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What's being 'foreign' got to do with healthcare, Mr Cain?

November 25, 2011 11:10 IST

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin -- arguably the largest and most influential international medical organisation in the country -- has slammed African American Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's bigoted remarks about minority physicians.

AAPI pilloried Cain -- the former chairman and CEO of Godfather's Pizza and erstwhile president of the National Restaurant Owners Association -- for implying that he would not see a physician whose name sounded "too foreign" or practiced a different religion from his. 

Dr Sunita Kanumury, president of AAPI said, "Herman Cain's latest remarks are completely insulting to physicians of Indian origin across America."

"It doesn't matter to a physician what race, religion or creed their patient belongs to. All they care about is providing the best health care possible to them. Similarly, our patients don't care about our race and religion. What they want is the highest quality health care from the best doctor of their choice," she said.

Last week during remarks made in Orlando, Cain noted that while he was receiving treatment for cancer, he was concerned that one of the surgeons working with him in the chemotherapy process was named Dr Abdallah. He told a physician's assistant that the name sounded "too foreign." He then expressed relief when he was told that the physician was a Christian from Lebanon, and not Muslim.

"Herman Cain as an African American man has surely experienced firsthand or witnessed unlawful discrimination based on race, religion or national origin," said Kanumury.

She said, "AAPI members come from all walks of life, from every part of India and represent every major religious group -- Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Jews. We also have names like Patel, Shah and other names that may not sound that American to Cain, but we are in fact proud to be American and proud that we are the largest ethnic association of physicians in the United States."

Cain, who was the GOP presidential front-runner till a few weeks ago when several women came forward and alleged that he had sexually harassed them while he was president of the NROA has dramatically fallen in the polls since then.

His plummeting poll numbers were further compounded when he had a veritable brain freeze in an interview when asked what he thought about President Obama's policy on Libya and kept staring into space for several minutes.

Ever since, he has been ridiculed by late-night talk-show comedians like Jay Leno, who quipped that the "pizza guy is now toast!"

Meanwhile, the Council on American Islamic Relations last week called on the Republican Party to repudiate GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum's call for profiling of American Muslims.

In a debate aired on CNN on November 22, Santorum was asked if he would support ethnic and religious profiling. CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the debate's moderator, asked Santorum: "So just to be precise, is it ethnic profiling, religious profiling, who would be profiled?"

"The folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes," replied Santorum. "Obviously Muslims would be someone you'd look at, absolutely."

CAIR National Legislative Director Corey Saylor said: "Last night, Rick Santorum casually tossed aside every American's constitutional right to equal protection under the law in favor of discriminatory profiling of Muslims. Santorum's obvious lack of appreciation for the Constitution and for the rejection of profiling by top law enforcement experts raises reasonable questions about his ability to lead our multi-faith nation."

"It is time for all Republican presidential candidates to reject Islamophobic rhetoric. Just as past candidates have learned the folly of targeting other religious or ethnic minorities, serious presidential hopefuls must reject the use anti-Muslim smears and the exploitation of Islamophobia for cheap political gain," he said.

 

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC