The Rickets Scare
BBC Takes A Cheap Shot At Islamic Dress Code

By Dr. Rubina Khalid
Posted: 12 Zul-Qa'dah 1421, 6 February 2001

The story about rickets that was posted on the BBC web site on 5 February 2001, is not only misleading and irresponsible, it borders on sensationalism and shows deep-rooted anti-Islamic prejudice. Without even quoting any research study, statistics, or medical authority, it claims: “An increase in the number of cases of the bone disease rickets may be partly due to strict Muslim dress codes.” It tries to scare the readers by using half-truths and distortions.

Rickets is a vitamin D deficiency disease of the children. In most cases it happens to children 2 years of age or younger. While there are ample dietary sources of vitamin D available, our bodies can also manufacture this vitamin when exposed to sun, in a process, called photolysis.

The BBC report suggests that Muslim dress code for women reduces exposure to sun, thereby reducing photolysis, thereby causing vitamin D deficiency, thereby contributing to rickets. This argument has many serious and obvious flaws. First, rickets is a childhood disease, and the Islamic dress code for women does not apply to 2 year olds. Second, Islam does not prevent women from getting the necessary exposure to sun in their own homes. (Actually only several minutes of exposure to sun is sufficient to produce enough vitamin D). Third, there are plenty of dietary sources for vitamin D. This includes cereals, fortified milk (all milk sold in the U.S. is fortified with vitamins A and D), oils, and liver. Fourth, vitamin D only acts as a regulator of calcium and phosphorous in blood and bones. If there is not sufficient calcium in the diet, vitamin D alone won’t help. And you cannot get calcium from the sun’s rays. Bottom line: If there is a problem, the cause is diet not dress.

The report also fails to mention the harmful effects of sun’s rays on our bodies that the modest Islamic dress protects us from. This includes sunburn, wrinkles, premature aging, and cancer. Skin cancer is a much more deadly and much more prevalent disease than rickets. While cases of rickets are rare, thousands of people die of skin cancer every year. In fact, in the UK, every 5 hours a person dies of skin cancer. In the USA, skin cancer takes a life every hour. With the relaxation in the standards of decency in the society, the rates have been climbing. In the USA, there has been an 1,800 percent rise in malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, since 1930.

There is a connection between dress and disease, but it is exactly opposite of the one claimed by BBC. There are 40,000 new cases of skin cancer every year in the UK; more than a million in the USA. What needs to be highlighted is that, like it or not, most of these people could have avoided this tragedy, had they followed the Islamic dress code.

While modesty itself is priceless and moral values cannot be subjected to cost/benefit analysis, Muslim women have special reason to be thankful to God for their dress code that also protects them from this deadly fate. The Islamic dress code protects us from all harmful objects, from unwanted gazes to ultraviolet light. It is good for the soul, good for the morals, and good for the body.