Now Doctors Are Warned: Don't Refuse Cigarettes from a Muslim; POPULAR SOCIAL ACTIVITY: Muslims May Offer Their Guests a Cigarette

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), June 29, 2008 | Go to article overview

Now Doctors Are Warned: Don't Refuse Cigarettes from a Muslim; POPULAR SOCIAL ACTIVITY: Muslims May Offer Their Guests a Cigarette


Byline: Mark Howarth

HEALTHCARE professionals have been given bizarre guidelines to avoidoffending asylum seekers and refugees.

A 63-page resource pack tells them to tailor their behaviour according to thenationality and religion of those they treat.

Among the tips, staff are warned not to refuse cigarettes from Muslims ordiscuss Britain or the US with Iranians.

The pack also suggests that females cover themselves up when they are inIslamic homes.

More comically, there is advice on rubbing noses with Afghans. Also, whendealing with Albanians, one should nod to say no and shake one's head to meanyes.

Last night, the dossier was dismissed by critics, including Muslim and refugeecommunity leaders.

Richard Cook, of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, described thebooklet as 'patronising, inaccurate and insulting'.

The Asylum Seekers and Refugees Resource Pack for Health Care Professionals wasproduced by NHS Health Scotland. Copies have been distributed to GPs, clinicsand other medical staff who make home visits.

Its aim is 'to provide useful information for frontline staff' so they can'develop cultural competence in the services they provide'.

A section entitled Brief Notes on Islam claims: 'Smoking is discouraged inIslam because of the associated health hazards. However, a cigarette is oftenoffered as a compliment. It is extremely impolite/ insulting to rebuff such agesture.

'Guests may be invited to smoke a narghileh (hookah pipe). This is anessentially social activity, acceptance is honourable and the exhibitedbehavioural ritual should be followed.

This offered courtesy can be a dilemma for health workers, who, for healthreasons, are trying to encourage smoking cessation.' The pack also dedicates asection to social conventions applying to various nations.

Female staff are told to dress according to Islamic law when meeting patientsfrom several countries, including Somalia, Turkey and Iraq..

It even warns that, when dealing with Algerians, 'Western women should coverthemselves as much as possible or otherwise incite hostility'.

Health visitors should take presents to Pakistanis and Sri Lankans.

When meeting Afghans, 'nose rubbing and embracing are traditional'.

For Albanians, 'a nod of the head means no and a shake of the head means yes'.The section on Iran claims its people find the West offensive because ofongoing political tensions with the government in Tehran.

It states: 'Feelings about certain countries (such as the USA and UK) still runhigh, so contentious subjects should be avoided.

'Handshaking is customary, but not with members of the opposite sex.

'It is customary to be offered tea and guests are expected to accept suchhospitality.' However, the Iranian Association, which works with asylumseekers, said it found the pack puzzling. The charity's co-ordinator, RezaKhiaban, said: 'It seems to lack insight. Health workers should act asthemselves.' He added: 'Iranians don't have such an anti-Western feeling. TheIslamic republic tries to do that, but people don't accept it. Among the youngpeople, 80 to 85 per cent want to come to Britain or the USA. There isn't aproblem with the people, it's a problem with the government.

'Iranians are not so hard in their customs. The ones who come to this countryare mainly educated and they accept Western culture very quickly. …

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