Muslim-led free clinic assists immigrants, the uninsured, poor

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — While filling out the paperwork to see a doctor at a free clinic in Hoover, Semina Tawar sat in a Hoover waiting room that becomes a melting pot of cultures every Sunday.

The multilingual staff speaks English, Urdu and Arabic. Spanish interpreters are available when needed. Since Tawar’s family legally moved from India to the United States a few years ago, their health insurance options are almost nonexistent due to their immigration status. After years of relying on home remedies, like turmeric and aloe vera, Tawar was able to communicate her eightyear-old daughter’s needs in Hindi, her native language.

“Here, they can understand me,” Tawar said. “If I can’t speak (English) very well, they can’t understand me.”

Many Muslim doctors across the nation have opened their own facilities funded primarily through donations to help the poor and the uninsured. The trend, which started a little more than a decade ago, is taking root in Alabama. The Red Crescent Clinic of Alabama operates out of the Hoover Crescent Islamic Center on Hackberry Lane. From 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. every Sunday, classrooms are converted into health care hubs where flu shots, vaccinations and lab work costs are nonexistent for patients. Prescriptions can be found at steep discounts. A team of 16 Muslim physicians sees patients for free regardless of income, religion. The philosophy allows the clinic fills a gap for people who have limited medical options in the greater Birmingham area.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation estimates 420,800 Alabamians, or nine percent of the state’s population, were uninsured in 2016. Aly, who didn’t give his last name, started visiting the clinic after hearing about the facility from a friend. Aly said he is on a strict budgeted income and can’t afford insurance, yet.

“This is good,” Aly said about the clinic. “With all the free services and all the professional doctors, it’s just nice to be here.”

Like many Muslim-led clinics across the nation, the creation of Red Crescent was a response to the negative social climate toward the Islamic faith.

Co-founder Talha Malik immigrated to New York City from Pakistan in June 2001 to study internal medicine. Seeing foreign-born residents running hospitals was an inspiring sight.