By Dr Noor
Sometimes the most heartfelt and honest of encounters can come from the least expected of places. I had a patient the other day who I knew would be, let’s say skeptical, of a female Muslim doctor, especially one wearing hijab.
He was an older white man, an ex-veteran, full Harley Davidson ensemble. My job is to see patients, to see the people who need help with their eyes, not outfits. But I am human too, and once in awhile it is difficult to ignore the tension in the room.
His eyes grew wide when I introduced myself as his doctor. I tried to joke to lighten the mood, and we both laughed, nervously so. The exam went smoothly. I gave him some treatment options and he was definitely, by all signs, happy with his care.
And then the question: “Are you one of them Moslems?” I stiffened at first. I was preparing for the worst as far as the tone and tenor of this conversation. But then I thought, I need to use this as an opportunity to meaningfully engage this patient, and hopefully shed some light on a culture he obviously knew nothing about.
I talked to him about my religion, about how the actual definition of my religion ‘ Islam’ is peace. I told him that the terrorists he sees in the media are the very same that are killing my people in Syria. I explained that his understanding of “Moslem” refers to a tiny percentage in a religion of over 1.5 billion. That tiny percentage has hijacked and destroyed for their own insidious use the true spirit of Islam.
He asked me about my headcover. I was honest with him and explained that while even some of my close family had discouraged me from wearing it, I made the choice, I stood up and decided to wear hijab to celebrate what I believe in and my connection to my Creator. With it, I told him, along with how I explain my beliefs and my religion, I truly hope that I can have an impact on how the world understands Islam.
His introspective sadness in that moment is evident. This man apologizes to me; he is sorry that I have to explain myself in light of the incomprehension of who I was & what I stood for. Our meeting ended with him asking me for a hug; before I could say anything I found myself caught in an awkward embrace.
About the author
Dr. Noor is a Board Certified Ophthalmologist/Eye Surgeon from California.