Monday, November 17, 2008

Pakistan's Polio Fatwa

Last year, 24,000 children in the country were refused vaccinations on the call of the clergy, who declared the medicine un-Islamic! As a result, Pakistan is, today, one of only 4 countries in the world, where the disease in still endemic. Two of the other three, share borders with us - India and Afghanistan. While I'm not sure of the reasons behind the failing status of the latter two, I am thinking they too probably have something to do with illiteracy and the unequivocal faith resting in the equivocal characters in our societies - namely, the "ulema (clerics)", who insist on not embracing times and progression, or even common sense.

The three reasons given for opposing polio vaccines?

- They render little boys sterile, because they contain progesterone;
- They contain lard;
- They signify that we are trying to artificially combat God-willed adversities!

The second has been an all-time favourite of the clerics, and should not be dignified with a response. But the first and the third reasons cited, wreak of absolute madness. Progesterone? Why would Polio vaccinations contain progesterone, and if they would, how could a couple of drops cause sterility in little boys! Get this secret out, and that hellish gender-change industry will have a run for its money; nay, be doomed.

And that we should not try to combat difficulties (because they are a part of God's plans) is my favourite. What it essentially means is that these clerics are basically in favour of no medication at all - for prevention or cure. Because whatever the disease or ailment is, it is God's trial, and ought to be persevered with a writ so strong, that all the Pfizers, Bayers and Wyeths should shudder at the thought of Muslim domination in the world (as if we don't already have enough on our plates, thanks to these offshoots). The poor children who are suffering from Polio today, as a result of their ignorance, spark no compassion in the brady bunch. Maybe, stripping them of wool in winters this time around will.

Copyright (c) 2008 Saadia Malik


Avid Reader said...

Talebanic forces are wreaking havoc unto the general public in terms of healthcare by their opposition to the administeration of polio drops in Pakistan. Such a parochial interpretation of the Islamic faith should be shunned by the Muslims. Only then will they be on the progressive path. Polio is a dreadful disease which causes lifelong disabilities in those who have not been administered polio drops. India is a huge country still the polio disease is close to being wiped out from the country.

Saadia said...

True, the Taliban are a case in point in Pakistan, but absurd fatwas have been floating on sundry issues for ages. This is, of course, not to belittle the scholarship of some great jurists in Islamic history.

D said...

Dear Sadia, am a fellow being from across the border. Well, you're very right on the Polio issue, i understand that a lot of ground can be covered if one can allay the religious fear. India has recorded about 500 cases of polio this year, mostly in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. (see link below). I'm very sure that in next few years, we'll be able to fight off this disease.
However, a lot needs to be done and most our problems are aggravated by Bangladeshi immigrants (a hardline Hindu view but somewhat true). But all in all, i do agree that we need to work this out and the fear need to be removed from all religions.
Now, as per your last post. I agree that certain times we blow our own trumpet, we can question how true or not but still the achievements that we have made in just 61 years are immense, considering in what state the British left us.
Vibrant democracy in India is an example, though i agree that it was idiotic of some of our leader/journos to rue that Obama didn't call us.
Anyhow, the point that am trying to make is that yes, we have flaws, loads of them right from so called minority issue to terrorism, state issue to so called ethnic issue. But yes, we are fighting it and we've survived and are at a position where we have the power to call the shots in the world economy. The US-Indo nuclear deal, India's role in WTO and we still going at 7% growth in recession a few examples.
and Yes, India's falg is flying high on the moon.

Saadia said...


Thank you for taking the time out to submit such a detailed reply.

Congratulations on the 'flag on the moon'. My point: Mr. Bachchan was a week too early. Too much excitement, eh! And we admire India's ability/courage to have closed its economy to the rest of the world, for its own industries to thrive. It has been commendable.

Of course, while Pakistan has feudalism and piri-muridi to deal with, if its democracy has to thrive, India's system seems backed/controlled by a very strong underworld, controlling vote counts and pressurizing minorities. Would you agree?

There are no efforts to belittle the country's achievements.


