CAIRO - Crowning a story of success that started seven years ago, Muslim doctors in the south-eastern US state of Tennessee are offering free health services for poor and uninsured Americans in line with the tenets of Islam.
"We are based in the Muslim community, but our outreach is to the community at large," Dr. Muhammad Zaman, a co-founder and board member of the Memphis Muslim Medical Clinic, told The Commercial Appeal.With a slogan reading "Healthcare for All," Muslim doctors at the three-bedroom clinic offer free medical help to uninsured and underprivileged Americans.
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Converting bedrooms into exam rooms, volunteered doctors worked to solicit old or unwanted office furniture from the Memphis medical community.
They also knocked on more than 200 doors in the neighborhood to introduce themselves, invite new patients and foster a sense of community spirit.
The Muslim clinic has started operations seven years ago to serve patients of all ages, races and religions.
The Muslim campaign was successful with appointments up by nearly 30 percent and more patients coming to the clinic every year, which made a record of 700 patients in 2012.
Along with uninsured Americans, the clinic serves Muslim women who prefer getting medical care in a culturally sensitive environment.
Halla Hanetite, a veiled Muslim woman, has been to the clinic at least once a year since it opened, receiving everything from routine physicals to ultrasounds to tests for spinal problems.
"Some women aren't comfortable with men touching or feeling them, she said.
Yet, Hanetite says visits to the clinic had nothing to do religion or culture.
"Insurance is sky high, and even if you do get insurance, the co-pay costs practically the same as the doctor's visit, Hanetite said.
"You might have to choose between eating for the rest of the week and seeing a doctor, and that's a very difficult choice."
"If this clinic wasn't here to give blood tests, a lot more people would die in their own homes," she said.
Practicing charity according to the tenets of their religion, Muslim doctors are keen on maintaining the free services for poor Americans.
"It's not just about worshipping God," Zaman, the clinic's board member, said.
"This is a service to human beings, and that is a commandment from God, taking care of the needs of others."
The clinic opens at 9 sharp every Sunday morning and receives patients for the next five hours.
It runs on a $5,000-per-month budget, most of which comes from donors who give modest monthly contributions.
"Most of those who committed to donating seven years ago are still donating today because they see what we have done in the community," Zaman said.
The clinic's success story has inspired a group of Muslims from Nashville to start a free clinic to provide for their city's swelling demand for low-cost health care.
"We contacted them because we want to benefit from their experience," said Kamel Daouk, president of the Islamic Center of Tennessee in Nashville.
"We wanted to see their facility in operation ... and learn the key elements of how to get started and what services to offer."
Daouk attributes the growth of free clinics to the fact that the American Muslim community already boasts a high number of physicians, many of whom are seeking outlets for their charitable endeavors.
"(Medicine) is one thing the Muslim community in the U.S. has excelled in," he said.
"A lot are from Pakistan and India, some from Lebanon and Syria. Many of them have been very successful, and it's time for us to give back to the community."
There are about a dozen Muslim community health clinics across the country, mostly in major cities like Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and Houston, but their number and services are growing steadily.
In January 2013, a group of Muslim doctors volunteered to open the Rahma Health Clinic to provide free medical services for poor residents in New York's Syracuse city.
Last year, a free clinic was established by the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America to provide dental, ophthalmologic, pediatric and pain-management services on Sundays at the Balal Mosque on St. Louis University's campus.Another clinic was opened by the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis, in partnership with Volunteers in Medicine last October.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net