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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Are Muslims Exempt From Obamacare? (Reposted)

No.

Despite the meme travelling through the Interwebs, there is nothing in Obamacare that exempts members of the Muslim religion.

Here's the relevant text from HR 3590:

SEC. 1411.(b)(5)(A) In the case of an individual seeking exemption based on the individual's status as a member of an exempt religious sect or division, as a member of a health care sharing ministry, as an Indian, or as an individual eligible for a hardship exemption, such information as the Secretary shall prescribe.

What that means is that an individual seeking an exemption from the mandate must document that they are:

  • a member of an exempt religious sect;
  • a member of a health care sharing ministry;
  • an Indian;
  • eligible for a hardship exemption.

So, the next two relevant questions to ask are:

  • Who are the exempt religious sects?
  • What's a health care sharing ministry?

Emma Dumain at Congress.org answered those questions:

...most religious people do not fall under the exemption category.

The ones who do must be members of an "exempt religious sect or division." Those belonging to Old Order Amish and Mennonite communities qualify since their religious beliefs reject assistance from the government and other outsiders.

...

Organized groups called "health care sharing ministries" are also exempt from purchasing health insurance.

These groups are defined, by the language of the bill, as nonprofit organizations whose "members share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs and medical expenses among members in accordance with those beliefs."

...

Medi-Share, Christian Healthcare Ministries and Samaritan Ministries International are three such networks. The only requirement for joining, aside from paying your share, is that you practice a lifestyle in strict adherence to Christian philosophy.

That seems to be pretty clear: Old Order Amish. Memmonites. Insular religious communities who "reject assistance from the government and other outsiders." Members of Christian health care sharing ministries.

Are Muslim-Americans an exempt religious sect? Not according to the IRS. Muslim-Americans pay the same Federal, state and local taxes that you and I do. Muslim-Americans, unlike the example of the Amish above, participate in every aspect of American society, and are not an insular religious community.

But isn't insurance forbidden under Islam? No. Contrary to the assertions in a piece on American Thinker, Islam does not forbid insurance. Quoting from "What's Islam's stance on insurance?"

Dear sister, insurance is a controversial issue among Muslim jurists. I go along with the view that sees it permissible with conditions. As a contract, it is a relatively new contract that in itself does not violate any Shari'ah principle.

Hence, the conditions are: It must not be interest-based, and the object of insurance must be permissible. These two conditions are satisfied in house, health, car, and most life insurance contracts. The only problem comes in some kinds of life insurance contracts whereby interest is in the core of the contract (what is known as whole life insurance, which is the most common any way). It also comes in insuring certain prohibited things such as insuring a shipment of liquor.

One other noteworthy paragraph:

In the circles of contemporary Shari'ah scholars, there are three opinions about life insurance. They all recognize that it is a new contract not known in the history of Fiqh. A minority consider it haram and with all kinds of argument against it including Riba, gambling, gharar and speculation on the will of Allah. This view does not carry much weight.

And another example from a Muslim investor website:

Scholars differ in their view on insurance, with some saying that it is forbidden and others pronouncing it as permissible. Therefore, it is necessary to examine their views very carefully. The late Shaikh Mustafa Al-Zarqa, who was one of the top Islamic scholars of the 20th century, wrote a book on insurance, looking at all aspects of it. He concluded that all insurance is permissible, as it is a form of cooperation among a group of people to reduce the effects of an adversity that befalls any member of that group. He discusses the objections raised against insurance in a highly scholarly way, and rebuts all arguments. I find his verdict very convincing, particularly because he was very thorough in his work, able to analyze problems of modern life in the light of Islamic guidance.

So, Islam does not categorically forbid insurance, which means that Muslim-Americans could not seek an exemption from the Obamacare mandate on the basis of being in an exempt religious sect.

Update: FactCheck.org addresses the question in "'Dhimmitude' and the Muslim Exemption"

This article was originally posted on A Considered Argument, and is reposted here because the issue was mentioned on tonight's Rachel Maddow Show

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