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Are there common issues that American Muslims face?
I'm a veteran journalist who has written and edited articles on a wide range of business topics, ranging from regulation and litigation to corporate racial relations to interaction between companies and consumers. I'm interested in illustrating how the realities of the business world frequently clash with the theories and principles that business people find appealing.
Question: Are there common issues facing American Muslims?
Barrett: Sure, you know again with the caveat, which I’ll mention only once more, that there is no one unified Muslim experience. Muslim immigrants in their country, or now their children, or even in some cases their grandchildren, have for the most part come to this country for the very exact same reasons that immigrants have come to this country for several centuries. They’ve come here for the tremendous economic opportunities that exist. They’ve come here for the educational opportunities. And they come here because there is something very appealing to them about the ideological structure of American society. People abroad appreciate much more than we Americans do the promise and ideals of . . . embodied in aspects of our Constitution and in our civic culture. People . . . Muslims like other immigrants are extremely impressed by – and then once it’s theirs, proud of – freedom of religious expression; freedom of speech in general; branches of government that are limited one by the other so that there are checks and balances so that there isn’t a tendency toward tyranny of one sort; a court system that is a realistic and potent check on the executive branch and the legislative branch; a legislative branch that is not just a rubber stamp for, you know, the ultimate leader. So they come here for all those reasons. And you know in my experience Muslims – while even very observant Muslims; and we can talk about the spectrum of Muslim observance – they may not approve of many aspects of secular American society – drinking, sex before marriage, homosexuality – in fact pretty much all the same things that very conservative Christians and Jews disapprove of – but at the same time there is a willingness to co-exist with those things that they disapprove of. And I think an understanding that that’s kind of the price of living in an open society. Having said all that, there is a fairly consistent theme among Muslims in this country – with all the exceptions we’ve talked about – a real anxiety verging on irritation and anger about American foreign policy, which Muslims very routinely will distinguish from life in this country. It’s very common for Muslims to be very agitated and upset about the United States’ long-term relationship with the state of Israel. More recently most Muslims were fierce and early opponents of American military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. Now again, not all Muslims. You go to Shiia neighborhoods . . . areas where Shiias live in Detroit or elsewhere, they were initially in favor of the invasion of Iraq, because they wanted to see Saddam ousted. But opposition to American foreign policy is pretty much, I’d say, the most consistent political theme within Muslim life in this country, and the source of a good bit of whatever alienation exists among Muslims; and also a source of an important ingredient in the unsettling undercurrent of extremist thought that does course through American Islam. While the majority experience of Muslims in this country is one of integration, material success, educational attainment and so forth, there are pockets of very unsettling thought that tend to combine elements of the fundamentalism that has washed over much of the Muslim world over the last 30 plus years. It combines elements of anti-Semitism; of extreme antagonism to the state of Israel to the point of wanting to see the state of Israel eliminated, wiped off the map in some cases; and a tremendous anxiety about American involvement with Israel and the possible existence of an international conspiracy against Islam. These ideas that exist, they percolate at kind of a low level and they’re a source of concern. They should be a source of concern. They’re a source of concern to many Muslims and to Americans. Happily it’s not the majority strain of Muslim thinking. And one of the big challenges is how Muslims will deal with those issues in coming years.
Like other Americans, some Muslims the American government when it goes against the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
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An article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry raises questions about the goal of these advocacy groups.
- Two-thirds of American consumer advocacy groups are funded by pharmaceutical companies.
- The authors of an article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry say this compromises their advocacy.
- Groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness act more like lobbyists than patient advocates.
