May 2001







q       WORLD ISLAMIC ASSOCIATION FOR MENTAL HEALTH: Minutes of the Board Meeting on 7th February 2001 - under the chairmanship of Prof. Dr. Omar Shaheen.




Monday 26th February 2001, a patient who was treated by Dr. Omar Shaheen is crying her eyes out when she knew of his death.

This attests to the amount of compassion he had for people with mental disturbances. This humanitarian attitude to mental patients was a welcome change from an all too prevalent cold, clinical approach, which regards patients as experimental subjects rather than people in need of treatment.

For more than half a century, Dr. Shaheen was engaged in a brave battle for what he believed was a just cause. To anybody who knew him well he was the embodiment of a “driven” spirit. Such drive couldn’t have lasted for so long without being fuelled by hope, lots of it. And it was this essential optimism, his close friends say, which made him the charming and charismatic psychiatrist he was.

He was a man who had the courage of his convictions. He could stand up and be counted. I remember back in early 1990’s he clashed with a very high ranking official over a proposal of the transfer of Abbassia mental hospital and the sale of its land at a  very high price. He was honest but blunt. He was so outraged that he embarrassed the minister in front of a huge crowd of eminent psychiatrists.

He led a group of mental health workers against this unsound project. He sided with the oppressed. He was afraid that this might lead to the establishment of psychiatric ghettos made up of homeless former de-institutionalized patients. He fought the good fight and won. Thanks to his courage Abbassia hospital continues to contribute to the Egyptian community as a center of psychiatric training and treatment.

A month before his death we had a meeting of the board of the World Islamic Association For Mental Health. This meeting was attended by Dr. Shaheen, Dr. Osama El-Rady, Dr. Ahmad Abou EL-Azayem, Dr. Ola Shaheen, (his daughter and who is at present a professor of psychiatry at Cairo University), and myself. During the meeting Ola complained that her dad worked for 16 hours a day. He was workaholic. He loved his work.

However, he never cared to drive any financial benefit from the positions he had occupied. The list of NGO’S he belonged to or headed would fill entire pages. They span the gamut of activism, between the mental patients’ welfare organization to those involved in the protection of children and drug and alcohol abuse. He had also headed and attended countless International Conferences, presented papers on subjects as varied as “The Islamic Approach to the Treatment of Opium Addiction”  in Australia 1989 and “The Role of the Intifada in Promoting the Mental Health of the Oppressed Palestinians”, in Auckland New Zealand, 1989.

It would be pointless here to offer a more detailed description of Dr. Shaheens’ volunteer activities. He was the president of WIAMA, as well as the Egyptian Psychiatric Association and the Egyptian Mental Health Association. He also played a vital role in the Egyptian Medical Syndicate. Anything that improves his county’s mental health was his business”.

His dynamic personality and hard work were translated into outstanding achievements in the whole Egyptian community. During his long academic career he established psychiatric education and training all over Egypt. More interestingly, the achievement he was most proud of are his students Many Egyptian psychiatrists today, are his disciples.

Now that his life is over, most people will agree that his life was spent in a long, brave and daring struggle, yet must equally have provided him with personal satisfaction. Mental health was the subject he most cherished. The huge crowd coming from across the community to pay a last tribute to this remarkable man at Shazelya Mosque on the 28th of February 2001, was one proof of the validity of his choice, and of the love and respect his legionary qualities earned him among his patients, his students, his colleagues, and the whole Egyptian community. What Egypt needs at this juncture is a comprehensive compilation of his varied contributions, his admirably independent vision of mental health and Islamic culture - the enlightenment and hope he professed.

Dr. Mohammed Farouk El Sendiony



Israeli mental health worker’s main job is to promote mental health. However, they are in a very difficult situation, they can’t promote the mental health of the Israelis at the expense of the Arabs. The mental health of the Israelis and that of the Palestinians are inseparable. They will never achieve optimal mental health for the Israelis without achieving it for the Arabs.

Unfortunately, the mental health of the Palestinians is at its lowest ebb. This reflects negatively on the mental health of the Israelis.

The Israeli government has ordered the occupation army in the West Bank to tighten the blockade on Palestinian towns, villages and hamlets, apparently in an effort to bully and starve the estimated 3 million inhabitants into surrender.

All I can tell you is that the Israeli army is turning Ramallah into a huge concentration comp. True, we don’t have the gas chambers, but the suffering, the narrow horizons, the claustrophobia and the depression are very real.

The Jews are a people with a tragic history of persecution and genocide. Bound by their ancient faith to the land of Palestine, their “return” to a homeland promised by British imperialism was perceived by the Western world (responsible for the worst excesses of anti-Semitism) as a heroic and justified resolution for what they suffered. However for years and years few paid attention to the conquest of Palestine by Jewish forces, or to the Arab people already there who endured its exorbitant cost in the destruction of their society, the expulsion of the majority, and the hideous system of laws – a virtual Apartheid – that still discriminates against them inside Israel and in the occupied territories.

