A Pakistani Muslim cleric has said that polio vaccinations are un-Islamic. And such “extremist” clerics are not just in Pakistan: in Nigeria, a Muslim cleric was arrested for playing a role in sparking the murders of polio workers.
“‘We Believed Our Cleric’: Pakistani Polio Victim’s Regretful Father Urges Others To Use Vaccine,” by Ron Synovitz and Ahmad Ullah, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, December 12, 2017 (thanks to The Religion of Peace):
ISLAMABAD — Five-year-old Mohammad Ashar Aziz will never be able to walk without orthopedic leg braces.
The youngest of three brothers from a village near Islamabad, he is one of just 17 children in the world — all of them in Pakistan or Afghanistan — who developed paralysis during 2017 from a wild polio-virus infection.
His father, 41-year-old day laborer Hamid Aziz, is disconsolate because he repeatedly had the chance to immunize Mohammad Ashar for free during the past five years.
Instead, Hamid Aziz says he listened to the advice of a cleric in his village, who announced over loudspeakers of the madrasah, a local Islamic religious school, that the vaccine was “not good” for children’s health, and prevented it from being administered to any of his sons.
Whenever teams of government and international aid workers came to his village as part of a massive polio-eradication campaign, Aziz and his illiterate wife, Huma, hid Mohammad Ashar and his siblings and told the vaccination teams there were no children in their home.
“Why didn’t I give the vaccine to my son?” says Aziz, who quit school at the age of 14 and knew nothing about the polio vaccine.
“We believed what our cleric told us, but now I realize that we’ve not done the right thing for our son,” Aziz tells RFE/RL. “We realize how important it was and that we should have let him get the vaccine.”
Perceptions And Misinformation
Public health studies in Pakistan have shown that maternal illiteracy and low parental knowledge about vaccines — together with poverty and rural residency — are factors that most commonly influence whether children are vaccinated against the polio virus.
Nooran Afridi, a pediatrician at a private clinic in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal region, says one of the biggest obstacles to eradicating polio in Pakistan has been “refusals” stemming from “antipolio propaganda” spread by conservative Islamic clerics in “backward areas.”
One common fallacy in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan with low literacy rates is that the vaccine sterilizes young boys.
Antipolio propaganda also has been fueled by distrust in Western governments who fund vaccine programs — particularly after the CIA staged a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign in 2011 to confirm the location of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Since then, some clerics have even issued fatwas saying that children who become paralyzed or die from polio are “martyrs” because they refused to be tricked by a Western conspiracy.
Taliban militants in both Afghanistan and Pakistan also have propagandized that Western-made vaccines contain pig fat or alcohol, which are both forbidden in Islam.
Pakistan’s Tehrik-i Taliban has used that false claim to justify its killing of more than 80 polio vaccination team workers in Pakistan since a massive polio-eradication effort was launched in 2012….