Free Clinic Run By Muslims Opening In Northeast Philly Despite Initial Backlash

The facility will be staffed by volunteers who are mostly Muslim.  

Cherri Gregg
April 05, 2018 - 11:05 pm
Ammar Shahid, a second year resident who will volunteer his time at the clinic.

Cherri Gregg

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) - A free health clinic operated by Muslim volunteers will hold its grand opening this weekend in Northeast Philadelphia. 

When the facility was first announced, the response was hate. Facebook posts told Muslims to "go back to where they came from" and others expressed concerns that the clinic would harbor "terrorists."

"Initially we were all kind of shocked. We thought, we're just trying to do a good deed here," says Ammar Shahid, a second year resident who will volunteer his time as the Clinic Director at the new Social Health and Medical Services (SHAMS) Clinic at Frankford and Vista in the Holmesburg section of Northeast Philadelphia. 

The facility is established by ICNA Relief, a Muslim non-profit and will be staffed by nurse, doctor and medical student volunteers, who are mostly Muslims.  

But Shahid stresses the clinic and its services are open to everyone.

"Our big thing is not only primary care, but also mental health services," he says. "If they need some stiches for a cut, blood pressure management, check for diabetes - all things we're working on."

The far Northeast is mostly white, but has a growing immigrant population. Shahid says they spent time researching where in Philadelphia to open the clinic and decided on the Northeast because of the many refugees that have settled there.

"We want to provide them services and sort of get them plugged into the system so to speak," says Shahid.

So when they heard about the backlash, Shahid says as a group they had no idea what caused it.  In hindsight, he thinks it may have been miscommunication about what they would be doing and who they would be serving. 

He says Councilman Bobby Henon helped quell intolerance by helping to get the word out.

"Letting them know that we are a clinic and are open to everyone," Shahid says. "Also we reached out to businesses and clarified some of the miscommunication that's kind of alleviated some of our fears."."

Shahid admits that stereotypes about Muslims may have been a factor.

"There is some misconceptions about what they see in the media as well as what they may see in person sometimes," he says, "so I think that's something you always have to be mindful of."

The Shams Clinic's grand opening and open house will take place Sunday at noon. 

The clinic will take patients Saturdays from 11am to 3pm beginning next week.  The address is 7439 Frankford Avenue.  More information can be found here