Female Muslim medical students in England are refusing to obey hygiene rules enacted to stop the spread of deadly superbugs, asserting that they are against Islam.
New Department of Health rules stipulate that all doctors must be “bare below the elbows” when washing their hands so as to help stem the spread of infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.
But Muslim women at several British hospitals object to removing their arm coverings and rolling up their sleeves when washing because it is regarded as immodest in their religion, according to Britain’s Telegraph newspaper.
Reports of medics who refused to “scrub” with their forearms exposed have come from Liverpool University, Leicester University and Sheffield University. Some students at Birmingham University have gone so far as to say they will quit their medical studies rather than expose their arms, the Telegraph reported.
“To wash your hands properly, and reduce the risks of MRSA and C. difficile, you have to be able to wash the whole area around the wrist,” said Mr. Mark Enright, professor of microbiology at Imperial College London.
“I don’t think it would be right to make an exemption for people on any grounds. The policy of bare below the elbows has to be applied universally.”
Britain’s Islamic Medical Association insists that covering all the body in public, except the face and hands, is a basic tenet of Islam. It said in a statement:
“No practicing Muslim woman — doctor, medical student, nurse or patient — should be forced to bare her arms below the elbow.”
The Muslim News in Britain quoted one hospital source as saying the reports about Muslim medical students were “inaccurate and Islamophobic.”
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