Media Report: Islamic Scholars Declare ‘Those attacking polio workers are infidels’

[Editor’s Note: We are generally conservative in the range of general media sources we include in this digest, even where the news and opinion is generally relevant to our interests in vaccine ethics and policy. We judged that this report from of Pakistan was important enough in its content to include.]

‘Those attacking polio workers are infidels’
Ikram Junaidi
June 6, ISLAMABAD,: Religious scholars from Pakistan and abroad here on Thursday declared that anybody attacking health workers assigned the job to administer polio vaccine to children will be considered as an infidel.

Moreover, they also said polio vaccine being used in Pakistan was Halal, dispelling the impression as if the medicine was made of some material banned in Islam. Hitting out at drone attacks in the tribal areas, the scholars argued that it was because of these attacks Taliban had banned administration of polio drops to 261,000 children in the area.

The unanimous declaration was announced by the scholars belonging to Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen during the closing ceremony of a two-day conference on ‘Polio eradication in the light of Islam’ hosted by the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) in collaboration with the Al-Azhar University of Egypt. The conference was a follow-up to the March 5-6, 2013, Ulema Conference held in Cairo under the aegis of the Al-Azhar University.

Senior scholars Dar Al Ifta Al Missriya, Dr Mohammad Wesam, secretary general Council of Health Services Dr Yagoub Al Mazrou, director of Fatwa Department at the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, Jeddah, Dr Abdulqahir Mohammed Qamar and others participated from abroad.

The head of Jamiah Darul Uloom Haqqaniah, Nowshera, Senator Maulana Samiul Haq, Chairman Pakistan Ulema Council, Lahore, Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, President Darul Uloom, Korangi, Karachi, Maulana Rafi Usmani and others represented Pakistan.

The participants lashed out at Dr Shakeel Afridi who was allegedly funded by the CIA for using a polio eradication campaign to trace Osama Bin Laden. They were of the view that Dr Afridi had not only betrayed his country but also put the polio eradication campaign at risk.    They suggested that the health department should not be used for spying anywhere in the world. The scholars also recommended that Dr Afridi should be punished strictly.

The participants of the conference showed concerns over hurdles being created by some elements against the polio eradication campaign. They also condemned the killing of polio workers and suggested that compensation should be paid to the families of the victims. It was demanded that the government of Pakistan should ensure peace in the tribal areas.

The scholars said they had reached the conclusion that the vaccine being used in Pakistan was Halal and it did not damage the reproductive system of the male or female child.

They suggested that polio vaccine should be given to children during each campaign. The participants vowed to play their role in removing the cultural and political hurdles in the way of the polio campaign.

It is pertinent to mention that while Pakistan was trying to eliminate the crippling disease, some elements started attacking polio workers all over the country in 2012 and killed 14 of them along with two policemen in different parts of the country.

Maulana Samiul Haq declared that drone attacks were a major hurdle in the way of the polio eradication campaign. He suggested that drone attacks should be stopped by using all possible resources.

“People of Pakistan, especially in the KP and tribal areas, assume that there must be some hidden interest of the West in the polio campaign because it is killing us through the drones and by giving us the vaccine on the pretext of eradicating polio,” he said.

The scholars, however, vowed to achieve a polio-free Islamic world by the end of 2014. They said it was the religious obligation of parents to ensure immunisation of their children.

However, the Saudi Fatwa department director, Dr Abdulqahir Mohammad Qamar, said his country may impose travel restrictions on Pakistanis if Islamabad failed to check transmition of polio virus to Saudi Arabia.