Anonymous said...

I am surprised that such an absurd fatwa has generated attention that you have written a blog on it.I only refer to you the Hadiths of the prophet which goes as follows
"The holy prophet (pbuh) said: Muslims,seek medicinal remedies for your ailments and diseases for Allah has not created a diseases for which he has not created a cure"
Sa'ad Abbasi

Saadia said...

Yes, it generates attention when 24,000 children suffer from bad limbs, as a consequence.

Saadia said...

And I plan to comment on some more absurd fatwas in the future. Why? Because it is a cause for concern. While I trust that most readers will know better than to trust those verdicts, I also need to tell those non-Muslims, who see and understand Islam by what is being churned out by our "mullahs" today, the majority of us shun this behaviour and still allow better sense to prevail.

Anonymous said...

Madame there is more to it than just absurd fatwas. The more list includes
1)Corruption in the Health Services.
2)Adulteration in the Pharmaceutical Industries.
3)Beaurucratic lethargy.
4)Poverty, ignorance and lack of access to modern technologies.
Making a Fatwa a cause for the loss of 24000 limbs amounts to an oversimpification of a complex situation on one hand and on the other it ridicules a legal instrument casting a bad shadow over our legal system(which as I have qouted above has nothing to do with the absurdity).
You have a great blog going here and I wish you luck, but you gotta think things out before you write.
Sa'ad Abbasi

Saadia said...

My post was based on facts. Are your points, 1 to 4, suggesting that the polio vaccines were, in fact, adulterated? Please educate me.

Also, we cannot deny that our 'mullahs' run a parallel (legal) system to that of the state. There are many people take their word to be THE religion, because they trust them so much, and because they believe they are not supposed to use their heads or to question.

Id it is said...

That is one informative post (comments included) and quite an eye opener in more ways than one.

Without casting allegations on anyone or any group, isn't it sad that we condone /wish suffering on our young. That in itself seems to go against any and every ethical code. How can one wish pain and debilitation on ones progeny especially if one has the power to alleviate that suffering!

On a different note:
Thanks for the link on my post. I would like to do the guest post, but I'm not clear as to how to go about it without sounding partisan...

Saadia said...

"Id it is", your comment on the comments is quite encouraging! We all need positive discourse.

And please go ahead with the post. Don't worry about how it turns out. You can express where you're coming from, and people will understand. That's the beauty of it!

My first guest post will be up, either tonight or latest by tomorrow. I'm encouraging my husband to contribute.

Id it is said...

thanks saadia.
I look forward to your guest post!

Anonymous said...

Dear Saadia,

Let me clear a few doubts.

1. We have opened our economy since 1990's.
2. The minority issue exists but not at such a large level. We've have enough pressure groups, political parties who are doing the balancing act.You'll be surprised the current debate in country is on Hindu terrorism! (see links)
3. Please don't link the K issue with rest of the country, we have similar nature problems though separated from religion in North-East, down south, central states.
4.AB is just an actor, don't take his word so seriously. he just acts good and i like his daughter in law :)
5. Indian democrarcy is more divided on caste lines than religion and which plays a decisive factor in poll results. Underworld is not that powerful that it can stage manage the who electoral process. Besides for the last decade we have coailition governments. If left parties can withdraw support over N-deal, do you think they'll remain silent on issues which form their vote bank. (by the way rural poulation has no idea of N-deal, they're more concerned with electricity, road and water)
6. Thankfully our army is yet not poiticised. If you think underworld was stage managing the show, the army wouldn't have liked to have a share of the pie.
7. There is a big rural-urban divide in the country. Relgion and other issues become more irrelevant for the urbane.
8. I guess, the media in India has played a significant role in the sensitivastion and sensaliastion process. (If they can show how big holes are in Delhi roads, do you think they'll miss on a story, where artrocities are done over a minority, which can fetch them TRPs?)
9. There are some links, which will be helpful
10. This is not a fight am just trying to say, we have faults and we are fighting it. After all which family is perfect??

