Muslim Perspectives on the American Healthcare System: The Discursive Framing of “Islamic” Bioethical Discourse

in Die Welt des Islams
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This paper compares the discursive frames utilised by several national American Muslim organisations to craft an “Islamic” argument for healthcare reform via an expansion of health insurance coverage in the United States with Islamic ethico-legal opinions (fatwas) of U.S.-based jurists regarding the permissibility of purchasing health insurance. I analyse the differing ways in which these producers of “Islamic bioethics” material ground their arguments and draw on vocabulary from other discourses. The paper closes by reflecting upon the socio-political undercurrents that may contribute to the differences and disconnections between the ways in which these bioethics stakeholders produce their outputs and by arguing that further developing the field of Islamic bioethics will require concerted multidisciplinary engagements that clarify the distinctive nature of Islamic norms.

Muslim Perspectives on the American Healthcare System: The Discursive Framing of “Islamic” Bioethical Discourse

in Die Welt des Islams



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    Brody and Macdonald“Religion and Bioethics” pp. 133–45.

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    A.I. Padela“Islamic Verdicts in Health Policy Discourse”; A.I. Padela, “Public Health”; M. Ghaly, “Organ Donation and Muslims in the Netherlands: A Transnational Fatwa in Focus”Recht Van De Islam 26 (2012) pp. 39–52; M. Ghaly “Religio-Ethical Discussions on Organ Donation Among Muslims in Europe: An Example of Transnational Islamic Bioethics” Medicine Health Care and Philosophy 15 (2012) pp. 207–20; M. Ghaly “Milk Banks Through the Lens of Muslim Scholars: One Text in Two Contexts” Bioethics 26/3(2012) pp. 117–27.

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    American Muslim Health Professionals“About Us” (accessed on 30 March 2014).

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    Faithful Reform in Health Care“About Us” (accessed on 4 January 2014). FRH comprises a loose coalition of national and state-based organisations that signed their core document “A Faith-Inspired Vision of Health Care”. Most of the signing organisations are of Christian affiliation and the organisation’s director is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Nonetheless FRH’s messaging is developed in consultation with multiple faith groups and identifies theological perspectives and scriptural narratives that inform healthcare reform dialogue common to all participating faith communities.

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    Faithful Reform in Health Care“A Faith-Inspired Vision of Health Care” (accessed on 16 April 2014).

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    Faithful Reform in Health Care“Perspectives” (accessed on 4 January 2014).

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    See Quranic Arabic Corpus“Verse 57:25” (accessed on 16 April 2014); M. Asad The Message of the Qurʾan (Mecca and Zurich 1964). The Perspective translates the Quranic terms ʿadl and qisṭ equally as justice.While the two are to a certain extent interchangeable and while for The Perspective’s purposes any difference between them is perhaps irrelevant the two words are used differently in the Quran. Qisṭ refers to the notion of equity and balance and is metaphorically used to indicate justice while ʿadl has a much broader meaning including judging with equity and is used to refer to both God’s actions and humankind’s in different verses. See O. Leaman The Qur’an: an Encyclopedia (New York 2006) and J.E. Brockopp “Justice and Injustice” in J. McAuliffe (ed.) Encyclopedia of the Qurʾan (Washington 2015).

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    Supreme Court of the United States“National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius”; K. O’Brien, “Obamacare Religious Exemption Hard to Get”Religious News ­Service (April 2014) (accessed on 8 January 2015).

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    T. Bracanovic“Respect for Cultural Diversity in Bioethics: Empirical, Conceptual and Nor­mative Constraints”Medicine Health Care and Philosophy 14 (2011) pp. 229–36; J. Savulescu “Two Worlds Apart: Religion and Ethics” Journal of Medical Ethics 24 (1998) pp. 382ff.; T. Bracanovic “Against Culturally Sensitive Bioethics” Medicine Health Care and Philosophy 16 (2013) pp. 647–52; T. Murphy “In Defense of Irreligious Bioethics” American Journal of Bioethics 12 (2012) pp. 3–10.

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