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Should Muslims have faith based health services?

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 11 January 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:74
  1. Aziz Sheikh, professor of primary care research and development
  1. 1Division of Community Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9DX
  1. Aziz.Sheikh{at}

    At a time when many government and public bodies are recognising the importance of engaging with faith communities, Aziz Sheikh advocates that the UK should provide specific health services for Muslims. But Aneez Esmail argues that such services could enhance stigmatism

    Muslims have the poorest overall health profile in Britain, but there are few faith centred initiatives aiming to improve health outcomes for our largest minority faith community. This reflects the general failure among academics, policymakers, and clinicians to appreciate the particular needs faith communities may have. There are important moral, political, and increasingly legal arguments underscoring the need to ensure equitable delivery of public services to all sections of society, including Muslims. In the short to medium term, these needs will most efficiently be met by taking several faith specific healthcare initiatives. The longer term goals, however, are to mainstream understanding of the importance of religious identity and develop appreciation of how this has the potential to interact with health and healthcare delivery.

    Muslims in the UK

    There has been a Muslim presence in Britain for almost half a millennium, yet Islam remains something of an enigma to most UK citizens.1 Even among people involved with health policy and delivery it is surprisingly common to find Muslims being thought of as synonymous with Asians or Arabs. Positions such as these reflect a profound misunderstanding of a faith that has and continues to bind diverse groups of people.

    The main Muslim migration to Britain …

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