on claiming that my mistaken ideas still somehow have merit.

  172. #172 charles
    February 11, 2008

    I’m only responding to you because I think it’s important to emphasize the lessons of bigotry that some of us in the US in particular were taught during childhood but haven’t, for some reason or another, managed to really take in and think about.

    While I admit that it is dangerous for doctors and health workers to refuse to practice the rules of cleanliness during practice, I do not think that the entire Muslim religion therefore should held in contempt and laughed at.

    What about Christian pharmacologists in the US refuse the morning after pill to rape victims because it’s against their religion how do you feel about that? Do you hold Catholicism in the same contempt? Do you think it so ridiculous as to be deserving of cruel laughter? Is that any different to you? I bet it is. Because the double standard is the mark of the bigot.

    Your blog isn’t worth all this attention.

  173. #173 Lilly de Lure
    February 11, 2008

    Unlike you, I do not go on claiming that my mistaken ideas still somehow have merit.

    I don’t, that’s why I printed the retraction of the bit that I now think was mistaken, but as I have said, that does not alter my problems with the tone of the post.

  174. #174 Owlmirror
    February 11, 2008

    What about Christian pharmacologists in the US refuse the morning after pill to rape victims because it’s against their religion how do you feel about that? Do you hold Catholicism in the same contempt?

    Yes.

    Do you think it so ridiculous as to be deserving of cruel laughter?

    Sure.

    Is that any different to you?

    Not really.

    Your blog isn’t worth all this attention.

    And yet, here you are, paying attention…

  175. #175 Lilly de Lure
    February 11, 2008

    What about Christian pharmacologists in the US refuse the morning after pill to rape victims because it’s against their religion how do you feel about that? Do you hold Catholicism in the same contempt? Do you think it so ridiculous as to be deserving of cruel laughter?

    Well I hold those pharmacologists in contempt yes, as well as the people telling them to do this, but I do not hold all Catholics in contempt, there’s a difference between the two. But as for laughing at said pharmacologists and their instructors, you betcha!

  176. #176 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    What about Christian pharmacologists in the US refuse the morning after pill to rape victims because it’s against their religion how do you feel about that?

    You must be EXTRMELY unfamiliar with this blog to be unaware that PZ regularly and vitriolically denounces Christian insanity of this kind. Troll.

  177. #177 Mrs Tilton
    February 11, 2008

    Steve @170,

    it’s really not that difficult to understand. The Telegraph is free to print what it likes within the constraints of UK law (which is more restrictive in a number of ways than its US counterpart, and that is not a good thing). I have no power to stop them, and would not exercise that power if I did. But I can and do point out that they are scum-sucking bottom-dwellers for doing so.

    And yes, I do wish that they would have had the sense of editorial responsibility to print a story (if the story itself were deemed genuinely newsworthy) that does not pander to the basest instincts of an unattractive readership. But then if that’s what they did, they wouldn’t be the Telegraph.

    PZ is another matter altogether. To some extent he may be a victim of the Telegraph (I’m sure he’s aware it’s a major UK paper; I don’t know how familiar he is with what it stands for). But he is not its abettor. Though he’s very clear about the contempt he holds for all religions and religion-in-general, I’ve never seen anything here that would remotely suggest he wishes to stir up xenophobic hatred against Muslims or any other group. Indeed I’d be shocked if he didn’t strongly oppose it.

  178. #178 flame821
    February 11, 2008

    Just to add fuel to the fire, The Times has recently printed up several articles (I’ll search for the links in a moment and post them here) regarding the high prevalence of MRST among the Muslim communities. AND the high rate of birth defects among the same group, presumably due to the ‘rural tradition’ of arranged marriages between first cousins.

    Off to hunt for those links and please let me know if the Time is a reputable paper or a fear-monger that I should be wary of.

  179. #179 Kseniya
    February 11, 2008

    I bet it is.

    Charles, I suggest you stay away from Las Vegas.

    Because the double standard is the mark of the bigot.

    Yes, among other things. What is the mark of the sanctimonious fool who spews uninformed vitriol based on presumption rather than fact?

