Conspiracy theories are rampant in the Muslim world, as I have written about recently. Here’s a new one in Nigeria: “The [polio] virus thrived here in part because of the usual obstacles to better health care: internal political struggles, misspent money, alleged corruption. But an unusual additional factor came into play in the hamlets along the fault line between Christians and Muslims in West Africa: Local Muslim clerics told villagers to reject the polio vaccine because it was part of an American plot.” This from the Boston Globe, with thanks to Nicolei.
“Muslim leaders in hundreds of northern Nigerian communities such as Batakaye limited or halted door-to-door polio immunization last year. They told millions of faithful in this Muslim-dominated region that the American government had tainted the vaccine with either infertility drugs or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS — statements later proved false by independent laboratory tests.
“Some leaders admitted in interviews late last year that they never believed such a thing. But they remained silent, they said, in order to stop anything associated with the United States. The US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, several said, had led them to believe that America wants to control the Islamic world, and the polio vaccination effort gave them an opportunity to resist a US-funded initiative.
“They vowed to preach against polio vaccinations as long as the United States pays for them, even though it puts their own children at risk. ‘People believe that America hates Muslims, and so whatever comes from the United States, no matter how good it is, people will reject it,’ said Sheik Muhammed Nasir Muhammed, the chief imam at the second largest mosque in Kano, the Muslim political center in northern Nigeria.”