Feb 28, 2014

Islamic scholars draw out plan to combat polio

Leading Islamic scholars from all over the world led by the imam of the Grand Mosque on Thursday adopted a "Jeddah Declaration" and a focused six-month plan of action to address challenges facing polio eradication efforts in the few remaining polio-endemic parts of the Islamic world.
The declaration came at the end of the two-day meeting of the Islamic Advisory Group (IAG) for polio eradication at the headquarters of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Jeddah.
Representing various schools of Islamic scholarship and thought, the IAG was convened following a consultation of leading scholars in March 2013. The group is intended to bolster the support of the Islamic community and leadership for polio eradication and to communicate trust in the safety and effectiveness of vaccination.
The declaration seeks to address issues such as ban on vaccinations, lack of access to children in some areas, deadly attacks on health workers and misconceptions among the community about mass vaccination campaigns.
Addressing the media, IAG Chairman Saleh bin Humaid said the scholars at the meeting asserted that protection against diseases was obligatory and admissible under Islamic Shariah, and declared that any action which does not support these preventive measures and causes harm to humanity are un-Islamic.
Bin Humaid said that one of the important issues that came up during the meeting was security for polio vaccination workers following obstacles in the form of some extraordinary fatwas. The religious leaders denounced violence against health workers involved in polio vaccination campaigns, noting that such violence caused lasting harm to children and communities.
The remarks were made in the context of a growing climate of violence against health workers and facilities in situations of conflict and instability.
The scholars reiterated the safety and acceptability in Islam of vaccination against polio, saying it was a sin to claim the contrary and expose children to unnecessary risk. While most of the world, including the Muslim community of nations, is polio-free, the three countries which remain endemic for polio are largely Muslim — Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan.
The group adopted a six-month action plan with focus on support to Pakistan and Somalia, which have the highest number of children paralyzed by polio. The IAG members will speak to national and local religious leaders on the religious duty of parents and communities to protect children and to allow health workers to carry out their duties for safety.
OIC Ambassador from Pakistan Abdelmoiz Bukhari, pointing out that the meeting also recommended involvement of university students in spreading awareness, said: “We in the general secretariat are very happy today to welcome such eminent partners with us in our fight against polio, which is a deadly disease.”
“There was agreement on the need to enhance efforts in this regard and to take all the necessary measures. I hope the action plan works in all the countries including Pakistan,” he added.
The group also resolved to ensure that information on the safety of vaccination is easily available to relevant religious and community leaders and to advocate for financial and technical support for polio eradication with the Islamic donor community.
The IAG is co-chaired by the International Islamic Fiqh Academy and Al-Azhar. The Jeddah-based Fiqh Academy and the Cairo-based Al-Azhar together with the Islamic Development Bank and OIC are the major founding members of the IAG. The group meets at the headquarters of the 57-member OIC in Jeddah.

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