Italy: Imam's consent needed for health-care

Italy: Imam's consent needed for health-care

Muslim women should only go to the doctor with the imam's consent. This idea is promoted by the coordinator for immigrant health in Tuscany, but the practice has been widespread for years.

This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog -

The coordinator for immigrant health in Tuscany is promoting this dynamic, explaining that without the religious leaders, he can't get Muslim women to come to the hospitals. Rather than drawing women closer to the Italian health care system, the generosity of some of its basic services, such as disease prevention especially for those affecting the elderly, instead of helping them be like other Italian women, independent and without religious distinction, favoring integration, he recognizes the legitimacy of the imams and strengthens their veto power.

It's very important to involve community leaders, since without them you can't do anything, says Omar Abdulcadir, who often reaches out to the mosque to try to get religious leaders, as he defines them, on his side. But there's more: Omar Abdulcadir, who also directs the regional center for the prevention and treatment of FGM complications, admits giving mosques in Florence part of the funds he got from the Tuscany Region. The money was supposed to serve the health-care facility for prevention among immigrant women, to run cancer examinations and diseases detectable only by medical examination. Instead some of the funding ended up in the hands of spiritual leaders and Islamic associations, which the Somali doctor, Omar Abdulcadir, 'commissioned' to promote the prevention services.

I give you the money that the region gave us, and you give me this service in the mosque, he summarized during a training session behind closed doors, attended by the Il Giornale journalist. The Somali-origin doctor told the audience that certain figures can be influential, and that includes the authority of imams to determine whether and when a Muslim woman can go to the hospital for a checkup. According to Abdulcadir, this is a widespread practice in Tuscany, and he suggests to the health professionals in the 'intercultural health' seminar held in Teramo this week, that they see it as a valid model for doctors who work with the immigrant community: Drawing on this source is our responsibly, he says, since many problems can be solved without using the stick.

Abdulcadir is the same doctor who in 2004 suggested that after apply anesthetic cream, African girls living in Tuscany would be pricked on the clitoris, to release a few drops of blood.

One by one he had convinced African immigrant 'representatives' to accept the sunna ritual in the name of 'cultural identity', he says it's very important to live in harmony; perhaps limiting the damage of infibulation - illegal in Italy - but recognizing the tribal customs that the national institutions have been fighting for years, and they still continuing to promote leaving this practice in African countries.

Emma Bonino has been working on this issue since 1999, and aided in the signing of the Maputo Protocol, a document seeking to eliminate FGM by 2020. At the time, Bonino said Abdulcadir's proposal was the result of ignorance, and compared it to discussing whether the death penalty should be done by guillotine or lethal injection. Years later, the Somali doctor doesn't seem to have changed his approach, and he promotes the heads of Islamic center and mosques to the level of community leaders, recognizing their leadership role when the majority of immigrants aren't even practicing Muslims, should cause reflection.

Especially as his theory is still proposed in training seminars promoted by the local health authorities. It's hard to understand how a statement such as "in polygamous societies there are far fewer problems with menopause and infertility" can help health professionals participating in meetings on cultural mediation in health improve their work in Italy.

Source: Il Giornale (Italian)

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