Regional forum

The forum was successfully held and 75% of the participants were medical doctors and psychiatrists. The rest are made up of academicians and researchers.

Prior to the event, there were some uneasiness and anxiety from some quarters of the public. One such comment was published in the online media The Malaysian Insider: Source:

A response to the UKM Forum on Djinns and Black Magic  Jason Leong

I refer to a recent online news article which reads, “At UKM forum, Muslim doctors to learn of djinns, black magic in modern medicine”.

At first glance, I immediately thought this was a parody the likes we see on or even The Onion. Imagine my utter surprise as a medical doctor of four years when upon further reading, it was revealed that there was indeed a real forum attempting to “help local Muslim doctors reconcile their beliefs in spiritual beings and black magic with modern medicine”.

Before I go on, I have to state in no uncertain terms that my arguments here today are not rooted in either religion or race.

I grew up in a Malay neighbourhood where I heard the call to prayer five times a day from a mosque not more than 100 metres from my house.

I am fortunate to have many Malay-Muslim friends and my life is all the richer for it. Put it simply, I am not anti-Malay or anti-Muslim.

Indeed, my points submitted here today are in opposition also to unfounded beliefs in healing from the Chinese and Indian community, all of which are equally ineffective.

That being said, any attempt to merge the belief in spiritual beings and black magic with modern medicine is not only misguided but utterly impossible. Modern medicine is an evidence based, scientifically rigorous endeavour, while the belief in the supernatural is its polar opposite.

A “belief” is defined as “an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof,” something which runs in complete opposition to modern medicine.

Doctors prescribe a form of therapy based on the hard evidence gained through thousands of hours of trials, experimentation, and treatment. And trying to reconcile the two is like mixing water with oil. They may both have the properties of a liquid, but they are destined to remain forever apart.

According to the report: “When asked to elaborate on ‘supernatural diseases,’ Azian related the experience of Dr Sagiran, a surgeon with Muhammadiyah University of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, who treated a patient with 27 nails found inside him.

“Azian said the nails returned even after Dr Sagiran removed them surgically, and only disappeared when Dr Sagiran implemented faith healing that included prayer recitals to ‘exorcise’ the djinn from the patient”

Allow me to present simpler explanation. The nails returned even after the procedure by Dr Sagiran because the patient er… swallowed another 27 nails.

The nails then disappeared when the patient passed them out naturally, and then, never swallowed nails again.

Delving deeper into the report, “Azian (one of the organisers) said the Malay community had used both paranormal and physical approaches in medicine before the 15th century, but later lost out to modern medicine brought by Western colonial powers.”

This, in my professional opinion, is a remarkably dangerous statement. It implies that paranormal approaches in medicine and modern medicine are competing forces, like different brands of chocolate.

It also infers that modern medicine is purely a “Western” effort. Which, in itself, is inherently false because modern medicine is a combined effort of a conglomerate of scientists, healthcare workers, and doctors from all over the world.

Indeed, Muslims also have contributed vastly to modern medicine. Muslim physicians, for example, were among the first to differentiate between smallpox and measles, as well as diagnose the plague, diphtheria, leprosy, rabies, baker’s cyst, diabetes, gout, and haemophilia.

While Europe was still under the illusion that epilepsy was caused by demonic possession, Muslim doctors had already found a scientific explanation for it.

Muslim surgeons were also pioneers in performing amputations and cauterisations. And any regression into rationalising djinns and “makhluk halus” as “medicine” discredits the good work laid on by them.

Modern medicine does not discriminate. We doctors simply take in what has been proven to work and, after many years of research to ensure it is safe, it becomes medicine.

Richard Dawkins put it best, “There is no alternative medicine. There is only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t work.”

I understand how proud we are of our culture and roots, but we must face the hard facts – too numerous to list here – that “traditional” methods of healing not only buckle under scientific scrutiny but ultimately do not work.

It is important to realise that there is a real cost to not taking your pills or seeing your doctor promptly. The cost can sometimes be a lifetime of suffering, impairment, and in some cases, even death.

Any paediatrician in Malaysia will tell you stories of children riddled with leukaemia who came to a hospital too late because the parents sought the treatment of traditional healers who prescribed chanting and herbs.

Any psychiatrist will tell you stories of young adults who clearly had symptoms of schizophrenia (which can be well controlled if diagnosed early) but whose parents believed it was the work of ghosts or ill-intent by someone with access to malevolent spirits.

On the flip side, let us take a quick glance at what modern medicine has brought us.

Vaccines prevent diseases that can kill our children (and at incredibly low costs).

Surgical procedures help birth babies in complicated pregnancies, fix bones in the quickest way possible, and remove tumours.

Antibiotics kills germs which half a century ago meant certain death.

It is because of modern medicine that we are living longer. Life expectancy now is on average 78-81 years old when it was nearly half that figure a hundred years ago.

