Islam, medicine, and Arab-Muslim refugee health in America after 9/11

Lancet. 2011 Sep 3;378(9794):935-43. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61041-6.


Islam is the world's second largest religion, representing nearly a quarter of the global population. Here, we assess how Islam as a religious system shapes medical practice, and how Muslims view and experience medical care. Islam has generally encouraged the use of science and biomedicine for the alleviation of suffering, with Islamic authorities having a crucial supportive role. Muslim patients are encouraged to seek medical solutions to their health problems. For example, Muslim couples who are infertile throughout the world are permitted to use assisted reproductive technologies. We focus on the USA, assessing how Islamic attitudes toward medicine influence Muslims' engagement with the US health-care system. Nowadays, the Arab-Muslim population is one of the fastest growing ethnic-minority populations in the USA. However, since Sept 11, 2001, Arab-Muslim patients--and particularly the growing Iraqi refugee population--face huge challenges in seeking and receiving medical care, including care that is judged to be religiously appropriate. We assess some of the barriers to care--ie, poverty, language, and discrimination. Arab-Muslim patients' religious concerns also suggest the need for cultural competence and sensitivity on the part of health-care practitioners. Here, we emphasise how Islamic conventions might affect clinical care, and make recommendations to improve health-care access and services for Arab-Muslim refugees and immigrants, and Muslim patients in general.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arabs / ethnology
  • Arabs / psychology*
  • Bioethical Issues*
  • Culture
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Humans
  • Islam / psychology*
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • United States