Will be happy to answer your doubts.

Saadia said...

Look what an amazing Op-Ed the Polio Fatwa brought in! :-) I respect your musings on the political life of India.

Personally, I am an anything-but-politics kind of a person. But that you took your time out to express your viewpoint hasn't gone unappreciated.

Mr. B is just an actor. I was demonstrating the behaviour of Indians - whoever they are - in the media today. And yes, I came across the Times of India piece on Hindu violence. Nice of you to share the links.

In praise of humbleness and humility...

P.S. I think my husband will offer you a hand of friendship on point 4.

Anonymous said...

Saadia it is a fact that polio is making a come back in U.P and Bihar in India and while disease does not discriminate on the basis of religion,I must tell you that the clerics here told gullible muslims(mostly the poor)that Indian government was conspiring to curtail the numbers of muslims by making them impotent through the polio vaccine.What can one do in the face of this kind of bigotry? One just hopes that these clerics spend their time uplifting their followers instead them gifting disease and ignorance.

Saadia said...

Typical mullah-ism! There, they blame the Indian government; here they blame it on the Jews. Paranoid men.

Fragile Emptiness said...

Saadia: Yes, Jewish Zionists ARE to be blamed, if you do not understand it, you have no reason to bash those "mullahs" for blaming Jews. Their concerns are valid. West has a good record of the desire to destroy Muslims. It is a very legitimate question to ask that if such "free vaccines" could contain sterilizing chemicals. And yes, few drops of cyanide can kill a human. science 101. Wont take few drops of a drug that can stop spermatogenesis. In any case, such questions should be answered by scientific proof and these "mullahs" will accept polio vaccine.
On another hand, i appreciate your efforts to bring change but I do not like your attitude. You want to rectify the "mullahs" yet you use the same terminology that Prophet Muhammad pbuh never used for his enemies. Whats your point by using the term "Mullah?" I am a self-confessed Mullah and also a distinguished scientist in the "West." By putting all the blame of ignorance on the mullahs, do you mean to say that I am also an ignorant? Of course I am not but get over the Colonial superiority complex that was induced into the likes of Mr Syed Ahmed Khan who established Aligarh College etc and started cursing the "mullahs." Just my thoughts about how I felt about your approach to fight "terrorism and ignorance."

Saadia said...

The term, "Mullah", I use to distinguist between true religious scholars of Islam and those who choose neither to use reason nor to speak with it.

The field of medicine confirms that no such harm can come from innocent polio vaccines! Wow, I need to call a vaccine 'innocent', thanks to these mullahs. Unprecedented!

As for Jewish Zionists, yes they exist and I do not endorse what they've been doing to Muslims, in general, and Palestinians in particular. But let us take a leaf from the Qur'an itself. Here are some verses of Al-Hujarat:

O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful. (49:6)

O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them. (49:11)

O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. (49:12)

So when these Mullahs come up and talk such absurdities, I have to confirm and it is confirmed, in this case, that vaccines can do no harm. It is also confirmed that they have nothing to do with Jewish zionism.

I will also not ridicule an entire nation. Many among them will most certainly be better than me. So no, I cannot hate all Jews, if that is what you or these Mullahs are asking of me.

Lastly, what are these Mullahs doing? Assuming things, right? Or is it propaganda? Either way, they are not only hurting people who listen to them, but hurting the image of Islam as well.

Appreciate your critique.

Fragile Emptiness said...