It must be stressed again that these are the results of the hard work by countless people dedicated to the pursuit of science from across the globe, not the haphazard and unorganised mess that we now collectively refer to as “traditional medicine” – under which, for purposes of this discussion, I include the paranormal methods of healing and black magic.

It is important for laypeople to understand that modern medicine is the best tool we have to combat disease. It is perhaps more for us doctors to stand up against practices which clearly do more harm than good.

If we can agree that for evil to triumph, good men must do nothing, then equally we must shoulder the responsibility to spread awareness against the spread of non-medicine.

Put simply, patients die when doctors do nothing. So if you are a doctor, or a nurse, or have any sort of authority in the field of medicine and science, then please, speak up about it. Write an op-ed. Post your thoughts on Facebook. Tweet about it.

Make it known that traditional methods of healing are NOT viable alternatives. Share the link to the UKM forum and tell your friends it is nonsense. And if that doesn’t work, then find yourself some high ground and shout it out to the world. Do something. Because if you don’t, people die.

Here’s what’s most perplexing. When our car breaks down, we don’t call a shaman to chant over our faulty engines. In the case of a fire, we don’t call a traditional fireman to sacrifice goats to appease the fire spirit that is consuming our burning house.

When we test new airplanes, we call qualified and trained pilots, not a psycho who believes planes stay afloat in the air because the God of Wind is blowing at the tail-end of the craft. Why is then, that only doctors have to fight against an absurd version of their profession?

Some will accuse doctors of not being open minded enough. That is hardly the case. We are open minded but not to the point our brains spill out.

Being open minded is not that one accepts everything put forth, regardless of whether it’s backed by evidence, but that we are intellectually mature enough to change our minds on a subject when the facts compel us to do so.

There was a time when the greatest scholars of the day concluded that the Sun orbited the Earth and that the Earth was flat. But facts through further study and observation have compelled us to deviate from that earlier misconception.

To date, there is no scientific evidence that ghosts or spirits exist, much less cure diseases. But the demons of ignorance and self-delusion are very real and it is time we expunge them.

In that spirit (no pun intended), once we weigh the facts and evidence laid before us, it can be clearly stated, with no amount of hubris whatsoever, just plain scientific reasoning and rationale, that traditional methods of healing, black magic or djinns included, simply do not work. They never have and never will.  November 11, 2014.


Our reply to the above was published in The Malaysian Insider as follows: Source:

Be open about forum on jinn  Hamidi Abdul Rahman

I read the article by Dr Jason Leong with great interest.

It appears to me that many people are equally anxious over the planned forum on ‘Jinn and Sihr in Medicine’.

The forum is set in an academic setting and should be welcomed for the advancement of knowledge. This forum is of special interest because the presenters are professionals who are qualified to speak on their allocated topic.

The forum is not about demonising modern medicine but about bringing new knowledge from the Islamic perspective that can enhance healthcare in the spirit of complementing modern medicine. The fear that these new knowledge or practice is not evidence-based is unfounded. Anything new can never be evidence-based. Data has to be collected before any research can be conducted.

Sigmund Freud, a medical doctor, left his evidence-based practice in favour of non-scientific hypnotism. He later abandoned hypnotism and introduced psychotherapy, a weird concept during his time that a person can get well simply by talking to him. Freud also introduced some absurd concepts such as the Oedipus complex and Penis envy to explain his theory.

Today, psychotherapy is a recognised therapy for mental health disorder. Psychotherapy is pseudo-science and with the numerous approaches and flavours of psychotherapy, we will be surprised to see how short the list of evidence-based psychotherapy is. The NHS in the UK can only see 1 line in the list.

The scientific community is not as unified as we have been made to belief. A set of symptoms that I classify as jinn possession can be categorised as trance and possession disorders under ICD-10, but classified as Dissociative Identity Disorder under DSM-5.

Recent studies indicate that the awareness of jinn possession is increasing among Muslims globally, including in the UK. I live in the UK where more Muslims here are now resorting to ruqyah, an Islamic therapy for jinn possessions. These include people who have been getting treatment from the NHS and sometimes sedated with various drugs that were promoted by pharmaceutical companies.

I also provide therapy for jinn-related mental health disorder and my clients include health professionals who are nurses, general practitioners, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and psychotherapists. It would be absurd to conclude that these health professionals are ignorant of modern medicine and healthcare.

There must be some knowledge that is still missing among the scientific community, or perhaps there is a need to create a new model of the human being for the purpose of diagnosis and therapy of mental health disorder.

If we want to dismiss the existence of jinn simply because there is no scientific evidence of its existence, then we must also be prepared to dismiss Freud’s concept of id, ego and superego based on the same argument.

The forum has attracted a lot of interest and registration is now closed. However, in the spirit of sharing knowledge, I would like to extend a special invitation to Dr Jason to attend the forum. Listen to our presentation first and we can later discuss in an academic manner.