National Survey of Muslim Physician Attitudes towards Religion and Medicine

Project Overview

This project provided insight into the lives of American Muslim physicians as they negotiate their identity as Muslims with their identity as medical professionals within a multicultural and pluralistic society. The project was funded by the University of Chicago’s Program on Medicine and Religion Faculty Scholars Program through the John Templeton Foundation. The project focused on the ways Islam influences American Muslim physicians’ medical practices and informs their professional identities. Additionally, we explored American Muslim physicians’ experiences with religion-based workplace discrimination. Alongside the empirical inquiry, we engaged with the philosophical and ethical traditions of Islam as they relate to conceptions of healing and the moral formation of physicians. 

Project Aims

The project aimed to:

  • Describe the influence of Islamic religiosity on physicians’ practice patterns.
  • Assess the incidence and predictors of religion-directed workplace discrimination experienced by American Muslim physicians.
  • Assess the relationships between religiosity and ethical decision making among American Muslim physicians.

Project Significance 

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks the more than 7 million Muslims in the United States became subject to suspicion, discrimination, and abuse. Hate crimes against American Muslims rose dramatically following the attacks and continue to occur more frequently than in the pre-9/11 era, while anti-Muslim sentiment permeates the sociopolitical discourse. As American Muslims encountered discrimination based on their religious affiliation, they were confronted with questions of identity and belonging: What does it mean to be a Muslim in America? How should this identity be manifested in the public sphere and in professional life? By examining the experiences of Muslim physicians in the context of post-9/11 discrimination, this study provided a unique window into the challenges physicians from minority religious communities might face as they seek to live out a faith-informed professional identity.

Muslim Physicians in the U.S. Healthcare Workforce

American Muslims are a sizeable and diverse minority in the US physician workforce. Estimates put the number of American Muslim physicians at nearly 50,000 persons, or 5% of the physician workforce, while more than 10% of US Muslims self-report as physicians or dentists. These physicians are racially and ethnically diverse—made up primarily of immigrants from South Asia and the Middle East, as well as indigenous African Americans.

Muslim Physicians Believe Islam Influences their Medical Practice

Many Muslim physicians believe their medical practices are influenced by Islam. American Muslim physicians’ shared Islamic faith may lead them toward similar approaches to medicine. Studies suggest religious physicians derive their professional values and modulate their medical practices based in part on their religious views. Thus national surveys find that physician religious characteristics predict physicians’ attitudes and practices in an array of clinical domains. While American Muslim physicians are under-investigated, previous findings from our work demonstrate that Islamic values influence Muslim physicians’ medical practices by:

  • Motivating them to live out virtuous character traits in the patient-doctor relationship
  • Setting the ethico-legal boundaries of their practices


Number of participants that were surveyed (N= 255)


  • 70% of participants were of South Asian decent 
  • 22% of participants were of Arab decent 
  • 4% of participants were of White/Caucasian decent
  • 2% of participants were of Black/African American decent

Report on Healthcare Discrimination

  • 24 % of American Muslim physicians have reported discrimination at work because of their religion
  • 9% of American Muslim physicians have reported their patients refused their care because of their religious identity 
Media Highlights
Access This Study’s Survey and Open Access Data

Check out our National Survey on Muslim American Physician Attitudes towards Religion and Medicine research project alongside our other major research projects in the past decade by visiting our data repository webpage:


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