A faith leader on the front lines of the opioid crisis. Meet the Imam who says love and acceptance are critical.
Houston, Texas — Looking out onto the crowd gathered for prayer at the Shadow Creek Muslim Community Center (SCMCC) in Houston, Dr. Basem Hamid readies to deliver his sermon, or khutbah. He often delivers Friday khutbahs across the Houston metropolitan area as a respected leader of Wasat Institute and a Jurist and Imam for the Islamic Society of Greater Houston. This week, he is calling on his community to show compassion – like the compassion taught in the Quran – for those who suffer from opioid addiction.
In communities around the world, faith leaders are a trusted source of support and information – including on issues of addiction and mental health. In fact, recent studies have found that people seeking treatment for mental health issues were more likely to contact a member of their clergy than psychiatrists or physicians.
Dr. Hamid is both a practicing neurologist and Imam. He is among the over 50 leaders from different faiths across the United States – in cities such as Houston, Little Rock, and Jacksonville – that the Clinton Health Matters Initiative has engaged to help address the opioid epidemic. Along with leaders like Reverend Melissa Maher, lead pastor at Mercy Street, and Rabbi Barry Block from Congregation B’nai Israel, he has learned about reducing stigma in his community as well as other ways to advance prevention, treatment, and recovery.
A story of faith and compassion, by Dr. Basem Hamid:
The Quran guides us to respect and honor all human beings, and asks us, “Is there any reward for good other than good?” (55:60) This is the essence of faith – to make a positive difference in people’s lives, to offer hope for a better future, to call on each other to be compassionate, and to achieve more by working together.
Opioid addiction is a complex challenge that claims tens of thousands of lives in the United States each year. It’s a crisis that ignores any border or boundary. It does not discriminate by color, religion, language, ethnicity, or faith. Members of my community have often sought help from me with their addiction struggles. As a physician I can offer medical guidance and a listening ear. But, as a religious leader, I offer the knowledge that they’re not alone. I remind them God is all-forgiving. As such, they should always be hopeful.
“Addiction is a disease. It’s a chronic, treatable medical condition – and just as we treat mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, we should do the same with opioid addiction.”Dr. Basem Hamid
This crisis is so much bigger than any individual or organization. That is why I decided to participate in Health Matters’ faith network to fight the opioid crisis alongside other leaders representing many different faith traditions.
Addiction is a disease. It’s a chronic, treatable medical condition – and just as we treat mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, we should do the same with opioid addiction. With this, there are things each of us can do to combat the crisis and help people on the long road to recovery.
By working together, we can talk with our fellow community members in terms they understand about addiction and recovery. With a message of hope, I’ve seen people recover. I’ve seen people who have done great things in their life free from addiction. Helping people recover from opioid addiction is not something we just talk about, it is something we can achieve.
The Quran calls upon each of us to compete with each other in doing good. As faith leaders, we must do good by working together to end suffering among countless victims and their families, and we must do everything we can to save lives.