By Brian Whitaker
Which is the greater menace: Hizb ut-Tahrir or the Islamic Medical Association of the UK? "Hizb ut-Tahrir", (The Party of Liberation) has some crazy and unpleasant policies; it makes a lot of noise, works hard to recruit students and causes trouble on campuses. But it's not alone in doing that and, as I suggested on Cif yesterday, we probably worry about it too much.
The Islamic Medical Association, on the other hand, sounds like a respectable body. It claims to have been in existence for 35 years and its head, Dr Majid Katme (MBBCh, DPM) talks frequently about "our Christian friends" and "our Jewish friends".
Dr Katme got a sympathetic write-up in the Daily Mail only a few months ago when he was among the "prominent Muslims and Jews" who "united with Christians ... to voice concern at laws boosting gay rights".
Dr Katme is big on "interfaith dialogue" and he met the late Pope John Paul twice. Following the Pope's death, he paid tribute by writing (rather grandly):
"We jointly campaigned for the life of the unborn, chastity, femininity, marriage/family vales reproduction motherhood natural family planning, parental responsibility ...
We jointly campaigned against abortion, adultery/fornication, population control, homosexuality and lesbianism, prostitution, sex education, school based clinics ... "
Interfaith dialogue, as far as Dr Katme is concerned, seems to be nothing more than a meeting of the most reactionary minds. Among his various roles, he is "Muslim coordinator" for the anti-abortion organisation, Spuc, and one of his articles appears on a Mormon website .
The "evil" of homosexuality is a matter on which Dr Katme and Hizb ut-Tahrir undoubtedly agree, though in the eyes of the Daily Mail it is the views of the respectable Dr Katme (MBBCh, DPM) that carry weight.
But let's look at some of the other issues on which Dr Katme claims to speak on behalf of Muslims.
For instance, he's a vigorous campaigner against the fluoridation of drinking water. He's entitled to his own opinion on that, of course, but I'm sure fluoride isn't mentioned in the Quran. Even the ultra-conservative Saudis seem unaware that it's sinful and are thinking of adding more to their water supplies.
You might also get the impression from listening to Dr Katme that Muslims are unanimously opposed to abortion - but they are not. In fact, Islamic scholars hold a variety of opinions and some of them are quite liberal, allowing abortion up to 120 days after conception.
In addition to that, Dr Katme has ideas for reforming the National Health Service by introducing Saudi-style gender apartheid.
In a comment posted on the Times website about proposed new guidelines to regulate sexual conduct between medical staff and patients, he wrote: "Single sex environment in clinics and in hospitals is the safest and best way forward ... female medical staff with female patients and male medical staff with male patients."
Nobody would dispute that male-female contact in a medical situation can be a sensitive matter, but Dr Katme's "solution" is ludicrously extreme. The Islamic Medical Association of North America, however, takes a "" far more sensible view. In answer to the question: "Can a female physician do genital/rectal examination of male patients?" it replies: "Yes, but in the presence of a male nurse or male relative of the patient."
By far the most alarming and dangerous of Dr Katme's reactionary activities is his campaign against the vaccination of children - claiming that many vaccines are not "halal".
Dr Katme has a simple alternative: "If you breastfeed your child for two years - as the Quran says - and you eat Quranic food like olives and black seed, and you do ablution each time you pray, then you will have a strong defence system."
This is dangerous, ignorant nonsense, as the Department of Health, the British Medical Association and various Muslim groups have pointed out. Even the Saudi authorities disagree: polio vaccination, for example, is compulsory for any child entering the kingdom.
Dr Katme does, however, appear to approve of
vaccination against lesbianism
- "We must vaccinate our children against this curse" - but perhaps in that particular case it's the lesser of two evils.
The real problem, though, it that Dr Katme is a respected figure in the British Muslim community. Mothers who wouldn't dream of listening to Hizb ut-Tahrir will listen to him. Many may also prefer his word - as a "good Muslim" - to that of the Department of Health or the BMA. How many of them, I wonder, have stocked up on "Quranic olives" and black seeds in the hope of protecting their children from dangerous diseases?
By Brian Whitaker
Guargian.co.uk Friday May 11, 2007