Most television viewers today have no idea about Israel’s racist land policies or its spoliation’s, tortures, systematic deprivation of the Palestinians just because they are not Jews. As a black South African reporter wrote in one of the local newspapers here while on a visit to Gaza, Apartheid was never as vicious and as inhumane as Zionism: ethnic cleansing, daily humiliation, collective punishment on a vast scale, land appropriation, etc., etc.

 You as Israeli mental health workers bear the “responsibility by providing a cover for the Israeli government. Where are you? Don’t you see what is happening?

Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs are locked in Sartre’s vision of hell, that of “other people”. There is no escape. Separation can’t work in so tiny a land any more than Apartheid did, Israeli military and economic power insulates them from having to face reality. This is the meaning of Sharon’s election, an antediluvian war criminal summoned out of the mists of time to do what” put the Arab in their place? Hopeless.

Therefore, it is up to the Arabs and Israelis to provide the answer that power and paranoia cannot. We would have to provide a solution to the conflict that, in Edward Said’s and in Mandela’s words would assert our common humanity as Jews and Arabs. The Arab Israeli conflict is one of the great moral struggles whose goal finally is coexistence, tolerance and assertion of our common humanity.


Al Tagreba Al Nageha (The Successful Experiment), The Change In The Concept of Mental Health In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Osama El-Rady, 2001,

This is a firsthand account by Dr. Osama El-Rady of his long experience as a pioneer and founding father of modern psychiatry in Saudi Arabia. It is a thoughtful, well-written and comprehensive review of the mental health system in Saudi Arabia. It provides an interesting perspective from which to view the history of Western psychiatry as well as an opportunity to consider some ways in which psychiatric profession can be involved in contributing to the development of an Islamic psychiatric system.

Saudi Arabia now has a modern psychiatric system with inpatient and outpatient facilities in every part of the kingdom. Yet 50 years ago there were no psychiatric hospitals, mentally ill persons were housed in various residences without organized treatment programs. A remarkable transformation (roughly from the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century) was brought about largely through the efforts of Dr. Osama Al Rady, the present author of this book.

Dr. Osama Al Rady is Western psychiatric trained, he is a member of the American Psychiatric Association. Yet, he adjusted psychiatry to the Islamic cultural context. Hence he innovated Islamic group psychotherapy. He mobilizes Islam in the prevention and treatment of drug and alcohol abuse.

Dr. Al Rady has to be congratulated for his efforts in Islamic mental health. This book must be translated into English so that mental health workers who can’t read Arabic benefit from his wisdom and experience.


q       WORLD ISLAMIC ASSOCIATION FOR MENTAL HEALTH: Minutes of the Board Meeting on 7th February 2001 - under the chairmanship of Prof. Dr. Omar Shaheen.

Minutes of the Board Meeting on 7th February 2001

On the 7th of February 2001 the Board of WIAMH convened in Cairo at Conrad Hotel at 7 P.M. under the chairmanship of Prof. Dr. Omar Shaheen.

The following members attended the meeting:

1-   Prof. Osama El Rady, first WIAMH President.

2-   Prof. Omar Shaheen, WIAMH President.

3-   Prof. Farouk El Sendiony.

4-   Prof. Ahmad Gamal Mady Abou El-Azayem.

5-   Prof. Ola Shaheen.

It was decided unanimously that the next International WIAMH Congress to be held in Aden on the 24, 25 of October 2001. Dr. Maan Abd Al Bary was nominated as the Congress Head in cooperation  with Dr. Abou Baker Badahdah.


The World Health Organization (WHO) regional office for the Eastern Mediterranean celebrated World Health Day this year at its new premises in Nasr City in Cairo on 7 April 2001. Mental health was selected as the theme for the year 2001, with the slogan, Stop exclusion, dare to care.

The main ceremony was inaugurated by Dr. Hussein Al Agazairy, WHO’S regional director, Dr. Ismail Sallam, the Egyptian Minister of Health and Population, Dr. Hamdi El Sayed, chairman of the Doctors Syndicate and Dr. Ahmad Abou El Azayem, WFMH President. Prior to the official inauguration, a seminar was held on the media and mental health.

Three days later, journalists and mental health professionals from throughout the region discussed their role and possible cooperation for the promotion of mental health and the prevention of mental illness.

A report on the meeting, including its recommendations, will be displayed on WHO’S regional Web site. A short film, Mental Health: 7 Days 7 Faces, directed by Omid Mohit and produced by the WHO Eastern Mediterranean office, was shown on both occasions.