December 10, 2018
Research Associate , University of Liverpool
Many Muslim women say prejudice stops them from talking about their religion with healthcare staff. shutterstock
Negative portrayals of Islam and Muslims are everywhere. You don’t have to look far to find stigmatising, offensive and biased news reports – all of which significantly impact how Muslims generally see the world they live in.
These experiences influence Muslim people’s day-to-day lives – and can play a role in how Muslim people conduct themselves on a daily basis. In my PhD study, I looked at the experiences of Muslim women engaging with UK maternity services. What I found was that Muslim women lacked confidence in discussing their concerns. Most specifically health concerns related to religious practices, such as fasting or wanting to see a female doctor.
The ladies I spoke to felt reluctant to ask healthcare professionals questions related to their religious needs. As one participant explained:
I could not say I am fasting which sounds extreme. Honestly, people just hear the word fasting and they think that you are so extreme.
The anticipation of healthcare professionals not having a positive opinion of them being Muslim women in general and of their religion as a whole was strongly felt among most Muslim women in the study.
This anticipation was not specifically an outcome of a negative encounter during their care, but was associated with the women’s concerns of Western media portrayal of Islam and Western attitudes towards Muslims in general.
Research has shown how the representation of Muslims in Western media became significantly more negative following the events of 9/11. Over this period the British press has often used a negative tone in presenting British Muslims, which makes them seen as an “alien other” within British society. This negative tone has only become worse with the dramatically increased coverage of radical groups such as Daesh.