  180. #180 MAJeff
    February 11, 2008

    What about Christian pharmacologists in the US refuse the morning after pill to rape victims because it’s against their religion how do you feel about that? Do you hold Catholicism in the same contempt?

    Absolutely. But I didn’t until I went to a Catholic University across the street from the Boston Archdiocese. An utterly corrupt and contemptible organization.

  181. #181 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    I have held Catholicism in contempt since becoming an ex-Catholic at the age of 12 (little did I know then that this may have saved me from molestation, since otherwise I might have become an altar boy!)

    Some people just don’t seem to get it. Many of us hold- as PZ does- ALL religions in contempt. But I reserve a special degree of contempt for the aggressive, persecuting religions- among which Christianity and Islam have historically been among the worst.

  182. #182 flame821
    February 11, 2008

    #178 Times article

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3342040.ece

    Minister warns of ‘inbred’ Muslims – ok that is just a horrible headline choice.

    Still looking for the other, although I am becoming confused as the link leads to the ‘politics’ section and not ‘health’.

    Is the Times a ‘rag’ or a reputable paper, considering the headlines with Dr. R Williams across the board it is rather difficult to tell right now.

  183. #183 Anonymoustache
    February 11, 2008

    There is soemthing to be said for nipping this kinda crap in the bud. The ‘Christian phramacist’s conscience” bullsh*t is a good example……Indiana is moving towards joining SDakota, GA and MS in offering legal protection to pharmacists who refuse to do their job: http://www.lifenews.com/state2841.html
    IOne would think that if you have problems filling any prescriptions, then you should go find another job. But when fundie-ism gains widespread traction, you risk getting state law to protect such nonsense.

  184. #184 Monado
    February 11, 2008

    I favour equal treatment. You can have any rules you want in your country, but everyone must obey them. So if you want to your women to wear sacks and peer through screens and not drive and get beaten up for tripping and showing an ankle, or leaving the house without an escort, then the same for men. How long do you think those laws would last? A week?

    Couldn’t you put the stethoscope up against the sheet or have a nurse hold it?

  185. #185 les
    February 11, 2008

    Charles: “Your blog isn’t worth all this attention.”

    Apparently not worth the attention it would have taken to see numerous comparisons to the point about xian pharmacists, above. Hopefully, you will stfu and go away.

  186. #186 Monado
    February 11, 2008

    Moses, msy I quote you on my blog?

  187. #187 Monado
    February 11, 2008

    Maybe they should get special hand-washing stations with privacy screens, instead.

  188. #188 Monado
    February 11, 2008

    Here’s another religious concept killing people: “At Least 80 Deaths in Nicaragua” in eleven months.

  189. #189 A tolerance that is criminal
    February 11, 2008

    Hell, guy at the Islamic Medical Association is probably on the Telegraph’s payroll– he cooks up ridiculous positions, they report em, sort of like the Onion only without satire.

    From what I’ve seen of this blog, it’s primarily against moderates. The best tactic for that is the same as the Telegraph uses, find the extremist fringe, keep hammering away, until all moderate members of said group appear to resemble the extremist fringe. Because I mean, geez, when we ferret out these extremists and put em in the limelight you moderates aren’t making usthem shut up.

  190. #190 SteveM
    February 11, 2008

    After reading most of all the 186 comments so far, I am still a little unclear about what the students in the original article are objecting to.

    Could it be that what they are objecting to is not the washing itself, but the requirement that after washing and being “in scrubs”, sleeves cannot be any lower than the elbow? That is, they want to be able to wear long sleeves after washing, not an exemption from washing?

    I think that is still unacceptable, but would seem to put a little more nuance on the issue than the paradoxical idea that it is more important to wash feet before prayer than hands before surgery.

    Re Foot baths: I seem to recall that they were suggested by the university administration due to several Muslims slipping and injuring themselves trying to wash their feet in regular sinks. It was not the Muslim students demanding them.

