Muslim minority doctors have been the first to die and Muslim members of staff make up a significant number of NHS workers who have passed away due to Covid-19.
At a time in which the need and appreciation of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service has been especially pronounced, the tragic passings has raised a poignant and relevant reminder of the dependence of the National Health Service on its minority staff, with 40.1 percent of its medical workers from BAME backgrounds. At a time of heightened xenophobia and Islamophobia, in the midst of Brexit and the surge to the right in British politics, the religion of those standing on the frontline has not been without significance.
Sonia Sodha, writing in the Guardian, explains why “it’s worth reiterating why the skin colour of our fallen NHS heroes matters. It’s not just that outright racism and rising levels of Islamophobia affect the wellbeing of NHS workers willingly risking their lives to keep us all safe, it is that, as the General Medical Council has acknowledged, BAME medics face structural racism. And the government’s anti-immigration rhetoric continues to legitimise discrimination at the frontline.”
Aina Khan, in AlJazeera.com, writes a profile on the first four NHS staff who have passed, all Muslim doctors from African, Asian and Middle Eastern backgrounds; lfa Sa’adu; Amged el-Hawrani; Adil El Tayar and Habib Zaidi. Dr Salman Waqar, the general secretary of the British Islamic Medical Association, described the contribution of these doctors as “immeasurable”, describing them as “devoted family men, committed senior doctors, and dedicated decades of service to their communities and patients,” who “gave the ultimate sacrifice while fighting this disease”.
A Muslim British Pakistani woman, also Muslim, also featured in a number of news stories. Areema Nasreen, a 36-year-old mother to three children, who worked as a hospital cleaner for 15 years before graduating in nursing. She became one of the first nurses in the United Kingdom to die of COVID-19.
Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, a consultant urologist at Homerton hospital in Hackney east London, also died this week after spending 15 days in Queens hospital, Romford. Last month he pleaded with the prime minister Boris Johnson in a Facebook message to increase personal protective equipment for frontline staff and calling for testing for healthcare workers to be fast-tracked.