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Conscience in Health Care: Navigating Tricky Terrain

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the third installment of Tanenbaum’s Health Care Insights series.

This month’s issue features a religiously motivated conscientious refusal involving attire in the health care workplace:

  • The Scenario: A Sikh physician wears a full beard due to his religious beliefs regarding uncut hair. This conflicts with the hospital’s policy regarding safety and hygiene.
  • Click here to learn about the religious context underlying the physician’s choice and how the hospital can find an alternative that can accommodate the physician’s requirements, while still ensuring patient safety.

For additional case studies from our medical school curriculum, click here. To learn more about the intersections of religion and health care, Tanenbaum’s full Medical Manual can be purchased here. (Contact us for discounted bulk and institutional purchase rates for the eBook version.)

In friendship,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

Tanenbaum Condemns Explosion at Sikh Temple in Germany

Tanenbaum condemns an apparently deliberate explosion at a Sikh temple in Essen, Germany. There, the explosion occurred at a community gurdwara, while classes for children were being held along with celebrations for the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi. A masked man was seen fleeing the scene, and three arrests have been made. The Independent has reported that police are investigating the explosion as a deliberate attack, although “there are no indications it was a terrorist incident”.

“We are saddened to hear about the explosion at Essen’s Sikh temple. Such acts of violence are terrifying and designed to be so,” noted Tanenbaum CEO Joyce Dubensky. “Regardless of motive, violent acts such as this latest explosion are intended to kill people and then spread fear and distrust within and among communities. At Tanenbaum, we therefore condemn both the crime and the intention to terrorize people in Germany and across the globe.”

Though this is the first attack in Europe’s recent history that a Sikh gurdwara has been targeted, community members are anxious following the explosion.

“We may not be able to stop such deliberate acts of violence by ourselves. But we can stop the societal conditions that contribute to people believing that discrimination, violence and even terrorism are acceptable. We can end the use of stereotypes and the public and political rhetoric that dehumanizes others – through early education and by promoting civility and compromise when disagreements arise.” Dubensky continued, “Maybe then, less people will be drawn into ideologies that fuel hate crimes and terrorism.”

 

Tanenbaum is a secular, non-sectarian nonprofit that systematically dismantles religious violence and hatred through Peacemakers in armed conflicts and by tackling religious bullying of students, harassment in workplaces and disparate health treatment for people based on their beliefs.

Tanenbaum Urges Religious and Cultural Competency Training for Aeroméxico

Yesterday Sikh American actor Waris Ahluwalia was denied entry onto an Aeroméxico flight from México City for wearing a turban. Aeroméxico personnel requested that he remove the turban – or purchase a ticket on another airline.

Speaking on behalf of the Tanenbaum | Center for Interreligious Understanding, its CEO Joyce Dubensky condemned the conduct of the Aeroméxico personnel. “What happened to Mr. Ahluwalia is a travesty. It is humiliating, disrespectful and unnecessary, even in these days when security is a real issue,” said Dubensky. “Sadly, this is not a unique experience.” Over an 18-month period, the Sikh Coalition found that 105 complaints (53%) filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security alleged religious discrimination.

Dubensky added, “From Mr. Ahluwalia’s perspective, this was a personal injustice. And for Aeroméxico, it was really bad business. In this climate of heightened security, Aeroméxico does not have to compromise safety for respect. As México’s largest airline, Aeroméxico must train screening personnel on how to respectfully screen passengers wearing religious headwear and clothing.”

One solution that Tanenbaum proposes is having screeners provide privacy for people who wear turbans or other religious coverings so they can be screened, if appropriate, by a same-sex airline employee. “In many instances, people will cooperate with airline personnel in private, as long as they are not being asked to publicly expose themselves and violate their religious beliefs,” Dubensky explained.

Like many Sikhs, Ahluwalia described how his turban and beard represent his commitment to justice and equality. “As fellow travelers, we should all encourage airlines and national security agencies to practice religious and cultural respect, while maintaining real security. Because what happened to Mr. Ahluwalia is inexcusable and it shouldn’t happen to anyone.” Dubensky said.

Tanenbaum offers a range of trainings and resources to help companies leverage religious diversity, create inclusive work environments and meet financial business goals.

When Vaisakhi Is More Than a Holiday

Darbar Harmandir Sahib - the "Golden Temple"

Darbar Harmandir Sahib – the “Golden Temple”

Have you ever wished someone a happy Vaisakhi?

Most people have no idea that the Pentagon is holding a major celebration to celebrate Vaisakhi. Or that Vaisakhi is the birthday of the world’s fifth largest religion. Why? Because the Sikh community as a whole, is often ignored in this country. The time has come to know more about our Sikh neighbors.

Let’s start with the FBI’s most recent Hate Crimes Statistics (released 12/2014) because the findings are telling. Race is still the leading cause of hate crimes in the U.S., followed by sexual-orientation and religion. Among major religious groups, Jewish people are most likely to be attacked (60.3 percent) followed by Muslims (13.7 percent) and people from “other religions” (11.2 percent). Unfortunately, those statistics do not separately track anti-Sikh hate crimes, only including them within “other religions.” Fortunately, this practice has now come to an end. Following years of advocacy, the FBI is finally implementing a system to track anti-Sikh bias, along with bias against many other self-identified religious groups. It’s about time. Because the Sikh community is being attacked.