  191. #191 Neil B.
    February 11, 2008

    ema,

    I meant, it was in our (as stated most typically by populist-type conservative commentators) rational self-interest to be worried about the Muslim practices. But you are right, it is not in our rational interest to let the social conservatives inhibit birth control etc. (I am very militant about population control, which should be rehabilitated to the level of influence it had say in the 70s. Soc-cons were very active, esp. under Reagan’s collaboration of convenience with JPII’s Catholic Church, in suppressing pop-ctrl.) Note that populists (I agree with to a modest extent) and moralistic social conservatives have significantly different agendas. In any case, I now support Obama for nom. and President for various reasons.

    Ken, re “what makes you think that you’re different, in principle, with your magic pixie dust explanation for consciousness, from people who reject the germ theory of disease?”: First of all, again, the issue of qualitative experience etc. is a *description* at the given ground-level of experience, not an *explanation* of anything. Maybe it in turn can be explained, maybe not, but the logical categories are different in any case.

    Second, we actually can find germs, grow them, view them through microscopes, inject them into mice and cause the indicated disease, etc. OTOH, the qualitative aspects of consciousness are directly available as the nature of our experience (to anyone not driven to deny them for ideological reasons). The only counterarguments are: cheesy and currently undoable thought experiments that don’t have the implications claimed for them anyway, sheer distaste based on the factional argument from ideological incredulity (i.e., “legislating reality”), etc. Talking about C the way I, Chalmers, and basically almost everyone in the world does, versus denying germ theory is about like discussing the work of a company when you are its CEO who worked to the top, versus denying principles of supply and demand.

  192. #192 Ken Cope
    February 11, 2008

    the qualitative aspects of consciousness are directly available as the nature of our experience

    The only evidence of any qualitative aspects of consciousness that Neil has ever provided exist exclusively in the not mode.

    Talking about C the way I, Chalmers, and basically almost everyone in the world does

    Neil, there’s already a thread 648 posts long filled with how much you don’t understand about how Chalmers, or for that matter, anybody at all who knows what they’re talking about, talk about consciousness, so that nobody else will need to be subjected to your stupidity, your incredibly inane analogies, your insufferably rambling pointlessness, the Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle, or your baseless rejection of physicalism.

    You know what to do with the pixie dust.

  193. #193 sharon
    February 11, 2008

    SteveM: Indeed. The Telegraph’s reporting is not at all clear, but it seems that one of the main issues is not handwashing (or rolling up the sleeves to wash hands), but the new NHS dress code which outlaws the wearing of any clothing below the elbow whenever doctors are treating patients. (Not just in surgery.)

    The Telegraph forgot to mention that the NHS has suddenly decreed that the traditional white coat is unhygienic, or that some medical professionals have expressed considerable scepticism about this measure. One described it as a “witchcraft solution”.

    So we have a newspaper story with a handful of anecdotes passing as ‘evidence’ for a problematic trend; which manages to obscure just what the alleged objections consist of (is it baring arms to wash or leaving them bared under the dress code?); and doesn’t bother to tell us that the new rules have been criticised by professionals in the field as politically motivated and not properly evidence-based.

  194. #194 Helioprogenus
    February 11, 2008

    The things that get done in the name of religion never ceases to amaze me. I wonder how many people here have scars and vestiges of some archaic religious past. How many children are circumcised because of their parent’s stupid religion (yes, I mean both male and female). How many had to drink wine that was tainted by other people’s dirty mouths? How many had to abstain from eating certain things or at certain times because of their stupid irrelevant religious views?

    There is no end for all this bullshit, because as long as some people have limited education in the processes of the universe, or feel a need to retain their cultural traditions to preserve a sense of their past, we’re doomed to deal with religious idiocy.

  195. #195 Steve LaBonne
    February 11, 2008

    sharon, may I ask what any of that has to do with crazy religion-based objections to the policy?

    The BBC article indeed offered a negative view from precisely ONE doctor (and an anesthesiologist at that- not someone who would have any professional knowledge of the epidemiology of hospital-borne infections.)

  196. #196 Jimmy L
    February 11, 2008

    Funny – I submitted your story to the drudge report…

    If you’re a drudge fan: drudgetracker.com

  197. #197 DrFrank
    February 11, 2008

    Wow, this one is still going!