The Corruption That Brought Prozac to Market — Robert Whitaker, Journalist<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bea9cff2b25efc18b663a011a679ba16"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UyaJExxFPAE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Consumer-oriented groups gained steam over the ensuing decades. Their efforts helped inspire the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act after over 100 people (mostly children) died from a sanctioned drug, Sulfanilamide. If not for the hard work of these advocates, this case might have been overlooked.</p><p>Early efforts also focused on the food industry, which was increasingly using chemical preservatives. The origin of Consumer Reports can be found in the consumer advocacy movement. Both the food and drug industries were getting a free pass to experiment on citizens with few repercussions.</p><p>These movements provided a social foundation for important advocacy work in the second half of the century. Female-led groups evolved to focus on women's reproductive rights, AIDS, and mental health. As the authors write, these groups struck a balance between working <em>with</em> and <em>against</em> current trends. Sometimes you need to craft legislation with officials; at other times, you have to rage against the machine with everything you've got. </p><p>Advocacy marked an important turning point in public health (and culture in general). These groups were tired of placating to a medical model that treated the male body as the standard. This wasn't limited to anatomy. As I <a href="https://bigthink.com/coronavirus/pandemic-warnings-rp-eddy" target="_self">wrote about last week</a>, a high-profile 1970s-era conference about the role of women on Wall St featured no women on stage. You can imagine what reproductive health looked like during that time. </p><p>Advocacy groups made real impact in public health. Then the money began pouring in. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"These groups were funded largely by individual donations with some foundation support, but in the late 1980s, newer women's health groups moved to professionalize, effectively splitting the women's health movement."</p><p>A number of groups resist corporate ties to this day, such as the National Women's Heath Network and Breast Cancer Action. Too often, however, groups argue that their existence depends on corporate funding. This can lead to uncomfortable compromises. </p><p>An estimated two-thirds of patient advocacy groups in America accept funds from the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma companies gave <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11673-019-09956-8.pdf" target="_blank">at least $116 million</a> to such groups in 2015 alone.</p><p>For example, over a three-year period, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which was founded by two mothers whose sons suffered from schizophrenia, received nearly $12 million from 18 pharmaceutical companies. The largest donor was Prozac manufacturer, Eli Lilly. By 2008, three-quarters of NAMI's budget was funded by the pharmaceutical industry. It gets worse:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An Eli Lilly executive was even 'on loan' to NAMI, paid by Eli Lilly, while he worked out of the NAMI office on 'strategic planning.'"</p>
A customer waiting for his medication at the Headache Bar in a pharmacy in Sydney, Australia. Among the items on sale are 'Paigees with Chlorophyll' and Alka Seltzer on tap.
Photo by Dennis Rowe/BIPs/Getty Images<p>This influx of cash skews public understanding of drugs. It also influences advocates to overlook real problems caused by pharmaceutical interventions, especially when it comes to mental health.<br></p><p>For a real-world example, consider how Xanax came to market. As journalist Robert Whitaker <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2e829xdb4AA" target="_blank">explains</a>, an <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1463502/?page=1" target="_blank">initial study</a> was conducted to determine efficacy in treating panic attacks. After four weeks, Xanax was outperforming placebo, which is common with benzodiazepines over short-term usage. But it wasn't a four-week study; it was a 14-week study.</p><p>At the end of eight weeks, there was no difference in efficacy between Xanax and placebo.</p><p>At the conclusion of the study after 14 weeks, the placebo outperformed Xanax. By a lot.</p><p>Why is Xanax still prescribed for panic attacks? Because the pharmaceutical company, Upjohn, only published the four-week data. The 14-week data was not in its favor. Nearly forty years later, over <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/781816/alprazolam-sodium-prescriptions-number-in-the-us/" target="_blank">25 million</a> Americans receive a prescription despite its <a href="https://drugabuse.com/xanax/effects-use/" target="_blank">long list</a> of side effects and addictive profile. </p><p>As the authors note, many consumers are not aware of how advocacy groups are funded.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An international study of groups in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and South Africa found that the extent of relationships with industry was inadequately disclosed in websites that addressed ten health conditions: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, depression, Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis."</p><p>That's a tangled web of relationships. Pharmaceutical industry funding negatively impacts the work advocacy groups should be focused on: protecting us. NAMI, for example, claims that as a "natural ally" to the pharmaceutical industry, it helps consumers access "all scientifically proven treatments." When the industry ignores evidence of long-term damage caused by its treatments, you have to wonder what's being advocated. </p><p>Although, as the authors conclude, that question is easy to answer. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Instead of drawing insights from patient experience to set organizational agendas and challenge industry agendas, today's groups are silent on high prices and drug harms, oppose efforts to regulate these basic rights, and demand access to drugs that challenge the safety and effectiveness."</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>