Perceived Discrimination of Muslims in Health Care

Contributor: Mary Brigid Martin
October 23, 2018

Research/Theory Exemplar (Ray’s transcultural caring theory)

Martin, M. B. (2015). Perceived Discrimination of Muslims in Health Care. Journal of Muslim mental health, 9(2).  (This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.)

Investigator – Mary Brigid Martin PhD, FNP-BC, CTN-A, CNE
Project dates – April 2012 – May 2013
Location – Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL
Theoretical framework

The use of Ray’s transcultural caring theory in this research provided a suitable means to convey an interdisciplinary approach to analyze social and health concerns in the Muslim American population. Ray’s (2010) transcultural caring dynamics in nursing health care model served as a valuable guide to interpret the multi-dimensional influences on health, including religion, ethics, society, political, and health care systems. These foci are aligned with scholarly concerns of social scientists of the circumstances facing the Muslim population in this country. The evidence of perceived religious discrimination against Muslims in society and the health care setting uncovered in this study illuminated the discrimination that persist against Muslim Americans in U.S. society.

From Ray, Marilyn (2010). Transcultural Caring Dynamics in Nursing and Health Care. 1st edition, F.A. Davis Company,Philadelphia, PA. Used with permission.

Summary of study

Discrimination is not only a human and civil rights offense, but also a detrimental influence on the health outcomes of affected populations. The Muslim population in the US is a growing religious minority increasingly encountered by health care professionals in the clinical setting. This group has been subject to heightened discrimination since the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and often is misunderstood within the context of American society today. While research has been conducted on discrimination against Muslims in the employment and educational segments of society, more studies are needed which quantify the extent and type of discrimination faced by this group in the health care setting. This quantitative, univariate, descriptive, cross-sectional study focused on the crossover of anti-Muslim discrimination from society to the health care setting. A newly developed tool to measure anti-Muslim discrimination in health care and an established perceived discrimination scale were used to create the questionnaire employed in this investigation. The items of this newly created tool addressed culturally congruent care practices based on principles of cultural safety within the nurse-patient relationship and the cultural care beliefs of the Muslim patient/family to ascertain discriminatory occurrences in the health care setting. Data was collected from April 2012 to May 2013, from 227 self identify Muslims living in the US, who had a reported health care encounter since 9/11. Ray’s (2010) transcultural caring dynamics in nursing and health care model served as a research framework because of its emphasis on the relatedness of human-environment connection, particularly with respect to sociocultural and socio-political context within which Muslim Americans dwell since 9/11.


Findings reflected that anti-Muslim discrimination does crossover from society to the health care setting in the US: nearly 1/3 of the subjects perceived that they were discriminated against when accessing health care services. Being excluded or ignored was the most frequently reported type of discrimination, followed by problems related to the use of Muslim clothing, offensive or insulted offensive or insensitive verbal remarks, and problems related to Islamic holidays, prayer rituals, and physical assault respectively. Interestingly, reported perceptions of anti-Muslim discrimination were found to be higher after the Boston marathon bombings, which occurred during data collection, following media reports of terror attacks perpetrated by Muslims.

Works that have cited this study

Almontaser, E., & Baumann, S. L. (2017). The Syrian refugee crisis: What nurses need to know. Nursing Science Quarterly, 30(2), 168- 173.

Hassouneh, D. (2017). Anti-Muslim racism and women’s health. Journal of Women’s Health, 26(5), 401–402.

Itaoui, R., & Elsheikh, E. (2018). Islamophobia in the United States: A reading resource pack. Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. University of California, Berkeley: Berkeley, CA. Retrieved from

Janků, T., Linhartová, L. & Topinka, D. (2017). Practice of nursing care provided to clients from Muslim countries in the Czech Republic. Journal of Religion and Health, 56,1658.

Morgan, K. (2018). Pathologizing “Radicalization” and the erosion of patient privacy rights. Boston College Law Review, 59(2). Retrieved from

Samari, G., Alcalá, H., Sharif, M. (2018). Islamophobia, health, and public health: A systematic literature review. American Journal of Public Health, 108(6), e1-e9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2018.304402

Sinky, T.H. (2017). Experiences and correlates of healthcare discrimination among Saudis in the United States (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Tanhan, A. (2017). Mental health issues and seeking of formal mental health services among Muslims in the southeastern U.S.: Preliminary investigation of a contextual theoretical framework based on the theory of planned behavior/theory of recent action and the social ecological model (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Zotova, N. (2018). Religion and mental health among Central Asian Muslim immigrants in Chicago metropolitan area. Migration Letters, 15(3), 361-376. Retrieved from

About Mary Brigid Martin 

Mary Brigid Martin PhD, CNE,  CTN-A, FNP-BC completed her MSN at Pace University, NY to pursue a career in nursing. She has traveled extensively, lived and worked in cultures different from her own, and seen up close the negative health impacts of war and social instability. After years in acute care and nursing staff development, she embarked on PhD studies at Florida Atlantic University to  engage in academia. Her doctoral research explored anti-Muslim discrimination in health care in the U.S.; she has several publications about transcultural nursing in peer reviewed journals and textbooks. Her certifications include: Certified Nurse Educator, Certified Transcultural Nurse and Family Nurse Practitioner.