Jahalat: Polio Vaccination Campaign Facing Threats

Posted on May 4, 2007
Filed Under >Darwaish, Education, Health & Disease, Religion, Society
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Darwaish

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. There are thousands of Polio patients in Pakistan whose lives have been severely affected by this frustrating disease. Since 1988 when a worldwide campaign against Polio was launched, the number of new Polio cases in Pakistan has also decreased significantly and government has been trying its best to make Pakistan a Polio free country. Both government and NGO sectors are receiving substantial funding from United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO)

However, last few anti-polio campaigns are facing stiff resistance from local religious leaders in a number of areas in NWFP and FATA. During anti-polio campaign in February, the parents of 24,000 children in northern Pakistan refused to allow health workers to administer polio vaccinations, mostly due to rumors that the harmless vaccine was an American plot to sterilize innocent Muslim children. Some of the local religious leaders in the Swat, Bajaur and Malakand agencies are telling the people not to get their children vaccinated since the practice is un-Islamic, and that those that die of polio would be considered martyrs. The disinformation – spread by extremist clerics using mosque loudspeakers and illegal radio stations, and by word of mouth – has caused a sharp jump in polio cases in Pakistan and hit global efforts to eradicate the debilitating disease.

There are about 12 illegal FM radio channels in just Swat valley only and almost all of them are used by religious clerics for the propagation of their own interpretation of Islam and religious thoughts. Every sermon includes something on girl’s education and anti-polio campaign. This is Jahalat at its best and some of the local religious leaders in their anti-American sentiment and personal interests have gone so blind that they are putting thousands of innocent children’s future at stake. The lack of awareness among ordinary people is also playing its part. Although most of the mainstream religious leaders have publicly condemned these acts but the government of NWFP seems to be struggling to use an iron hand against these people and their activities. Aid workers and health officials in FATA and NWFP are now carrying with them copies of Fatwa’s signed by Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Moulana Fazal Ur Rehman in favor of vaccination that has reassured many doubters.

The latest campaign against polio vaccination has been launched by local clerics, including Tehreek Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) leader Maulana Fazlullah and his supporters in the Malakand Agency, Bajaur and Swat. They have been “warning” people during sermons in mosques or through illegal FM radio stations not to administer polio drops to their children since it was against religious norms and brought infertility. Maulana Fazlullah is himself suffering from Polio and is also the son-in-law of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, ex-chief of the TNSM. Because of this propaganda and fear of militants like Fazlullah, almost 4,000 children were not vaccinated in Swat only. A journalist Behroz Khan, who met Maulana Fazlullah, writes in KyberWatch:

Wearing a black turban and war fatigues, controversial cleric Maulana Fazlullah met journalists on Tuesday at his under-construction headquarters on the bank of the Swat River. Apart from so many controversies surround the Maulana, including his opposition to girls education, campaign against polio drops, motivating the youth for Jihad, encouraging men to grow beard and favoring closure of music shops, he is at the centre of criticism for illegally occupying hundreds of Kanals of land on the bank of the river, which is collective property (shamilaat) of Maam Derai and Koza Bandai villages (Ah, looks like its all about illegally occupying land in the name of religion. Lal Masjid rings a bell?).

Defending his opposition to girls education, the Maulana said that women should not go outside their homes, so there is no need to send girls to schools in violation of “the strict Islamic rule of Purdah”. “The only permission for a woman to go outside is to see a doctor in case of bad health. There is no need to impart engineering and scientific knowledge to women at all,” he said when asked whether he was in favor of sending girls to schools even in Purdah.

Being himself a victim of polio disease, the Maulana is preaching against administering polio drops to children, saying that there is no room in Shariah to go for treatment when the disease has not affected some one. Furthermore, he said that polio drops are disastrous for women fertility and expedite the process of puberty of girls. “Any one dies of polio is martyr because this is a contagious disease.

Unfortunately, awareness campaigns against this Jahalat have also become a very risky business these days. According to this story by DAWN, this year on Feb 16, Dr. Abdul Ghani Khan along with three other health officials were killed in a remote control bomb explosion when they were coming back from a Polio awareness campaign. The three officials with Dr. Sahab were critically injured in that incident but later died according to this Daily Times report.

