In the midst of a pandemic, our nation reels once again from the brutal and senseless killing of yet another black man in Minnesota – George Floyd – by law enforcement officials employing excessive force.
American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP) wholly condemns the killing of George Floyd and the patterns of systemic oppression and violence against black communities. We recognize that many who serve in law enforcement are committed to justice. However, escalating social injustices manifest as the use of unwarranted racial violence by law enforcement is a persistent public health issue. Dr. Sana Syed, AMHP’s Health Policy & Advocacy Director stated, “In America, we see significant racial disparities across all social determinants of health and this includes the criminal justice system.”
The public health crisis of law enforcement violence highlights the continued racial inequities that shape our society. Black youth are over five times as likely to be detained or committed compared to white youth (1). Black Americans are shot and killed by the police at a rate that is over twice as high as for white Americans (2). Policing inequalities mirror health disparities as seen in the COVID-19 pandemic: Black Americans have been disproportionately impacted and account for more than half of all COVID-19 cases and almost 60 percent of deaths, even though Black Americans represent only 13.4 percent of the population (3,4). Dr. Rukhsana M. Chaudhry, AMHP’s Director of Mental Health expressed, “The action that is needed ultimately hinges on society and those in leadership to understand that ongoing racism-related experiences in life can contribute to chronic mental health issues for the African American community. It is also the lack of recognition, silence, and inaction in the face of traumatic experiences for this community that perpetuates their suffering for generations upon generations with life-long consequences.”
As Muslim health professionals, we recognize that Islam has ordained human dignity to be a universal phenomenon and we need to strive for this objective. To that end, the Muslim community, (including all of us), must engage in introspection of the existing infrastructure of inequality and discrimination in our communities, which contributes to this overarching system of bias and intolerance: “O you who believe, stand firm for justice even against yourselves.”
Silence is not an option. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that, by the good people.” There are options to make your voice heard by speaking up as a health professional or as a concerned citizen. Another means of potential engagement, is by reaching out and supporting organizations working on combatting racism and addressing disparities including the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative.
AMHP President, Dr. Hasan Shananwani said, “We recognize that structural racism continues to cause a senseless loss of life, and therefore poses a serious public health problem.” In these troubled times, systemic racism and racial violence are major contributors to public health issues including gun violence, food insecurity, disparities in access to healthcare and insurance coverage, affordable housing, maternal mortality, and of course the COVID-19 pandemic. The ongoing pandemic has essentially underscored the profound inequities ingrained in our healthcare system while at the same time redefining the interdependence of people to each other regardless of race, religion, or socioeconomic backgrounds. Public health policies require us to establish an equitable social structure to ensure the well-being of everyone and our religious obligation requires us to support social justice for all.
AMHP is a community of healers, scientists, and leaders that stands strong with our Black brothers and sisters. Our mission and values continue to not only acknowledge historical social injustices and discrimination faced by Black communities, but also challenge the status quo that has persisted for far too long.
AMHP Board of Directors
Hasan Shanawani, MD, MPH Board President
Shady Shebak, MD Board Vice-President
Zaiba Malik, MD Executive Secretary
Atif Adam, Ph.D., MD, MPH Treasurer
Bilal Abbas MPA, MSW, CADC Chapter Director
Rukhsana Chaudhry Psy D. Mental Health Program Director
Afroz Hafeez, MD, MBA Advisory Board Chair
Ishak Hossain Membership Director
Saima Siddiqui, MS Professional Development Director
Sana Syed MD, MPH Health Policy & Advocacy Director
Arshia Wajid MBA, MPH Founder & Development Director
- The Sentencing Project; “Black Disparities in Youth Incarceration.” September 2017
- McCarthy N; Statista; “U.S. Police Shootings: Blacks Disproportionately Affected”. May 2020
- amfAR; “COVID-19 Racial Disparities in U.S. Counties”. May, 2020
- Schneider E et al; “COVID-19 More Prevalent, Deadlier in U.S. Counties with Higher Black Populations”. April 2020