A hospital in Birmingham has become the first in the UK to introduce disposable hijabs. The catalyst for this change was a British Malaysian doctor named Dr. Farah Roslan, who became worried about spreading infections to her patients through her hijab.
The junior doctor researched fabrics and designs that would allow her to honor her Islamic faith whilst also allowing her to perform at work. The culmination of her efforts was a sterile lightweight hijab that was perfectly suited for the grueling hours faced by members of the medical profession.
Not only is this disposable hijab an incredibly innovative idea that should’ve been introduced years ago, it confirms that in healthcare, there really isn’t any room for discriminatory boundaries between people. It is so incredibly refreshing to see a Muslim woman stand up and create something that will challenge people’s mindsets for the better, especially in light of the recent general election that saw members of the public spout jaw-dropping rhetoric about Muslim women.
Not only is this disposable hijab an incredibly innovative idea that should’ve been introduced years ago, it confirms that in healthcare, there really isn’t any room for discriminatory boundaries between people.
The public has heard it all, from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s father debating — on national television no less — whether or not Muslim women should have the right to wear the burqa to the PM himself comparing Muslim women in burqas to “bank robbers” and “letterboxes.” PM Johnson did go on to issue a half-baked non-apology for any offence he caused, and yet, I have a hard time believing the truthfulness of his “apology.” You can make up your mind by watching his non-apology here. On top of everything, let’s not forget that a co-leader of the Green Party thought it would be a good idea to single out halal meat as something he would like to see banned. This type of narrative further isolated and ostracised British Muslims, resulting in an increase in racially-motivated hate crimes on our streets. In the act of designing a hijab, Dr. Roslan has shown that British Muslims are an integral and invaluable part of British society.
This also comes at a time when government program, Prevent, has decided that a valid training question for NHS staff is to question a young Muslim woman who is beginning to study “Islamic texts” (see photo below).
Prevent is part of the UK government’s counter-terrorism strategy called CONTEST. Between 2017 to 2018, 7318 people were referred to the Prevent programme, and 680 of those people were through healthcare. This strategy is implemented in all public sectors of the UK, though the largest number of referrals come from education and police (2426 and 2364 respectively). This shows that the government is determined to pursue a policy which has proven itself to be discriminatory towards Muslims. Given the vastness of these numbers, we need Muslim representatives now more than ever before. We need Muslim representatives both within government and other elevated positions within areas of the public sector to influence biased decisions and to challenge stereotypical narratives.
Coming back to the NHS, racism within the British healthcare system is a topic that isn’t discussed nearly as much as it should be. Even so, we have heard of cases where patients have refused treatment from Black of Brown doctors. Cases like these are rare, probably because safe spaces to discuss and report such incidents are non-existent. However, even these limited incidents show ignorance within the British public. Make no mistake, the NHS is supported by the hard work of immigrants who work for a better healthcare for all.
As someone who will most likely be working in the NHS in the near future, it is heartwarming to know that despite some overtly Islamophobic questions and narratives, the majority of medical professionals are welcoming of diversity. With fearful talks over the NHS potentially becoming privatised, these are the small things that give us hope. As all Muslims are aware, our health is one of the most precious things we have been blessed with, and we should never take that for granted.