    After reading through the thread, I’d have to say that yes, the article does take an overly generalised tone and attempt to paint Muslims as all the same, when this obviously isn’t warranted and most would have no issue with this procedure.

    However, on the other hand I’ve seen plenty of people jump in with the No True Scotsman fallacy to dismiss these people as the lunatic fringe. It seems akin to all the Christian theologians proclaiming that no real Christian really believes in the literal truth of the Bible, because that would be self-evidently silly.

    The Telegraph seems to have chosen a fairly crazy organisation (the IMA) to play the bad guy, but the guy quoted does have real links with the Muslim Council of Britain.

    OK, now I’m waffling (I blame the beer), but it would have been good to see a statement from the MCB calling this out for the crazy bullshit it is to clarify the situation.

  198. #198 PZ Myers
    February 11, 2008

    I would love to denounce Zoroastrianism, but I find their policy of exposing their dead to be consumed by scavengers so charming that I simply have never found the heart to do so.

    And despite my deep and abiding contempt for all religions everywhere, I really don’t believe that all Muslims are as crazy as the ones in this article. Still, it’s kind of bizarre to see people trying to argue against the silly claims of this “Islamic medical society” by claiming that they are Muslim and know better — don’t you know that I don’t laugh at you because you don’t wash your hands, I laugh at you because you believe in a big magic man in the sky?

  199. #199 Toddahhhh
    February 11, 2008

    We just have to teach them to do the surgeries with their feet! Problem solved. (Hold your flames… it was just a joke!)

  200. #200 Kevin
    February 11, 2008

    I’m with Jesse on this one. I think this is a bogus story… where is the interview with an actual person that refuses?

    And I think he’s spot on regarding unisex bathrooms. All yall that are fussing about letting someone where elbow-length gloves. Grow up. Start complaining about single sex bathrooms, which are a pointless and extremely expensive cultural accommodation. I’d say that if a doctor has an elbow-a-phobia and wants to wear elbow-length gloves for their own personal happiness, who the hell cares? Of *course* they still need to wash, just as necessary. And if they want to do the washing in private, again, who cares?

    As for the expense to the hospital, of *course* these new expenses needs to be balanced: how many doctors involved, how much happier they would be, how expensive, how much the hospital wants to keep those doctors, etc. For one doctor, buying extra gloves is so cheap I can’t imagine the hospital would care — go ahead an buy them. Providing a private hand washing room? I’d expect you better have a large number of doctors that really really want that room before the hospital is going to lay out that kind of money and space.

    Basically, even if I pretend this isn’t a bogus story, I think it is a non-story. An attempt should be made to accommodate any doctor’s odd cultural and religious requests. Obviously, not *every* attempt, but some attempt. And not because they are religious objections or whatever, but because we all have quirks, religious or not, and the world is a better place when we all just let the small stuff slide.

  201. #201 Sigmund
    February 12, 2008

    Kevin, regarding single sex bathrooms, here in Stockholm the biggest department store recently changed their single sex toilets into a mixed one. Its not without its problems. They basically use a design of a female toilet area rather than a mens – so it consists of stalls and sinks only, and no urinals. The end result (apart from everyone who walks in the door having the same “wait a second, have I just walked in the wrong door?” look on their face) is that everyone has to queue twice as long as previously – when it was mainly women who queued.
    As for PZs article, I’ve mentioned previously that the IMA in the UK are a single lunatic with a computer so quoting them as representative of muslem doctors is a bit like quoting Fred Phelps as representative of christianity, or more specifically as a spokesman of lawyers who are christian.
    I guess most of us have enough experience of PZs writing to realize that he is not racist. With these sorts of articles, unfortunately, there is a fine line that may not be apparent initially. For US based members it may not be apparent what sort of newspaper the Telegraph is (its right wing anti-immigrant, although not by far the worst of this sort in the UK) and they may not be apparent that the IMA is a single lunatic. It may also not be apparent that in the UK muslim basically means ‘of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin’ (in a similar way that the word ‘asian’ in the US commonly refers to east asian origin rather than the whole continent). Putting them together in one article as some sort of authority and not commenting on the source can be problematic, particularly when it comes across in a way that allows genuine racists to join in with “Aha! I told you so! We have to protect ourself from these terrible muslims” type posts.

