It must be basic human nature that when we think about the idiosyncrasies of Religion, we always assume the worst, the most extreme and the most bizarre ways Religion has forced people to do things which deviate from the normal or the routine. The religious subjugation hardly is compelling enough for us to see how it has seeped into our daily life.
Say for example, when we think about radical Islam we picture brainwashed youth with its suicidal tendencies, out in the world to propel their supposed belief of Jihaad and Kurbaani. Same goes for Hinduism too, when we picture Hindu extremists, we picture people clad in Kesari Saafas or Nehru Topi out to lynch beef eaters or to terrorize the Dalit minorities, even to the extent of uprooting the simple notion of a peaceful Valentine’s day.
There is such a subtle irony that we never ponder over, how religious extremism has crept in our day to day activities. In our hearts, we are all pious beings, capable of distinguishing the right from the wrong and by one’s own choice aloof from the atrocities that Religion has inflicted on the lives of the others.
The case that is discussed in the following paragraphs is expectedly a case of religious extremism but only a few could have pictured it so soon as soon as radical Islam in mentioned. Islam as a religion imposes strict dietary prohibitions and it deems particular animals such as Pigs to be unholy and therefore not to be consumed. But it is a lesser known fact that Islam makes exception for medical treatments derived from the forbidden practices. This fact, for obvious reasons is kept in dark from the gullible masses as they Mullahs elucidate the highly customized versions of Islam and Quran.
Such is the plight of this hegemony that even in Kerala, the most literate state of India, Muslim majority districts such as Kozhikode and Malappuram despite the availability of vaccine to cure Diphtheria have refused to take them because of the religious propaganda which claims these medicines to contain microbes/chemicals and forbidden animal-derived products.
The religious organizations have in fact tagged this life saving medication as Haraam. If a popular line from one of such Muslim cleric is to believed, he says that a human being gets all the protection he or she needs in the womb before birth and vaccination is simply not required. Vaccination destroys the original immunity of the body, the way Allah “intended it to be.”
Diphtheria is highly contagious bacterial disease but it can be cured by immunization. When the deaths from Diphtheria were reported, the health officials found out that in previous year 1,70,000 children in the 0-16 age group had not been immunized in Malappuram simply due to religious ignorance being propelled by community leaders.
The masses, especially the lower middle class, is bluntly told by the Clerics that vaccinations are designed to reduce the fertility of the kids as they grow up and hence, it is an ingenious plan devised by the West to shrink the Muslim population and eliminate Muslim faith. The vaccines are in fact believed to be drops of pure Anti-Islam. Not surprisingly, the blatant lies are ipso facto believed to by the “target audiences.”
The situation is much more severe in Pakistan. It is one of the four countries where Polio is still endemic and not surprisingly, the reason is rooted deep into the ongoing religious propaganda.
According to Guardian, in the Khyber Agency, more than 200,000 children have regularly missed immunisation since 2009, and as many as 84 nationwide cases of polio have been reported this year. The chief reason is stemming from rumours that polio drops cause impotency and infertility. These rumours first surfaced when Maulana Fazlullah, leader of a banned militant organization and an influential religious cleric in the tribal areas, launched a campaign against polio vaccination through his daily sermons.
Many pockets in Karachi believe that the Polio vaccine is a devious plan by the non-muslims as they lace it with Pig’s Blood to make sure that all Muslims go to hell. In Karachi, When health workers approached Zulfikar Quaid about inoculating his three children against polio, Quaid picked up an old cricket bat inside his home and waved it at them. “Get out of my house. My children are Muslim and we don’t need your dirty Hindu drugs.”
Funny that these days, even vaccines have Religions.
While the Tehreek-i-Taliban and other groups opposing polio drops claimed that the vaccinations were made out of pig fat and hence forbidden for Muslim folks, some of these sermons declared any child who got paralysed or died of polio a martyr, for refusing to fall for a western conspiracy.
There have been similar instances in Africa, especially Nigeria where Polio vaccine has been refused by Muslim population citing pretty much the same reasons as discussed in above paragraphs.
It is interesting to note that this is not a situation faced by developing nations like India and Pakistan with scores of underprivileged Muslims. Even in the West, there have been similar instances.
Dr Abdul Majid Katme, head of the Islamic Medical Association, told Muslims that almost all vaccines contain products derived from animal and human tissue, which make them Haram, or unlawful for Muslims to take.
He provoked an outcry by urging British Muslims not to vaccinate their children against diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella because it is “un-Islamic.” His warning has been criticized by the Department of Health and the British Medical Association, who said Katme risked increasing infections ranging from flu and measles to polio and diphtheria in Muslim communities.
In a similar incident, a free nasal vaccine for seasonal flu rolled out to primary school pupils in East Staffordshire may not be given to Muslim children because it contains pig gelatin because of the issues being raised by Islamic authorities.
In another incident in UK, judicial help was sought by the local Heath authorities to authorize that four children must be immunized after Muslim mother refused because she thought the vaccines contained pork gelatine. The children, aged between eight months and six, were to have a ‘variety of outstanding immunizations’ following the ruling at a family court.
Boston Herald had reported a Children’s Hospital health care worker who refused to get a flu shot, claiming the pork byproduct violated her Islamic beliefs and hence, can’t sue to get her job back, as per the ruling of a federal judge.
It is extremely difficult to draw out a logical solution to this problem. Whenever religion gets involved, logic is often overtaken by emotional intelligence. Religion, for sure is a way of living one’s life in eternal thankfulness to his/her God. It is great that the religious texts and the Gurus are there to show us the correct way and point to us as and when we deviate from the path of righteousness
However, that being said, I am sure that every religion values human life above everything else. And with time is all right to question the dogmas which don’t fit the current scenario. Positive criticism should be the foundation of each and every religion and in light of this, it seems perfectly reasonable to vaccinate the kids, a long term solution to ensure their better health. More importantly, religion after all, is about compassion and the the value of the human life.
Haraam should only be ascribed Haraam when you commit to it despite having the luxury to not do it. In case of life saving situations, you don’t have this luxury. The value of a human life should be most supreme and as mentioned before, logic dictates taking medications/vaccines manufactured out of prohibited chemicals is not an act of betrayal of one’s religion. There is absolute no need to label someone as a “Kaafir” in the desperate act of saving a human life.