One of the most pernicious effects of religion is the opposition of some faiths to modern health care. I’ve posted on this frequently, especially about American religious sects which prohibit health care, vaccination, and blood transfusions for children, children who have no ability to make medical choices. As a result, many of those children have died. Although these faiths might be considered “extreme,” the rest of us have made the laws that exempt their adherents from the necessity to take proper care of their children.
Even more horrible is the tendency of militant Muslims, particularly the Taliban, to murder those who are trying to vaccinate children against polio. This is happening in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa. It’s not just the shots, either—oral polio vaccines are considered just as un-Islamic.
Five female health workers vaccinating children against polio have been shot dead in Pakistan in a series of attacks blamed on Islamist militants. One victim was a 17-year-old schoolgirl volunteer.
Four of the killings, which officials said were carried out by masked men on motorbikes, took place in the southern city of Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial capital, on the second day of a drive to eradicate the disease from the country.
The fifth, of the schoolgirl, occurred in the violent western city of Peshawar. According to some reports, a sixth health worker, a man, was also killed in Karachi.
It was not clear who was behind the shootings, but Taliban insurgents have repeatedly denounced the anti-polio campaign as a western plot.
The anti-Islamophobes can thus blame this on colonialism, but that’s a stretch, for anti-Westernism is a characteristic of Islamism (read The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright). And if that’s not enough, there are more explicit religious motivations for Islamic anti-vaxers. (By the way, midwives have also been killed.) As Jihad Watch notes:
The Times says that the Taliban “accuses the United States of using a drive to eradicate polio in the country as a cover for spying,” but that isn’t the only reason why they’re murdering polio workers. 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.
In Pakistan’s Northwest territories, where Taliban clerics have significant influence, polio vaccination teams are maligned as un-Islamic or Western purveyors of poison meant to sterilize Muslim women.
Without this Muslim opposition, the world was poised to eradicate polio from the planet, just as we have eradicated smallpox.
The Guardian adds:
Statistics released in October showed an improvement in the polio situation in Pakistan, with 47 children paralysed by the disease in 27 districts compared with 154 cases in 48 districts in 2011. However, in 2005 only 28 new cases were registered.
Just ponder what it’s like to be a paralyzed child. When I was young, and polio vaccines were new, we were often frightened by pictures of afflicted children confined in iron lungs. Only 47 paralyzed children may be an “improvement,” but those are 47 lives severely and unnecessarily damaged. And since polio is transmitted only between humans, the diseased are a reservoir to keep the virus alive, leading to a serious danger of outbreaks in the Middle East.