We Answer the Call for a Joint Jewish and Muslim Psychiatrist Statement


Respect is the single most important factor that helps to sustain long term relationships.




In Dr Moffic’s column yesterday, he called for any Muslim psychiatrist who would like to make a combined statement, a sort of sought unification in a time of divisiveness, disagreement, destruction, and death. Psychiatrist interfaith coalitions seemed to be under duress, especially those with Jewish and Muslim psychiatrists.

A current statement could be modeled after the 2 professors at Berkeley University, who disagreed vehemently about the current Middle East war, but agreed in writing about the need for interfaith “respect and dignity.” So simply put, Dr Moffic wondered whether a Muslim and Jewish psychiatrist could agree on something similar, like this:

We are 2 psychiatrists from different faith backgrounds who can both agree and disagree—and agree to disagree—about the current Middle East war and the continuing conflict between Jews and Muslims around the world regarding the situation unfolding in the “Holy Land.” Calling the situation a “war,” and what countries should be included, has caused disagreement in and of itself. Whatever the struggle should be called, it is also permeated by the mutual intergenerational transmission of historical traumas.

Drs Moffic and Hankir share a common love for the diversity of our profession (a reflection of the diversity of the communities we serve), and are devastated to hear of a breakdown in interfaith relationships. Together, we hope that such relationships can be repaired and that we can be a model to move forward.

The first positive potential response that Dr Moffic received was from Ahmed Hankir, who—along with John Peteet—was his book editorial partner, based in England, for over 5 years, being the coeditor of all 4 of the volumes on various religions and psychiatry, including on Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and the Eastern religions. Now Dr Hankir has moved to Canada. He talks internationally about burnout and wounded healers, among other things.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege for that professional relationship to grow over the years and develop into a personal friendship. Of course, along the way, some differences of opinions about various conceptual and practical issues emerged, but these were soon resolved through the power of open, transparent, and honest communication.

Moreover, although there were inevitable disagreements and compromises and concessions made along the way, we were always, without exception, respectful towards one another and that, perhaps, is the single most important factor that helps to sustain long term relationships.

Our common goal is to achieve peaceful coexistence for all. Keeping our eyes and hearts fixed on that goal has helped to harmonize our relationship.

There is a saying that you discover for yourself who your true friends are and who you can really trust during a personal crisis. It is not exaggeration to state that we are in a crisis right now and we want our interfaith collegial relationships to persist and thrive. Collegial relationships are indeed an ethical priority as presented in the preamble of our American Medical Association’s ethical principles. We must also set an example for our patients. Peaceful coexistence is better for our collective mental health after all.

If any profession has the knowledge of how to resolve conflicts (between persons and communities), the humility and strength to respect cultural differences and honor faith backgrounds, and the desire to heal wounds and alleviate suffering, sometimes by forgiveness, it is psychiatry. Let’s live up to our potential and pass this personal and global test.

If you are involved in other interfaith coalitions involving Jewish and Muslim psychiatrists, or in cross-cultural interfaith Muslim/Jewish clinical relationships, please let us know.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry, and is now in retirement and refirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times. Dr Hankir is Consultant Psychiatrist in Canada and Honorary Visiting Professor at the School of Medicine, Cardiff University in the UK. His research interests include global mental health and pioneering and evaluating innovative interventions that reduce mental health related stigma and he has published widely in these area. He is passionate about empowering, dignifying and humanizing people living with mental health conditions and serves as Public Engagement and Education Lead at the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Mental Health and Human Rights, Institute of Mental Health, Nottingham University (UK). He is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, most notably the 2022 WHO Director General Award for Global Health.

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