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.


  1. #1 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.

  2. #2 Escuerd
    February 10, 2008

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

  3. #3 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.

  4. #4 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.

  5. #5 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.

  6. #6 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.

  7. #7 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???

  8. #8 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.

  9. #9 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?

  10. #10 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.

  11. #11 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?

  12. #12 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.

  13. #13 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.

  14. #14 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.

  15. #15 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?

  16. #16 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.

  17. #17 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…)

  18. #18 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.

  19. #19 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.

  20. #20 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.

  21. #21 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.

  22. #22 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).

  23. #23 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.

  24. #24 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.

  25. #25 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.

  26. #26 koloman
    February 11, 2008

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

  27. #27 maxi
    February 11, 2008

    What was cleanliness next to again….?

    Only in a very abridged dictionary.

  28. #28 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.

  29. #29 AllanW
    February 11, 2008

    To mushy head Lilly :)

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

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

  30. #30 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.

  31. #31 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?

  32. #32 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?

  33. #33 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”.

  34. #34 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.

  35. #35 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.

  36. #36 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.

  37. #37 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.

  38. #38 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.

  39. #39 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.)

  40. #40 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.

  41. #41 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?

  42. #42 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.

  43. #43 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!

  44. #44 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.

  45. #45 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.

  46. #46 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.

  47. #47 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.

  48. #48 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.

  49. #49 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?

  50. #50 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.

  51. #51 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.

  52. #52 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.

  53. #53 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.

  54. #54 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.

  55. #55 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. ;)

  56. #56 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.

  57. #57 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.

  58. #58 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?

  59. #59 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.

  60. #60 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.

  61. #61 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.

  62. #62 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.

  63. #63 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!

  64. #64 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:
    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.

  65. #65 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?

  66. #66 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.

  67. #67 Monado
    February 11, 2008

    Moses, msy I quote you on my blog?

  68. #68 Monado
    February 11, 2008

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

  69. #69 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.

  70. #70 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.

  71. #71 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.

  72. #72 Jimmy L
    February 11, 2008

    Funny – I submitted your story to the drudge report…

    If you’re a drudge fan:

  73. #73 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?

  74. #74 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!

  75. #75 Mrs Tilton
    February 12, 2008

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

  76. #76 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.

  77. #77 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.

  78. #78 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.

  79. #79 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.

  80. #80 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…

  81. #81 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.

  82. #82 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!

  83. #83 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.

  84. #84 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.)