  202. #202 boble
    February 12, 2008

    Lots of guilt goin on, catolic slammin- hate mama too? Wash no hands, head up ass. Person who tried to justify irresponsible medical practice, and the rubber glove bit including germs – WOW – unloose that tie-died mind. Explaining away – is no way to reality- like little children and others not yet of age or reason – just say NO ! Enjoy your new employment, outside of medical AND food industry. By the way, is this person who will operate giving me his unwashed food hand, or his unwashed ass wipe hand?

  203. #203 Ugly American
    February 12, 2008

    The Qur’an commands all Muslims to move to a muslim country and stay there.

    I’m not kidding. Look it up.

    So, if they were really seriously devout Muslims they would not be here.

  204. #204 Mrs Tilton
    February 12, 2008

    Ugly @203,

    Look it up

    Any chance of a citation to chapter and verse (or sura and verse, I suppose) for those of us less than fully conversant with the Koran? Give us a hand here! (But wash it first, for Cthulhu’s sake.)

  205. #205 Mrs Tilton
    February 12, 2008

    PZ @198,

    I find their policy of exposing their dead to be consumed by scavengers so charming

    Again with the unfair emphasis on charismatic megafauna (in this case, corpse-devouring vultures). Where’s the love for those other scavengers — the decomposing bacterium, the saprohytic fungus, the lowly worm who crawls in and crawls out?

    Not that I’d object to being food for a vulture, mind. But surely it is just as noble to serve as fuel for the generation of a trillion microbes!

  206. #206 Mrs Tilton
    February 12, 2008

    Verdammt… “saprophytic”, of course, though a quick wikiying tells me that the cool kids all say “saprotrophic” these days.

  207. #207 Ichthyic
    February 12, 2008

    Tell me, is it “religious bigot” really a less objectionable label than “racist”?

    one quick comment after a bit of an absence…

    YES.

    ..and you damn well know why, so stop constructing the asinine “bigot” strawman, eh?

    the vast majority here ARE atheists. by default, that means we are “bigoted” against religion.

    get it?

    religion is silly, fucked up, demented shit. regardless of whether the tenets are described in the book of King James, the Quran, the book of Mormon, or the bloody Church of the Subgenius, for that matter.

    It is NOT the same thing as being a racist, at all.

    now kindly tuck your head back in your ass and get the fuck outta here.

  208. #208 Mrs Tilton
    February 12, 2008

    Ichthyic @207,

    the vast majority here ARE atheists. by default, that means we are “bigoted” against religion

    It doesn’t, though. Bigotry is directed at people, not ideas.

    A bigot is a person of Group X who asserts that all members of Group Y are, because of that very membership, evil/stupid/untrustworthy. Many atheists are actively antireligion, sure. But to be an antireligious bigot, an atheist would have to insist that everybody with a religious belief is — ipso facto and essentially — stupid, dishonest, wicked. Yet some of the most strongly anti-religion posters here (I am thinking of people like Steve LaBonne as well as PZ himself) have taken pains to make clear that they do not think this. (That is: they think the religious belief wicked; they do not think a person who has that belief necessarily wicked.)

    So, no, being even very strongly anti-religion doesn’t make you a bigot and cannot be compared with racism. But, yes, an atheist can be bigotted against religious people just as people from Religion A can be bigotted against people of Religion B (or against people of no religion); just as atheists and theists alike can be bigotted against people of other races, or other ethnic groups (there’s an example of atheist ethnic bigotry in this very thread).

    Bigotry is objectionable, whether the bigot believes in gods or not and whether his bigotry is aimed at people for their religion, their race, their ethnic origin, their sexual orientation or any other such criterion. It’s the bigotry as such that is wrong; the particular hook the bigot hangs it from is just a detail.

    BTW, the commenter you are attacking is not an apologist for religion but an atheist himself who would, I daresay, agree with the sentiments of your antepenultimate paragraph.

