NHS – Drawing a veil over the madness?

An item on the Heaven and Earth Show this morning made me splutter over my porridge.
A Islamic group is demanding that the NHS create a new uniform for Muslim nurses who choose to wear the niquab, the full veil that conceals the entire face leaving only a narrow slit for vision.
The group behind this idea have devised such a uniform, basically it is the green scrubs increasingly favoured by the nursing profession, topped off by a green hood. The person who advanced towards the camera wearing it looked like an escapee from a particularly scary episode of Dr. Who or Touchwood.
Now as I have mentioned many times, a few years ago I had a long spell in hospital and can promise you the last thing anyone wants to see when they away in a somewhat bewildered state is an anonymous, green-hooded figure. “Have I died and gone to green hell? the patient might think, “has there been an outbreak of plague while I was sleeping?
As one would expect, the NHS directorate has not treated this demand with the contempt it deserves. Why would they, here is an opportunity to set up focus groups and steering committee, commission strategic analysis reports and feasibility studies and expend millions of pounds and hours in taking seriously a risible idea.
To give credit where it is due, the NHS does very well in catering for the special requirements of both staff and patients whose faith requires flexibility in the rules. I recall that in Burnley, a town with a large Asian community, the hospital had an Asian menu as well as a standard menu. Many of us requested the Asian menu because it was actually very good whereas the food on the standard menu was often inedible.
On the ward staff simply arranged between themselves that a Muslim woman would never have to accept help with dressing, bathing or other personal acts from a male nurse (though the asian males did not seem to have a problem being bathed by British female nurses.)
In matters of dress too the senior staff on the ward managed individual requirements very well. On the unit where I spent most of my time we had two muslin nurses, one wore the green overall and a hijab, the other favoured shortish skirts and a pony tail. I recall cannot think there would be more than a handful of nurses in the country who, having chosen a carer as a nurse would then try to insist on wearing the niquab.
Once religious zealots get hold of an idea however, they find it difficult to let go so we can expect this issue to escalate and Muslim nurses to come under increasing pressure from fanatical (male) bigots.
The great pity of all this is the Islamic community has missed a chance to align itself with British mainstream society. Among the complaints of the group behind the current row is the issue of mixed wards. This is not acceptable under Islamic beliefs. Quite right too, it is the most crackpot of all money saving schemes dreamed up by the NHS bean counters. The whole concept of mixed wards is an affront to dignity. Is it not bad enough that when at our most vulnerable and sensitive we are thrust among strangers without stripping us of all privacy as well? I am sure these travesties are an offence under international human rights law.
Sadly though, instead of demonstrating how much secular Muslims have in common with secular Christians and secular humanists the Islamic community risks being dragged towards further segregation by its lunatic fringe.

Read the story of my time in hospital
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13 thoughts on “NHS – Drawing a veil over the madness?

  1. Hear hear. Being in hospital is unpleasant enough without the indignity of mixed wards and the deliberate withdrawal of a friendly face to succour the unwell.

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    1. Had I been religiously inclined the first time I saw tall, beautiful blonde Kathy bathed in sunlight as she stood at the end of my bed I might have thought “its an angel.” (As it was I thought “phwoar” which is not bad for a bloke who was neared dead than alive.
      But if she had been dressed in green from head to toe I might have turned round and headed back towards the exit door (the red channel!)

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  2. It would certainly scare the hell out of some of my patients. Howver as a public organisation the NHS has to be seen not to be discriminatory and so investigate this request like any other. In my experience, One person complains and the whole system changes in a knee jerk reaction.

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    1. Yes and that is what is wrong with the NHS. A well run organisation (rather than one run by the Political Correctness Police) does not do knee jerk – said the former management consultant. A well run organisation would have been well prepared for this and simply said “the niquab is not a requirement of any Islamic sect; the Koran only states that women are requied to be modest.”

      And thus the whole scam (for scam it is, an attempt motivated by Muslim clerics, to score points) would collapse.

      But of course you will not get any support from the monisters in charge to resist such demands.

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  3. I actually disagree here. I think when you’re in hospital, the most normal dress would probably freak you out and it doesn’t make a lot of difference: and I’m for the right of people to follow religious dress. I’m sure many of the kind of people who choose nursing would also choose to wear the niqab, because nursing is a vocation, and people who take modest religious dress seriously also take life seriously.

    God bless xx

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    1. OK, I take you point. But the niquab is not “religious dress,” it is racist and segregationalist. As I said the NHS does very well. In France, Italy and even politically correct Sweden the hijab would not be tolerated.

      Now Ms. Politics Student, think this through logically. If we make special allowances for people who want to wear masks should we not also make special allowances for Jewish doctors who say they don’t want to treat Mulims, or Arsenal supporting nurses to refuse to attend dying Tottenham supporters. Once you start there is no end.

      Religious freedom is fine so long as it is kept out of public life. Once you don religious dress you have effectively said “I am better than you” (holier than thou) and people will be offended. Is it just that a Christian or humanist be offended so that a Muslim may be accomodated.

      The French have it right.