Dr. Ghani, a surgeon, was very actively trying to raise awareness against Polio in Bajaur Agency and nearby villages. He was apparently coming back a successful meeting with local clerics. Its really sad that their sacrifice got only one-line news and nobody bothered to ask government to punish the people behind it. According to WHO officials, health workers had been facing serious threats by the locals during the anti-polio campaigns and the authorities were being contacted for provision of security but not much has been done. Recently aid workers in Bannu, near North Waziristan, were sent a letter and a 500 rupee (£4.50) note. “The letter said they had a choice. They could either stop work or buy their own coffin.” I hope that government pays special attention to security arrangements this year and the vaccination campaign goes smoothly.

I had this post planned since February but my laziness always got in the way. But last night when I saw this latest news story in GEO about militants successfully stopping a vaccination campaign in Swat area, I just had to write about it. The harsh reality is that Pakistan has now truly become Masailistaan and even after 60 years, we are still struggling to solve even basic issues. Its so depressing to see the number of issues that can easily be resolved just by spreading awareness and providing basic education to people and yet, we are unable to do even that effectively.

The only hope is people like Dr. Abdul Ghani Khan who are willing to sacrifice their lives so that our future how can we help the artists or others who do a great service for Pakistan but live their life in misery or their families face hardships after they die. I think we can also start by doing something good for the families of these four unsung heroes. They are the people who inspire and motivate thousands of ordinary people to do whatever they can to fight Jahalat in any form. My tribute to Dr. Khan and his three colleagues who gave their lives away for a noble cause. “Jihad against Jihalat” is the real Jihad that we need today and this is what our religious leaders should promote.

Background information about Polio:

According to WHO sources, poliomyelitis is an acute viral infection of the nervous system. Worldwide more than half of infections are in children under five. One in two hundred infections leads to permanent paralysis, usually in the legs. In 5-10% of these cases the victims die when the breathing muscles are paralyzed.

Since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988 the number of reported cases worldwide has fallen from 350,000 to 1,968 – a decrease of over 99%. Today it remains endemic in four countries: Nigeria, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan (there are 33,000 polio patients in Pakistan). In 1988 affected countries numbered 125. While there remains no cure for polio the progress towards its eradication is due to widespread use of polio vaccines. By 2002 the WHO had certified 124 countries polio-free.

More than 2 billion children have been immunized against the disease since 1988. The WHO estimates that because of the initiative five million fewer people have been paralyzed by the disease.

64 responses to “Jahalat: Polio Vaccination Campaign Facing Threats”

  1. Ibrahim says:

    Salamalikum,

    Ok. I’ve never heard of this book (not saying I would know about every book on this topic), and I searched online a bit and couldn’t find another reference of it outside of what you provided. Anyhow, I will ask around about this. At least, this reference has some basis compared to what you gave earlier. And, again the author of the reference is someone who clearly dislikes the “conservatives”. Still, you had made two claims…earth being flat and sun revolving around the earth and what you are quoting is about earth moving or not. One has to be really careful with what is said by a person who supports Rushdie (as the author does) about “conservative” scholars.

    In any case, I know that ibn Baz did say that earth was fixed and it was his ijtihad based on Quran and hadith. But, he never made takfir of those who didn’t believe him as your reference states. Here is what ibn Baz wrote through al-Lajnah office (Darul Ifta of SA):http://thetruereligion.org/modules/wfsection/a rticle.php?articleid=258 This is also available at ibn Baz’s website run by his students at http://www.binbaz.org.sa/ but is in arabic. Note bin Baz is not talking about some book but what confusion occured with that notorious interview by an Egyptian.

    Salamalikum,

    Ok. I’ve never heard of this book and I searched online a bit and couldn’t find another reference of it outside of what you provided. Anyhow, I will ask around about this. At least, this reference has some basis compared to what you gave earlier. And, again the author of the reference is someone who clearly dislikes the “conservatives”. Still, you had made two claims…earth being flat and sun revolving around the earth and what you are quoting is about earth moving or not. One has to be really careful with what is said by a person who supports Rushdie (as the author does) about “conservative” scholars.