  209. #209 Peter
    February 12, 2008

    …and a bigot is not someone who says something unpleasant about all the readers of a serious newspaper? ..or someone who believes in the supression of facts which are clearly relevant and newsworthy? Or someone who is prepared to see a further polarisation of society if the practices which the article describe become established? No, another word would be more appropriate for the last two cases, but it wouldn’t be very positive either.
    Peter

  210. #210 Mrs Tilton
    February 12, 2008

    Peter @209,

    you’re referring to me; or at least, you are trying to.

    People read the Telegraph for all manner of reasons. I say unpleasant things only about those who read it because they find its xenophobic jingoism — its pandering to bigots — gratifying. As I espouse neither the “suppression of facts” nor the “further polarisation of society”, though, I am hardly going to argue with you in their favour.

    So your score is, to be generous, 0.5 out of 3. Whether you’ve done so poorly because you are stupid or because you are dishonest might be a legitimate question. But you’re not interesting enough for me to spend much time on it, especially as the two possible answers aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Better right-wingers, please. Strakh, at least, sputters entertainingly.

  211. #211 Peter
    February 12, 2008

    …well, I’m sorry, but such coarse abuse proves I got more than a little right…call it ten-out-of-ten?
    Peter

  212. #212 Mrs Tilton
    February 12, 2008

    Peter @211,

    call it ten-out-of-ten?

    Hmmm… [thoughtfully rubs chin]… em, no; not really. Sorry, Peter.

    First, as abuse goes, it was fairly refined rather than coarse.

    Second, I’m afraid you can’t go round putting into people’s mouths arguments they don’t remotely make and expect full marks for it. The most charitable explanation for your second and third points @209 is gravely impaired reading skills. The alternative explanations don’t speak nearly as well of you.

    I do have a poor opinion of the Telegraph’s readership, I’ll grant you that; or at least, of those of its readers who buy it because they like its firm stance against the wogs. That’s not bigotry, of course, but you seem such a poor wee dear, I simply had to give you that half-point. You won’t be getting any more than that, though.

  213. #213 boble
    February 12, 2008

    WELL! Those who have been butt spanked by the very versed Mrs Tilton, clean the blackboard, slap the erasers briskly, and go wash your hands. If your religion dis-allows cleaning up publicly, we have little partitions, similar to those between urinal to facilitate covert pissing. Aso known as the embarrassing eliminator. Those who have the urge to comment re:catholic clergy or senatorial membership, go stand in the corner facing the wall until you quell your emotions.

  214. #214 Strakh
    February 12, 2008

    Ah, got a taste of our very own pet professional shit-eaters, did you, Peter?
    Mrs Tilton (isn’t that just too, too, precious-reminds you of a demented Mrs. Marple, eh?), Ian (I’m too droll for you plebians) Gould, and Lilly (Out of work pole dancer)de Lure are PZ’s very own set of professional blog trolls.
    Their goal has been well and truly met here. Interjecting completely irrelevant crap they slowly but surely steer the blog away from the one important fact revealed in this and other articles like it:
    If any religious nutter’s beliefs interfere with the safety of others, (even their own kind) those nutters need to be kept away from the field they’re trying to pollute. Any rational person realizes this, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, country of origin, etc.
    And rational people also realize that this wacky crap is news that needs to be reported and spread, regardless of whether the toilet drinking trio of trolls approves of the source.
    So don’t waste your fingertips on these disgusting little turds. Let them twitter and chirp their fetid shit to each other and they’ll eventually flush themselves off to another blog of reason and truth.
    That’s the only way to deal with the rotting zombies of professional trolldom.

  215. #215 Kevin
    February 12, 2008

    #32 Escuerd: Church bells are no more or less annoying to you than sirens? I think you have a serious personal problem with religion. Disagreeing with believers is one thing; becoming annoyed at the beautiful sounds of church bells because somewhere, somehow, some !@#$% CHRISTIAN is getting a feeling of solace and belonging in a very harsh world, goes far beyond disagreement, into bigoted intolerance.