of course vaccines can do no harm, if they are really "vaccines." I never said that. But how do you know what are being given as "vaccines" are really vaccines except that they have been approved by the UN? Who runs the UN? I am more than aware that a vaccine cannot induce sterility. Since we are at it, let me clarify. There are two types of polio vaccines, IPG and OPG. The IPG vaccines contain dead polio virus and are given intravenously i.e. injected. The OPG, which are given orally, contain attenuated (weakened but alive) polio virus. The OPGs are easier to administer and thus are used in the massive vaccination campaigns in the middle east. Recently, administration of OPGs resulted in paralysis! It is hard to believe but that is how it is. The children who are given OPG, they develop immunity to the virus but they also release that virus in their feces which eventually gets into the drinking water. This virus is not attenuated anymore due to the biology of virus ( I dont wanna go into details). People who come into contact with this virus which originated from something good i.e. vaccine can still get polio and die. What is my point for writing all that? Just to show that its not all black and white in nature. Yes, those vaccines dont sterilize but again, how do you know that those vaccines do not contain anything else? Another factor that results in confusion among the poor Muslims is the question that "how can the West be so sympathetic to protect us from diseases while their bombs kill the ummah? There has to be some hidden agenda behind it." This is what they think, their concerns are valid, our job is to answer and solve those concerns and not bash them for raising such questions that might seem stupid.

Regarding the verse 49:11, Allah Subhana Watallah is addressing the believers (Muslims) that they (Muslims) should not ridicule another people (again Muslims). Since Allah does nto contradict, He has told us that non-Muslims cannot be better than Muslims. In 49:6, when Allah says that "perhaps they may be better than them," the only interpretation which does not allow contradiction is that the whole verse is applicable to Muslims and not non-Muslims. Again I have no personal grudge against non-Muslims but lets interpret the verse 49:6 as it is supposed to be interpreted.

ma salam.

Fragile Emptiness said...

it is 49:11 and not 49:6. Sorry for the typo in the last 2 sentences.

Fragile Emptiness said...

IPG = IPV actually
and OPG = OPV. my keyboard is giving me some trouble :P

Saadia said...

There are literal implications of what the Qur'an says, and then, there is a spirit to be derived too. I try to pay attention to both.

You gave the exact literal interpretation of 49:11; I get that. But there's a spirit to be derived from it. Never consider yourself better than another. You never know. And to me, that another can always be a non-Muslim. I beg to differ with your understanding that non-Muslims cannot be better than Muslims. God doesn't say that.

Also, if I were to believe in conspiracies like these all the time - that is, these vaccines may not be legitimate - I would become paranoid, because much like Bush Jr. is in the habit of blaming everything on Al-Qaeda, our Mullahs are obsessed with blaming everything on the Jews.

Fragile Emptiness said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fragile Emptiness said...

Bush is actually very right for blaming all the terrorist activities carried out by Muslims on Al-Qaeda. Ikhwan ul Muslimeen is a takfiri group and if you live with them for one day, you will realize that there are some Muslims who are "terrorists." In the same vein, the "mullahs" are right for putting blames on the zionist jews to an extent.

Of course, a worse Muslim is better than a good kaafir in the sight of Allah as long as that Muslim accepts Allah as His lone savior.

“And do not marry Al-Mushrikaat (idolatresses) till they believe (worship Allaah Alone). And indeed a slave woman who believes is better than a (free) Mushrikah (idolatress), even though she pleases you”

[al-Baqarah 2:221]"

Why a slave believing woman (inferior in social status) is better than a free elite Mushrikah? Even though the verse is regarding marriage, it can be applicable to other aspects of life as well. Of course Islam values justice for all, regardless of the religion but getting justice does not give respect and allegiance, which is only for a Muslim.

Saadia said...

All non-Muslims are not idolaters/kaafir. So I think you're committing the mistake of equating the two. It seems plausible to differentiate between believers in the One God and those who don't (atheists/agnostics/polytheists). It is understandable that all religions will make that distinction. I would personally not consider it illegitimate to be friends with atheists even, but I think that given my religious bent of mind, it would naturally be difficult for me to reconcile such a huge difference. So it makes sense that since marriage requires greater cooperation between two individuals, Muslims are not allowed to marry idolaters(or disbelievers in the One God). I think the latter would face the same problems, if such a union were to take place.

Also, Islam abolished slavery. So everybody holds an equal social status as far as the Abrahamic faiths are concerned. I can't speak for other religions. The verses you are quoting were revealed at the time that the Arab society was being guided towards its abolishment, hence, in a transitionary phase.