A Chicago Muslim doctor, who has spent more time running his restaurant than practicing medicine plans to open the first outpatient surgery center in Illinois that will follow Islamic law.
Chicago Business Dr. Naser Rustom, who opened the Middle Eastern eatery, Alhambra Palace in 2007, has in mind a venture with a much more religious flavor. He proposes to establish a $5.5 million medical facility in southwest suburban Orland Park that would cater to Muslims, including space for prayer and ritual washing and partitions for enhanced patient privacy.
The proposal reflects how more businesses are looking to tap into the growing population of Arab-Americans and Muslims, offering products ranging from home mortgages to meat that satisfy religious standards.
Some interpretations of Shariah, or Islamic law, require strict segregation of the sexes, a practice that Dr. Rustom doesn’t intend to follow because, in his view, it likely would violate federal and state laws. While his plan is aimed at conservative Muslims, his pitch may be driven more by marketing than dogma.
“It’s not as if we can open up the books of Islamic law and find a chapter on what makes a Shariah-compliant health care facility,” says Kristen Stilt, a professor at Northwestern University Law School who has studied the development of Islamic law. An internist, Dr. Rustom is a 1984 graduate of the University of Damascus in Syria who completed his residency at Cook County Hospital eight years later.
His medical career has been low-key compared to Alhambra, a cavernous, 24,000-square-foot restaurant that looks like a Disney version of a Moorish castle. Located along Randolph Street’s restaurant row, the venture offers Middle Eastern cuisine and entertainment, including belly dancing and live music.
His plan for the Orland Park surgical center is a sign of how the Chicago area’s Muslim population is booming. Fueled in part by Obama-supported mass immigration from the Middle East and South Asia, the number of local adherents to Islam more than doubled, topping 300,000, between 2000 and 2010, and is expected to continue to climb.
Patients of all religious and cultural backgrounds will be treated at the center, which will not be different from other surgery centers except “to the trained eye,” the application says.