    Not to mention the fact that this country has a Christian majority; it only makes sense that the holidays of the majority be observed. The reason it’s different for Muslims is, they’re only 2% of the US. For a small minority to demand (another important point–they aren’t politely asking) accommodation on such a crucial point does not in any way (except a very poor way) compare with free parking on Madison Ave. or any of these other silly comparisons. Orthodox Jews face the same problem of being a very small minority, but–surprise, surprise–they don’t ask for accommodation, choosing instead to remain within insular communities that will not question their rituals, because they share them.

    You all sound like a bunch of debate-team sophomores. Whether God exists or not cannot in any way be known by humans, but it’s a logical certainty that he COULD exist, unless you can suddenly prove a negative. So to take the arrogant view that your tiny little human brain has deduced His non-existence is…well, as laughable as anti-choicers or anti-gays or any of the other nonsense discussed here.

    But hey–at least y’all HAVE a discussion. God loves discussions–He told me so Himself!

  216. #216 Strakh
    February 12, 2008

    Re#215 by Kevin:

    What a profoundly stupid statement! (Whether God exists or not cannot in any way be known by humans,…)
    You may be a whiz at science, Kevin, but you don’t know dick about human intellectual history.
    ‘God’ is itself a CONCEPT of the human mind, not a reality or non-reality to be ‘logically’ determined or negated. Hit the history books with as much determination as the science books and you will find that the concept of ‘god’ evolves as science itself evolves. The big difference in the evolution is that science evolves as humankind’s knowledge grows, but the ‘god’ concept evolves only in response to the advancement of science.
    There has never, in any culture, at any time, ever been even one quark of evidence for ‘god,’ any ‘god.’ ‘God’ is a mental concept devised to understand what at any given time is not understandable by the rank and file breeders. As more and more rank and file breeders become literate and more educated, their concept of ‘god’ evolves with them. To wit: the change from ‘god’ being wind to ‘god’ being able to ‘fill in the gaps.’
    This is why we find atheists in ancient Greece and other older cultures. Those able to see and understand the world about them, and able to realize that there would eventually be real explanations for what they did not currently understand have always existed, as well.
    In short, Kevin, there is no ‘god’ to be proven nor negated. Never has been, never will be. That’s why it’s an endless fool’s game to argue whether ‘god’ exists or doesn’t. ‘God’ is a concept, that is all.
    What will be fun in the future is to watch how much smarter ‘god’ gets as the rank and file breeders get smarter, the excellent “Idiocracy” notwithstanding.

  217. #217 boble
    February 13, 2008

    We all see what a rank and file breeder thinks and sounds like. Strakh dribbles like a little over wordy sophmore, who has spent more time with his dictionary, and not enough with his toilet training. Anal anal anal! But be kind, God allows fools, you can not do less. Just don’t stand too close, less a lightning bolt hits him in the ass, and rethinks his head. I say ass, because his head is surely right up there.

  218. #218 Strakh
    February 14, 2008

    Oh, so sorry, boble.
    If there are too many syllables, have your keeper read the post to you, it’ll be easier.
    And BTW, in the words of the classic, “Better you remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
    You have removed all doubt. Time for your meds…

  219. #219 boble
    February 14, 2008

    Strakh, a less than kind rebuff. I had really expected better. Most think your a reject from the Berkeley Babble. Looking more like that with each jab of your arragant wit. Only you could make those pathetic yearnings for recognition. You seem to hate everything and everyone including the existance of a superior being. That is, other than your hatefull self. Perhaps a refresher in Basic Living 101 might allign you with THIS planet. I make no excuse for my use of nicklel words. I smile at the lofty Strakh, humbled and tripping thru the mere pickings I have offere. Enlighten us, as you suffer fools, you brilliant and lonly soul.

  220. #220 boble
    February 14, 2008

    Strakh, a less than kind rebuff. I had really expected better. Most think your a reject from the Berkeley Babble. Looking more like that with each jab of your arragant wit. Only you could make those pathetic yearnings for recognition. You seem to hate everything and everyone including the existance of a superior being. That is, other than your hatefull self. Perhaps a refresher in Basic Living 101 might allign you with THIS planet. I make no excuse for my use of nicklel words. I smile at the lofty Strakh, humbled and tripping thru the mere pickings I have offere. Enlighten us, as you suffer fools, you brilliant and lonly soul.