Last summer in New York City, Joseph Caleca yelled “Osama!” at Sandeep Singh before running him over and dragging Singh for 30 feet. Only days later, a group of teens, male and female, attacked another Sikh man walking to dinner with his mother. These are not isolated incidents. The Sikh community is repeatedly targeted by verbal and physical violence. Sometimes the perpetrators escape apprehension. But in the case of Sandeep Singh, community activism led to Caleca’s arrest and an indictment for attempted murder and hate crime charges.

Such incidents are only one way this community is singled out. Visibly distinct, observant Sikh men wear turbans and have uncut beards. In a society still grappling with diversity, it is therefore no surprise that Sikhs experience workplace discrimination, bias and stereotyping.

Consider New York’s Police Department. Its dress-code requires officers to wear religious head coverings beneath the uniform cap and to maintain short beards, measuring less than one millimeter. With few exceptions, the NYPD refuses to accommodate Sikhs, in contrast to police departments like the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington D.C., which began allowing Sikhs to wear turbans and have full beards in 2012.

There are also daily indignities (or micro-aggressions) that grate at the soul. Take the Sikh who goes to the hospital and is asked to complete the patient intake form. Often, it includes a question about religious preferences and provides a list of religious identities. Many patients find this practice welcoming, while the facility simultaneously learns about their possible needs. But if you’re Sikh, this is not necessarily your experience. Several NYC hewospitals continue to omit Sikhism on these forms, despite repeated requests for inclusion. So when a NYC Sikh patient is hospitalized, the only choice is “other” — even though more than 50,000 Sikhs live in NYC.

Such blatant disregard for an entire community is costly. In one NY health care facility, a nurse shaved and trimmed an elderly Sikh patient’s beard, eyebrows and mustache one month before his death. The patient was religiously mandated never to cut his hair, and his family, who had never seen him shaved or with trimmed hair, did not recognize him. The result, of course, was a law suit.

But perhaps most disturbing, is how Sikh children are tormented. For one Sikh student, this meant being held to the ground by a classmate who forcibly cut his hair. For other children, it means being taunted and called names like “terrorist” and “Osama.”

It does not have to be this way. We can stop acts of hatred and prevent bullying with the help of parents and teachers. Starting at a young age, children can learn that people have different ways of believing (or not believing). And holidays like Vaisakhi provide an easy opportunity for that teachable moment.

With institutional changes, we can improve our neighbors’ lives. What if the NYPD not only pursued hate crimes, but also had Sikh officers who understood the community being targeted? How much better would a Sikh patient’s health care be, if hospital staff knew that being Sikh meant that certain decisions about their care might be made — and knew enough to ask what was needed? And just think how our students would be better prepared as members of the global society, if they understood that diversity, including differences of belief, is not something to fear or hate?

The FBI and the Pentagon are taking steps toward improved relations with the Sikh community. By showing respect for Sikh traditions, they are standing up against bias, hatred and violence. This matters for all of us. Because no one is exempt from exclusion and violence. Today’s bystander may be tomorrow’s victim. And that means we must stand together now.

– Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

The New N-Word


This morning, at a press conference I attended at the offices of the Sikh Coalition, Sandeep Singh looked into a video camera and shared his story of being dragged through the streets of Queens by a pick-up truck. The video doesn’t show his scarring blisters from being burned by the asphalt, nor the 40 stitches that line his chest, but it does illustrate the emotional pain that his face cannot hide.

On July 30, Singh was run down by a man yelling, “Go back to your own country, Bin Laden.” The horror of this attack has been traumatizing for Singh and the Sikh community of New York City. Sadly, it is not an aberration.

This past Monday, Dr. Jaspreet Singh Batra came forward as the victim of another violent hate crime, again against the Sikh community. Batra was walking home with his mother in Roosevelt Island (celebrating her birthday), when a group of younger teens approached yelling, “Osama bin Laden” among other racially charged slurs. As they hurled barbs at his mother, Batra spoke to them about how she should be respected. They responded by beating him in the face and head.

This morning’s press conference was regarding these and other hate attacks. It was profoundly troubling but several things stood out:

  • The Sikh community remains steadfast in its message of peace and forgiveness.
  • The Sikh community continues to emphasize their openness to connecting with non-Sikhs and even the perpetrators in an attempt to educate others about their traditions.

These attacks were not singular events, but only the most recent string of hate-filled violence against one community within our American society. The acts reflect bigotry and hatred against a whole people simply because they have facial hair, wear turbans and practice a different religious tradition.

In his statement to the press, Dr. Batra made a poignant point: “My mother and I were called ‘Osama bin Laden,’” he said. “Is the ‘O’ word the new ‘N’ word?”

Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO

Palin baptism-terrorism controversy: Top 5 news stories

Sarah Palin calls waterboarding ‘baptism’ of terroristsHungarians march against anti-Semitism after far-right poll gainsBrunei adopts sharia law, others in Southeast Asia consider itSikhs stand up to bullying as they try to build understandingUnited Church of Christ Sues North Carolina to Allow Gay Marriage

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:

Photo Credit: Shemp Howard, Jr. at en.wikipedia

Sarah Palin calls waterboarding ‘baptism’ of terrorists

Republican politician Sarah Palin has caused controversy by comparing the use of torture to baptism. In a speech before the National Rifle Association in Indianapolis last weekend, Palin criticised the Obama administration’s ‘soft’ approach to terrorism.

“Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we’d baptise terrorists,” she said.

This remark has caused waves across political and religious spheres, with critics lambasting Palin for her offhand attitude towards the use of torture and what many see as a disregard for a key Christian sacrament.

Hungarians march against anti-Semitism after far-right poll gains

Tens of thousands of Hungarians joined a protest march on Sunday against anti-Semitism, three weeks after the far-right Jobbik party won nearly a quarter of votes cast in a national election.

The marchers, many holding European Union and Israeli flags, attended the inauguration of a Holocaust monument on a bank of the Danube where Jews were executed during the war. They then marched in silence through the city to an old railway station from which trains departed 70 years ago for Nazi death camps.

More people are taking part because they fear anti-Semitism is again on the rise, said Miklos Deutsch, 64, a restaurant manager, after a shofar, a traditional Jewish instrument made from a ram’s horn, gave the signal for the march to start.

Brunei adopts sharia law, others in Southeast Asia consider it

The sultanate of Brunei this week becomes the first East Asian country to introduce Islamic criminal law, the latest example of a deepening religious conservatism that has also taken root in parts of neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia.

From Wednesday, residents of the country dominated by Malay Muslims face conviction by Islamic courts and fines or jail terms for offences like pregnancy outside marriage, failure to perform Friday prayers, and propagating other religions. A second phase comes into effect 12 months later covering offences for theft and alcohol consumption by Muslims, punishable by whipping and amputations.

The death penalty, including by stoning, will be introduced in the final phase a year later for offences including adultery, sodomy and insulting the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad.

Sikhs stand up to bullying as they try to build understanding

Throughout elementary, middle and high school, Prabhdeep Suri has been the only Sikh in his class, and it’s been obvious.“He came home crying three days out of five,” his mother, Harpreet Suri, remembered. “They were taking his patka off almost every day.”

Bullying is a hot topic, and affects children and teenagers who appear or act differently. But unlike others who can hide their religion at school – by wearing a baseball cap instead of a yarmulke, or never mentioning their family celebrates Ramadan – Sikhs literally wear their religion on their sleeves.

United Church of Christ Sues North Carolina to Allow Gay Marriage

It’s the first time for a national Christian denomination to sue in favor of same-sex marriage, citing restricted freedom of religion. Currently ministers who marry couples without a marriage license can face misdemeanor charges punishable by up to 120 days in jail

Tips for Passover, Vaisakhi, & Easter

Vaisakhi festival photo by Flickr user Anguskirk

As you may be aware, the holiest times for millions of Americans are approaching. Passover begins at sundown on April 14 and ends at sundown on April 22. Easter is celebrated on a variety of days, depending on the tradition, but many will celebrate the holiday on April 20. And Vaisakhi, a festival celebrated by Sikhs, Hindus, and Buddhists, will be celebrated on April 14.

So, from April 14 to April 22, many American Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and Buddhists may choose to participate in religious practices that have an impact on their daily lives.

With these holidays upon us, colleagues, patients and students will be observing in ways that are apparent and unnoticeable. In either case, it’s helpful to know the basics about the holidays so that you can be prepared.

Whether you’re an educator, manager, or health care provider, the spring holidays could be relevant to your work and what you do every day.

As Tanenbaum’s holiday gift to you, we have created Tanenbaum Tips for PassoverEaster, and Vaisakhi.

To those who celebrate, happy holidays!

Fighting Religious Discrimination One App at a Time

<p>This season, in the face of religious discrimination, one group created a mobile app that enables air travelers to act as an external watchdog on potentially discriminatory practices at airport checkpoints. Created by the Sikh Coalition, the app enables people of all faiths and races to file complaints against the TSA for racial and religious profiling.</p>

<p>Although the TSA released a statement that it &ldquo;has zero tolerance for racial profiling and employs multiple checks and balances to ensure unlawful profiling does not occur,&rdquo; studies show that Sikhs, Muslims and people perceived to be Muslim are pulled aside for secondary screenings at a higher rate than people not perceived to be Muslim. The FlyRights app hopes to call attention to the institutionalized reinforcing of negative stereotypes.</p>

<p>We have the power to end religious discrimination by speaking up, raising awareness, and taking action. This app is just one example of how ingenuity combined with community action takes us one step closer to creating a world free of discrimination and prejudice.</p>

<p>This Thanksgiving, remember that the human family extends beyond your table.</p>

<p>Here&#39;s where you can get the app: <a href=”http://fly-rights.org/”>http://fly-rights.org</a></p>

<p>Read the full story here: <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/sikh-airport-discrimination_n_4340049.html”>http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/sikh-airport-discrimination_n_4340049.html</a></p>