Muslims shouldn’t be vaccinated?

Via Black Triangle, I’m made aware of another example of religious fundamentalism interfering with sound health care:

A MUSLIM doctors’ leader has 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”.

Dr Abdul Majid Katme, head of the Islamic Medical Association, is telling Muslims that almost all vaccines contain products derived from animal and human tissue, which make them “haram”, or unlawful for Muslims to take.

Islam permits only the consumption of halal products, where the animal has had its throat cut and bled to death while God’s name is invoked.

Islam also forbids the eating of any pig meat, which Katme says is another reason why vaccines should be avoided, as some contain or have been made using pork-based gelatine.

His warning has been criticised 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.

Katme, a psychiatrist who has worked in the National Health Service for 15 years, wields influence as the head of one of only two national Islamic medical organisations as well as being a member of the Muslim Council of Britain. Moderate Muslims are concerned at the potential impact because other Islamic doctors will have to confirm vaccines are derived from animal and human products.

There is already evidence of lower than average vaccination rates in Muslim areas, reducing the prospect of the “herd immunity” needed to curb infectious diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella.

Katme’s appeal reflects a global movement by some hardline Islamic leaders who are telling followers to refuse vaccines from the West.

OK, so this physician has interpreted the Koran and thinks that its teachings make vaccines containing these ingredients against his religion? That’s bad enough, but for a physician he sure exhibits magical thinking, so much so that I wonder what medical school he graduated from:

Katme said he was bringing the message to Britain after analysing the products used for the manufacture of the vaccines. He claimed that Muslims must allow their children to develop their own immune system naturally rather than rely on vaccines.

He argued that leading “Islamically healthy lives” would be enough to ward off illnesses and diseases.

“You see, God created us perfect and with a very strong defence system. If you breast-feed your child for two years — as the Koran says — and you eat Koranic food like olives and black seed, and you do ablution each time you pray, then you will have a strong defence system,” he said.

“Many vaccines, especially those given to children, are full of haram substances — human parts, gelatine from pork, alcohol, animal/monkey parts, all coming from the West who do not have knowledge of halal or haram. It is forbidden in Islam to have any of these haram substances in our bodies.”

“Islamically healthy lives”? Oh, yes, because Muslims were so much more healthy and resistant to disease hundreds of years ago, before vaccines were developed for common and often deadly diseases like smallpox and childhood diseases like rubella and the importance of modern sanitation was understood. Epidemics were never a problem, right? Again, what medical school did Dr. Katme graduate from?

As Anthony Cox mentioned, although this is less paranoid and conspiratorial, Dr. Katme’s “warning” reminds me of the Nigerian polio scare, where Imams scare people into not being vaccinated by claiming that vaccination is a U.S. plot against Muslims. What really infuriates me about stuff like this is that people like Dr. Katme are not just endangering themselves; they are endangering others who may not share their faith and their belief that the components of vaccines are against their religion in some way. By decreasing the number of people vaccinated, they decrease the “herd immunity” that protects the unvaccinated and those for whom the vaccine didn’t work. (Remember, no vaccine is 100% effective; almost nothing in medicine is.)

Of course, we shouldn’t let ourselves become smug or superior over this. There’s plenty antivaccination wingnuttery in the West. . It’s not just Muslims. As Anthony, Skeptico, and I have pointed out, we have our own brand of religious or “spiritual” irrationality right here in the good ol’ USA that drives antivaccination loons, be it Christians who claim that vaccination is against God’s will and that “the abortion industry contributes to vaccine manufacturing” or New Age spiritualists who seem to think that “healthy living” (whatever that means) will protect them from infectious disease and that vaccines are somehow “unnatural.” What’s particularly amusing (well, it would be if it weren’t so sad) is to watch one religion blame another for vaccination, as in this screed in which vaccination is referred to as the Vatican’s “medical inquisition,” taking a swipe at evolution along the way:

Erasmus Darwin (another doctor) was the grandfather of ape-man Charles Darwin. Since Jenner claimed that humans and animals shared the same diseases, the next step was to promulgate the idea that they had a common ancestor.

Darwin was the father of another fable called the theory of evolution. He STOLE it from the Egyptians and never paid a penny in royalty fees. This is what Darwin said about Jenner and his vaccination:

i-f49aa9345239791db1871abec1aef7d4-finished-ape-darwin.gif“Dr Erasmus Darwin, the famous author of Zoonomia, wrote to Jenner on the 24th of February, 1802 (a few weeks before this death): “In a little time it may occur that the christening and vaccination of children may always be performed on the same day.” (Jenner and Vaccination, Dr. Creighton, p. 188). (Editor’s note: christening means sprinkling babies with water to make them Christians).

Both christening and vaccination are inventions of that old Serpent the devil!!

Nobody except old Beelzebub himself has sent more souls to hell than this ape-man. His grandfather and Jenner laid the foundation of the MAD idea of turning the FABLE of evilution into a scientific FACT.

They also make a big deal out of how Louis Pasteur, inventor of the rabies vaccine, was a devout Catholic.

The animated GIF from the website included in my quote above is just the perfect wingnut touch to let the writer’s antivaccination/anti-evolution freak flag fly, don’t you think? And, of course, the irony is hard to miss, given that in some strains of conservative Catholicism, it has been a major concern that some vaccines are grown in cell lines originally derived from fetuses many years ago but that it is also position of the Catholic Church that “there would seem to be no proper grounds for refusing immunization against dangerous contagious disease, for example, rubella, especially in light of the concern that we should all have for the health of our children, public health, and the common good.”

In the case of Islam, fortunately, Dr. Katme doesn’t seem to be in the mainstream of Muslim thought, just as Christian fundamentalists such as the ones I cited above who consider vaccines to be against the Bible are outside the mainstream of Christian thought. Even the Catholic Church, the foremost opponent of abortion in the world, reluctantly supports the use of even vaccines against rubella until such a time that new vaccines that are not produced using cell lines derived from an aborted fetus, as does Dr. Shuja Shafi, a spokesman for the Health and Medical Committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, who says: “In terms of ingredients in vaccines, there are so many things that are probably Haram, but in the absence of an alternative we are allowed to take it for the sake of our health.”

Sounds a lot like the Catholic position on this matter, doesn’t it?

As Anthony points out, Iran, of all places, has a consistently high level of vaccination against common childhood diseases (92-99%, depending on the specific vaccine), a level comparable to that of the U.S., even though it is basically a Muslim theocracy. Religious beliefs do not necessarily have to conflict with protecting children against infectious disease; unfortunately, in the case of Dr. Katme, whose words carry more weight among British Muslims because he is a physician, they do. When religious fundamentalism infects the brain of a physician, this sort of dangerous idiocy is all too often the result.