Muslim husband assaults male gynaecologist

Paris - The agency in charge of Paris-region hospitals on Saturday confirmed that the husband of a Muslim woman examined by a male gynaecologist had physically attacked the doctor, but refused to confirm allegations that the assault was motivated by religious extremism.

The AP-HP hospital agency said it had taken legal proceedings against the husband for an incident that occurred on the night of September 8 in the emergency service of an unnamed Paris hospital.

However the agency refused to endorse a statement by the professional association of French gynaecologists and obstetricians, who described the assault as a manifestation of "Muslim fundamentalism."

The statement by the CNGOF professional association mentioned a similar incident that occurred in a Paris-region hospital in 2003.

'Hospitals must remain absolutely neutral from the religious and ideological point of view'
In both attacks, gynecologists were "physically attacked and injured by the husbands of patients on the grounds that as male doctors they should not examine their wives," the statement said.

However the hospital authorities said they had "not at this stage confirmed any religious motivation" behind the latest incident.

French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand on Friday condemned the September incident, but also said he could not confirm that it was related to "religious or cultural motives."

"Hospitals must remain absolutely neutral from the religious and ideological point of view," he said.

The hospital agency said that a total of 185 violent incidents had been recorded in the 38 Paris-region public hospitals in 2005, up from 145 in the previous year.

However the hospital authorities did not record whether there was any religious motive to any of the attacks, because "such records would be discriminatory, and we have a neutral position," the statement said.

In their statement the gynecologists and obstetricians made a link between the case and a recent high-profile incident in which a French schoolteacher received death threats after publishing a virulent anti-Islamic article in a national paper.

"Are male gynecologists and obstetricians going to have to be protected by the police from now on when they do their job?" the statement asked. "Will they have to go into hiding like philosophy teachers?" - Sapa-AFP

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