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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Muslims Get Their Own Clinic

MTThe Muslim clinic, which follows sharia, has prayer rooms for men and women, allowing them to pray comfortably.
Muslims concerned about receiving medical treatment with practices in line with sharia can now go to the first medical center in the country specializing in Muslim patients.

This warrants separate services for men and women, said Viktor Kisin, the head of medical clinics network TsK, which opened the Muslim clinic on Volgogradsky Prospekt on Dec. 6. Men will be examined only by male doctors and women only by female doctors.

The clinic has a halal lunchroom and a prayer room that has a partition separating men and women.

The staff's attire will also meet the sharia dress code norms: Clothing must cover the entire body and only the doctors' hands may remain visible for female doctors, who wear a scarf or hijab. All the doctors have experience working with Muslims, and many of them can speak Russian, Arabic and English, but not all of them are practicing Muslims.

"We have chosen medical specialists who have solid medical experience and have practiced in the Middle East. Chief, of course, was their qualifications," Kisin said.

The Muslim clinic is located in an integrated medical-diagnostic center for general practitioners, and it was approved by the Council of Muftis of Russia. Kisin said they were looking for a quick increase in the number of clients, including foreigners.

Islam's requirements for treatments of male patients are simple -- avoid medicine containing alcohol, said clinic physician Makhmud Zeidan, a native Syrian with over 20 years of medical experience. He said he prescribed only alcohol-free medicine. There is a good selection made in Arab countries, but if there are none available in Russia, the patient will receive the necessary treatment anyway, he said.

"No one has canceled the Hippocratic oath yet," Zeidan said.

Gynecologist Valeria Bezshaposhnikova worked in Yemen for several years before coming here. The difference in approach with her female patients is merely psychological. For example, a Muslim woman generally will not go to a clinic alone but with a relative or two.

"It was a strange thing for me first to see my patient with her husband or sister present, but after a while I got used to it," she said of her experience in Yemen.

The need to create such centers arises from the discomfort Muslim women feel in cases where the doctor's supervision is not in line with sharia, Bezshaposhnikova said. In 2005, a center opened for Muslim women to give birth in accordance with sharia law in Moscow's Maternity Clinic No. 15.

Any woman can use the clinic's services, including those with no Moscow registration or Russian citizenship, said Daria Dmitriyeva, the clinic spokeswoman.

"If needed, we are ready to provide medical care not only to Muslims but members of other religious confessions as well," she said.

Bakhyt Namazbekov, 45, brought his friend with a knee problem to the clinic. "I am a Muslim, but the reason I came here was more medical choice than a religious one. I am a medic myself, and I was impressed by the previous experience in different countries these doctors had. At the same time, many of my friends pray on a certain schedule and must prepare themselves for prayer. They also must kneel while praying. So, I think for them it is really important that they can pray here without any problem."

The clinic targets the middle class, as the annual fee for services is about 14,000 rubles ($570).

The initiative is part of a renewed cooperation between the country's Muslim community and the government. Such clinics will be opened in Kazan, Saratov and Naberezhniye Chelny, Kisin said.

Since 1989, the country's Muslim population has increased by 40 percent, rising to some 25 million self-declared Muslims. At present, the country has more than 8,000 mosques, up from just 300 in 1991.

Moscow has the largest Muslim population of any city in Europe, with an estimated 2.5 million to 3.5 million.

Public opinion surveys reveal, however, that up to 70 percent of ethnic Russians express sympathy with xenophobic sentiments.