Muslim doctors promote harmony with free clinic

ANDERSON TOWNSHIP – Robert Bowling has diabetes, high blood pressure and gout, and has been unable to work since 2002.

At Thanksgiving 2009, when he had to be rushed to the emergency room at Mercy Hospital Anderson, a nurse referred him to a free clinic that had just opened in the adjacent medical office building.

The Muslim Clinic of Ohio, Cincinnati Chapter, now known as the Mercy Care Clinic, was started by a group of local Muslim physicians.

“I think a lot of the American public sees the news and thinks if they see a Muslim that they’re automatically a terrorist,” said Bowling, 53, of Anderson Township.

The Muslims Bowling knows are dedicated physicians volunteering their time to care for him and providing him with life-saving medicine. They’ve given him Kroger pharmacy cards, redeemable for $4 prescriptions, and a referral to St. Vincent de Paul Society’s free pharmacy in the West End.

“I’d really be struggling without the clinic,” said Bowling.

The Muslim doctors want to expand the clinic’s hours and its ability to provide medicine to meet a growing need.

Bowling’s physician is Tariq Sultan, a Pakistani-born Muslim and internist at Mercy Anderson. Sultan was one of the clinic’s founders – it opened in July 2009 – and one of the region’s 140 Muslim physicians who had volunteered individually or in small groups at other clinics serving the poor.

The doctors wanted to serve the larger community and, in Sultan’s words, satisfy the fourth pillar of Islam – zakat, giving to and serving the poor.

“Everyone believes in heaven and hell,” Sultan said. “If you do good deeds you grow closer to God. You move forward.”

The doctors wanted, too, to do their part to chip away at negative stereotypes of Islam in America.

Mercy Care Clinic is based on the model of a free clinic opened in 1996 in California by Muslim doctors.

Five years before self-identified Muslim radicals masterminded and carried out the 9/11 attacks, Muslim physicians in Los Angeles wanted to create a “more positive view of Islam” and provide volunteer opportunities.

“We all are children of God,” said Seyed Moussavian, an Iranian-born gastroenterologist with a practice in Montgomery and a local clinic founder.

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