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      1. Back at you with the same point. Once you start banning religious symbols, where do you end it? Do you ban jewellery with the cross or the crescent? Do you ban the wearing of football scarves to and from work in case someone gets offended? And what on Earth would happen if we started limiting our religious sensibilities to the home? Politics, for starters, would be far more immoral. As you’ve said, even people who aren’t religious at all were often inspired by traditional C of E morality. Keeping religion private is psychologically damaging and a human rights abuse.

        God bless xx

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      2. But as I said the Niquab and the hijab are not religious symbols, they are elitist symbols and the message they send is “you are not worthy of a look at my face.”
        But I would not ban the Niquab in the street, I would just threaten to publicise its real significance (I never said I wasn’t a bastard, politics is a dirty game.) In hospitals there is no place for the religious sensibilities of staff, the feelings of patients must come first.
        A couple of years ago I had a long talk with my friend Kathy who was moaning about the problems Muslim staff cause on her wards (she’s head of psychiatric nursing for 6 hospital trusts) “You would not belive it Ian,” she said, “these people choose to become nurses in Britain and then think they can cite religion as a reason they will not help a male patient to the toilet or bath him.”
        You see the problem, in an oraganisation the same rules must apply to everybody or you have a failing organisation.
        Wearing the cross or crescent or start of David, the yarmulke or hijab or shalwar kameez does not interfere with the job.
        Did I say people who aren’t religious were often “inspired” by traditional C of E morality? Well that just shows what a tolerant person I am. All morality comes from the pagans. I do recall telling you that William Blake said “There is not one moral virtue inculcated by Christ that was not first inculcated by Plato or Cicero.”

        BTW I would not have had anyone who came to work wearing a football scarf in any of my consultancy teams. Its not just the wearing a scarf its what goes with it. We expect a little more finesse from consultants. A Rugby scarf would be fine 🙂

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      3. Just one point: People wear the hijab because it is prescribed in the Qu’ran, which makes it inherently a religious symbol. As one Muslim girl in my class put it, some people see the wearing of this kind of dress as a political statement, but to most Muslim women, it is personal and a sign of dedication to God.

        God bless xx

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      4. Jenni, I think if you find out for yourself rather than listening to religious folk, you will learn that the hijab is not prescribed.
        Not only have I the word (and example) of a secular muslim woman on this but since the recent contoversy blew up I have heard several secular muslim clerics including Cat Stevens (aka Yussuf Islam) say so in the press and on TV.
        And of course Kemal Ataturk, the leaders who dragged Turkey out of the dark ages and Abdel Nasser who did the same for Egypt both understood the same thing. There are as many versions of the Koran as there are of the Bible of course. When someone can show me the definitive version of either, that nobody disagrees with, I will be prepared to listen to arguments based on prejudice and superstition.

        As in Jewish and some christian sects, the requirement that a Muslim woman keep her hair entirely covered is a tribal one, not religious. And if we start making allowances for every tribal custom our legal framework will soon collapse.
        “You mut direct the jury to aquit m’lud, it was an honour killing and as such is legally sanctioned in their culture.” Yeah right. This is Britain. (that defence has been tried by the way, in a case deealing with the murder of a girl who refused a forced marriage. Once it starts where does it stop?

        How can you say you are a socialist when you are supporting tribal rules that were created to remind women they are the property of a man and are not allowed to exercise free will. Socialism believes all people are equal.

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      5. As my friend Layla put it last year, “I’m more religious than my dad and my mum’s not religious at all”. This is a 19 year old woman who has chosen to wear the hijab of her own volition. I also have a coursemate who was raised Catholic and is now a hijab-wearing Muslim. These women were not coerced in any way into wearing this dress – it is their choice, their expression of their personal religious beliefs.

        There is a debate within socialism about religion. Some sectarian groups believe that religious practice is negative and will ban any outward manifestation. The SWP, the main socialist group in Britain, takes my view, which is that anyone should be free to practise their religion as long as it does not contravene human rights or the law. I believe in the equal right of anyone to practise their religion – I can’t think of a more Socialist attitude.

        Personally I am a liberal Christian who believes in the “egalitarian” (men and women have equal rights and capabilities) rather than “complementarian” (men and women were created for, and should abide by, different roles) view of gender, but it isn’t my position to say anyone who holds a complementarian position can’t be socialist – if you believe in equal pay for equal work, the way you choose to conduct yourself according to religious faith is personal.

        God bless xx

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  4. i see potential for abuse in the uniform. seeing how one of the “would-be” bombers in july fled the country in a veil, anyone, muslim or mon-mulsim or even criminals could use that to enter the hospital and do whatever. I dont mean to be alarmist but for me it’s one thing wearing a veil to cover your hair and part of your face, quite another for me as a patient not to see your face and feel reassured. I think all religion and individual freedom is given too much attention in this country when we should be worried more about the nation as a whole. i would want to see the face of who i am talking to. and i am not bothered by men(one gave me a suppository painkiller in an emergency two yrs ago and i wasnt bothered). i would have been if i’d found out he was a man after the fact!

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