UK Doctor Faces Inquiry Over Niqab ‘Row’

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A woman wears a niqab (Illustrative photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman wears a niqab (Illustrative photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

A UK doctor faces an inquiry after asking a woman to lift her face veil because he was unable to hear her describe her sick daughter’s symptoms.

The inquiry will determine if Dr. Keith Wolverson was guilty of racial discrimination and could result in him being fired.

Wolverson, who has been a GP for 23 years with an unblemished record said that no matter the result of the inquiry, he is planning to quit. He also noted that the woman took off her niqab (face veil) willingly.

“I asked her, would you kindly remove your face veil please because it makes communication very difficult,” Dr. Wolverson said, as quoted in The Daily Mail. “Normally this issue doesn’t arise because patients automatically do so. One would think that any parent would be wholly supportive and grateful that a doctor was trying to safely treat their child.”

The woman apparently voiced objections at the time, but returned home and told her husband what had transpired. A half hour after the woman’s appointment, her husband appeared in the doctor’s office.

“He sat outside my consultation room and threateningly made eye contact towards me whenever I went out to fetch each patient,” the doctor said. “He then made a formal complaint and I was prevented from working at the walk-in center again.”

“A medical professional has a duty to care, and the doctor in this case took every precaution. In this debate, we are forgetting that the child’s health is at stake and if the child’s health is at stake, that’s the most important thing, not your wife’s honor, not your honor,” said Clarion’s National Correspondent Shireen Qudosi, herself a Muslim.

“I can only imagine what sort of marriage this woman is likely trapped in, with someone who is clearly overbearing, domineering and very likely abusive. I know these stories too well unfortunately, and I shudder to think of the domestic violence she endured when she went home, what her child witnessed, and what both mother and child will continue to suffer under the iron rule of an Islamist patriarch,” Qudosi added.

Feminist Aisha Ali-Khan, who wrote a letter to the UK regulatory authority against Wolverson being fired, tweeted:

Qudosi disagrees. “We know how quickly doctors need to move from patient to patient, and if he can’t even understand what’s being said, that’s a problem.

“But there’s another aspect to this niqab debate. Not only can you not hear the person’s voice, but you can’t see their facial expressions. Part of diagnosing a child is understanding how the mother perceives her child’s situation. So if the mother is frantic, that’s going to be showing up on her face. If you can’t even see her face, how is he supposed to properly diagnose her child, let alone if he can’t even hear what the mother is saying?

“What it comes down to essentially is the needs of the child – not the needs of the father, not the needs of the mother. One wonders how this child is being treated at home.”

Qudosi also spoke to yet another important issue in the niqab debate.

“As Muslim we have a duty to integrate into the society that we are living in. So, if you are living in the West, you have to acclimate to your environment, and that means in the case of this doctor’s visit, it is completely within reason, and it is not a violation of faith – or honor or culture – to communicate the needs of your child to a medical professional.

“If you have a problem with that – with basic communication in a medical setting between two genders, then you need to go back to a country that has the values that you think you and your family need to live with, because that is not the ways things are done in the West.”

Qudosi says the West should continue to press these debates. “How to interact with each other as citizens and members of the community is really at the core of what kind of society we are going to create.

“If the most basic form of communication is barred or limited or seen as an injustice, there really isn’t much hope for higher levels of societal integration or harmony.

“This is all the more reason this doctor should stick to his grounds and not give up. The greater injustice here is allowing something like this to win out and not be tossed out as unreasonable.”

Although the doctor agrees, he says he is too fed up to continue to practice medicine in such an environment.

“A doctor’s quest to perform the very finest consultation for the safety of the patient has been misinterpreted in a duplicitous manner to suggest there has been an act of racism committed. I absolutely no longer want to be a doctor,” he said.

“I feel a major injustice has taken place. This is why you are waiting so long to see your GP and doctors are leaving in droves. This country will have no doctors left if we continue to treat them in this manner. I’m deeply upset.”



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