    In any case, I know that ibn Baz did say that earth was fixed and it was his ijtihad based on Quran and hadith. But, he never made takfir of those who didn’t believe him as your reference states. Here is what ibn Baz wrote through al-Lajnah office (Darul Ifta of SA):http://thetruereligion.org/modules/wfsection/a rticle.php?articleid=258 This is also available at ibn Baz’s website run by his students at http://www.binbaz.org.sa/ but is in arabic. Note bin Baz is not talking about some book but what confusion occured with that notorious interview by an Egyptian.

    I think we can discuss this through email/other forum because I can sense the ATP admin hammer falling any time now on this discussion of ours.

  2. jayjay says:

    Ibrahim: The fatwa by Bin Baz appeared in his book, ingeniously titled, “Scientific and Narrative Evidence that the Earth is stationary, the Sun is moving and it is Possible to Go to the Planetsâ€

  3. Ibrahim says:

    Salamalikum,

    Re-read my comments to see what opinion about polio vaccination do I believe in?

    I told you in my comments to not bring websites that state that he said something. Bring the real reference. So, if tomorrow I create a website and write something about someone, are you going to quote me on that topic? You failed to bring any reference. And, did you bother to read the whole article and put some thought into who wrote it and what it says and doesn‘t say? Where does in the article it say that ibn Baz said that sun revolves around the earth? It talks about earth being flat, and I have already answered you on that. Also, this is a person who is clearly on the other side of spectrum compared to Shaykh ibn Baz, and you quote him to prove your accusations! Really, this reference is a joke!! It would have been one thing to provide us with a reference that at least quoted ibn Baz’s actual fatwa with footnotes/bibliography or somehow tried to prove what ibn Baz said through arguments.

    The author of this article has no idea what he’s talking about. He says ibn Baz was against ijtihad. Yes, against the type of ijtihad promoted today by islamically illeterate people but not the real ijtihad. Rather, he was from what’s known in Pakistan Ahl-e-hadith, who reject taqleed (blind following) of the four fiqhs of Islam and take the ruling from any of the fiqh that is closest to Quran and authentic/saheeh ahadeeth. This is just one example of author’s ignorance. The article is full of author’s superficial knowledge about ibn Baz and his methodology. Are you or anyone surprised that he would love to make accusations such as what you quoted against ibn Baz. I would be hard pressed to accept that you read this article before pasting the link because it puts you in such a bad light. If you can’t provide reference, then at least don’t provide something so outrageously brainless.

  4. jayjay says:

    Adnan: Re-read my comments before leveling the false accusations. By pointing out your duplicity in accepting ignorant religion-inspired opinions in disregard to scientific evidence, how can be I guilty of insulting Islam. Does it mean anyone who disagrees with your views is insulting Islam?

    The question is whether you believe the opinion of mullahs on polio vaccination or the credible scientific research on the subject?

    By the way, thanks for including WHO in the growing list of paranoia of political Islamists. Now the paranoia list of institutions/groups/attributes out there to get Muslims reads: WHO, World Bank, IMF, Jews, Western media, Hindus, Ahmadis, CIA, Mossad, RAW, MI6, scientists, realists, liberals, seculars, democrats, video shops, barbers, dhobis, singers, …power poles on street corners, polio vaccines, knowledge, rationality, ..,you name it.

    Ibrahim: How can I make fun of Sheikh bin Baz by merely quoting him?

    “Taking a verse in the Koran literally rather than symbolically, as is done by the majority of Muslim scholars, bin Baz in 1976 ruled that the Earth was flat and that it was a great blasphemy to suggest otherwise.â€

  5. Ibrahim says:

    Salamalikum,

    Jayjay, you have been very quick to jump on a chance to make fun of a scholar and didn’t even provide any actual reference. Don’t bring reference from websites that say he said so…bring even a website that shows the actual fatwa or actual recording. This is an opinion that was connected to Shaykh ibn Baz. He didn’t say that the earth is flat, etc. Rather, he said that the earth is round but Allah has made its surface flat so that people can live in it. alim-e-deen par kichar na uchaleeya! Your ignorance can also be seen from the fact that you don’t know the positon/level of the person you are attacking. He wasn’t one of the Imams of Kaaba. Rather, he was a famous faqih and was later the mufti of Saudi Arabia until his death, may Allah have mercy on him.

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