  221. #221 Strakh's Kid
    February 15, 2008

    Wow. I had never really read all the comments after an article on this site, as I am spending all my free time studying. But I must say, I do find it interesting that the further down I went, I started to forget what the article was about in the first place….but that’s the point, isn’t it? Not too many people out there really want to take a good, honest look at the state of the world today. If you believe in a supreme being, you are crazy. In 1953, two scientists at the University of Chicago, Urey and Miller, made life from non-living elements and compounds. Abiotic synthesis of life. So, for 55 years now, any rational person has been able to see that, yes, Virginia, there is no fat man in a red suit or dead guy on a stick to take away all your sins. The whole point is – wash your damn feet before you leave the house! As for all the other religious accomodations, we should get rid of those, too. Just because this country was founded by crazy puritans doesn’t mean we have to keep running it based on their idiotic beliefs. Or did everyone forget what happened in Salem?

  222. #222 Strakh
    February 15, 2008

    As I said, boble, you removed all doubt.
    Do you enjoy beating your dead horse?

  223. #223 boble
    February 16, 2008

    Strakh Strakh – Another feeble pary, proof of your study, but the best sign of a reasonable tone, but not of your stand. What started with foot demands grew into a full blown tiff on the very existance of a supreme being. My compliments on brisk reparte, but your obvious glee in degrading those with personal beliefs is beyond reason. Other peoples civility has not shown up in your blunt statements. None so far, join you. We have total disagreement. But – for myself, your dogged clash style is invigorating. As much as you have brushed me aside, by all accouts, you seem to be astride the slain beast. I would enjoy your views on health care, immigration, even politics. Thanks for the vent!

  224. #224 Strakh
    February 16, 2008

    Actually, boble, since you suffer from severe, neurotic cognitive dissonance, not only could you not comprehend my views, you won’t even be able to pronounce the words.
    That’s okay, I’m used to that.
    If believers had enough brains and the discipline to use them, they wouldn’t be believers anyway. But they let their brains atrophy and their wills decay in their desperate, pathetic cries for help from above.
    And so they wallow in their own morass, created by them alone, completely unable to understand the exquisite irony.

  225. #225 tus
    February 22, 2008

    this is a place i actually think the Christians are better than the Muslims (though thats kinda like saying the homicidal schizophrenic is better than the genocidal schizophrenic) at least they keep their irrational special treatment begging to a minimum, for instance asking to be exempt from working of sunday, or saturday for a jew, the somewhat annoying ban on selling alchohol on sunday (total bullshit, but least no one is going to die from it) plus there consistant ban on any form of fun (drugs, alchohol, sex, rock and roll, and the band kiss)
    but dispite their annoying prudishness, and dispite their sometimes annoying special treatment begging, most are just that..anoying (though many people did die durring prohibition and are still dying in the drug war)
    but none of it ever reached the level of systemic mal-practice.
    you cant even sue for this, do you understand that? if you get an infection from a doctor who refused to wash his or her hands for opporation, because the rules say they have that right, you cant sue for malpractice…because it was within their rights not to wash up.
    then add to this they cant deny a person a job for their beliefs under equal opportunity employment (though i wonder if there isnt a place for this, i mean you cant assign a man with no arms as a surgeon, but you cant deny him work either…but you can give him work he can do…so maybe you can give a muslim doctor some work he or she can do and not endanger the patient.)

    basically you would have to say “yes you have the right to not wash your hands, but we have the right to say you cannot opporate on a patient…heres a broom…”

    which itself would be a sad thing because these people may be good doctors but their religion makes them bloody idiots, and incompitent to opporate in any situation where they may cause harm to the patient.
    what next muslim microchip makers causing a problem for the same reason (sterile environment is a must, workers have to shower and put on special clothes to prevent skin or hair from getting on the chip…they might even have to shave..that would REALY piss them off.)

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