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Canadian medical journal retracts letter on hijab


The Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ) recanted and officially apologized for a letter it recently published about the hijab following calls from several organizations and individuals.

CMAJ Acting Editor-in-Chief, Dr Kirsten Patrick, apologized on Thursday for publishing the letter, which she said “did not contain a suitable subject for publication” and “has disgusted many readers across Canada”.

The letter, published on December 20 under the headline “Don’t Use Instruments of Oppression as a Symbol of Diversity and Inclusion,” was written by Montreal pediatric surgeon Dr. Sherif Emil in response to the use of ‘an image by CMAJ last month. of two young girls, one of whom wears a hijab, which accompanied a play on social interventions in primary care.

In the letter, Emil argued that he respected a woman’s choice to wear the hijab, a term commonly used to refer to the headgear worn by many Muslim women, and said that the harassment and discrimination in reason for this decision were “real” and “false”.

He added, however, that “respect does not change the fact that the hijab, niqab and burqa are also instruments of oppression for millions of girls and women around the world who are not allowed to make a choice.” .

A number of organizations, including the National Council of Canadian Muslims, Muslim Advisory Council of Canada and Muslim Medical Association of Canada, criticized the letter as Islamophobic and called on CMAJ to retract it.

The online version of the letter has since been removed from the CMAJ website and replaced with a statement, claiming the article’s editorial process was “flawed and biased”.

“CMAJ recognizes and deeply sorry for the tremendous harm that many people across Canada have suffered upon reading this letter,” the statement read.

Patrick, the newspaper’s acting editor, said representation of Canada’s Muslim community was “currently lacking” on CMAJ’s advisory bodies and that it “will seek to remedy this”.

She adds that while CMAJ may have lost the trust of many stakeholders, she hopes the journal can regain it “with humility and action.”

“I sincerely apologize for the considerable harm that so many, including fellow physicians and learners, suffered while reading the letter. I take full responsibility for the inadequacy of the editorial process that led to this. mistake, ”said Patrick.

“Further, I must point out that the title of the letter was written by CMAJ and was not the responsibility of Dr Emil,” she said.

Emil has since published a statement through the Canadian Response Healthcare Network.

He previously told CTVNews.ca that his letter attempted to address the opportunity to show a toddler or “prepubescent” girl wearing a hijab, as well as the millions of women around the world who have not. no choice one way or the other.

Emil, who is a Christian but grew up in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, also said he wanted to share the perspective of an intern, who asked to remain anonymous but said the image reminded him of being forced to wear the hijab when she was a child.

After the intern shared her perspective with CMAJ, Emil said he was encouraged to respond to the newspaper’s use of the image.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims has since thanked CMAJ for deleting the letter, saying she appreciates “the editor’s efforts in taking action and doing the right thing” and looks forward to working with her to “make sure this doesn’t happen again”.

Tabassum Wyne, executive director of the Muslim Advisory Council of Canada, who also sits on the Family Advisory Council at McMaster Children’s Hospital and works with the hospital’s anti-racism coalition, which includes a diverse group of pediatric doctors, told CTVNews by phone. .ca that she was happy that CMAJ had “taken the necessary steps to correct this error” and heard various voices.

The board had a virtual meeting with the acting editor-in-chief of CMAJ, Wyne said, during which it was suggested that the newspaper look into anti-Islamophobia training in the future.

Reading the letter, she says she considered the impact it might have on doctors and patients who wear the hijab.

Wyne also expressed concern that anyone on the internet is reading the letter in an accredited journal.

“And that’s why we pushed so hard for him to retract, and we’re happy with the results.”


This story has been corrected to clarify Tabassum Wyne considered the impact of the letter to doctors and patients who wear the hijab.

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