Religious Extremism Influencing Public Health

ramonmercado

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The Hidden Dangers of Fundamentalism
By Jack Woodall

A connection exists between disease outbreaks and extreme religious practice

Polio could pose as much of a threat as suicide bombers. Religious fundamentalism is bad for your health. There are, of course, the ill effects suffered by suicide bombers and their innocent victims. Consider also the sarin gas attacks by the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) sect, which killed 12 people in the Tokyo subway in 1995, and sickened 1,000 more. (Yes, I know the media reported 5,000 casualties, but 80% of them were the “worried well” who sought hospital emergency departments because of contact with victims, or consequent anxiety attacks).


What concerns me, however, is infectious disease. Consider these case histories:?


» The last outbreak of polio in Canada and the United States, in 1978–1979, was the result of travel from the Netherlands, where an outbreak was ongoing, to Canada by members of the Reformed Netherlands Congregation, a religious group that refused vaccinations.


» In the fall of 1984 followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who had purchased the small town of Antelope in Wasco County in north central Oregon, plotted to take over the county. They tested a plan to sicken many of the county’s voters on Election Day by contaminating 10 salad bars with salmonella in the county’s largest town, The Dalles. Although no one died, 751 people fell ill. The commune panicked and gave up the plan.


» In Uganda in 1998, an outbreak of cholera killed 83, and the resurgence of the disease was blamed on members of a sect in Soono Parish who hid patients from medical patrols. The sect was called Red Cross (not to be confused with the international relief organization), a group that collects dead bodies in the belief that resurrection is imminent.


» When cholera broke out in Zimbabwe in 2002, it spread quickly among members of the Johanne Marange Apostolic Faith sect who were resisting treatment.


» Most disastrously, in March 2004 the Kano state government in northern Nigeria refused to take part in a United Nations-led campaign to vaccinate West African children against polio. Islamic clerics alleged that the vaccine had been filled with hormones as part of a US-led plot to sterilize African girls. As a result, polio has spread from there, by the end of September 2005, to 11 previously polio-free countries, mostly in Africa but including Indonesia, Nepal, and Yemen. More than 900 cases of paralysis have been recorded, and the outbreak has cost many thousands of dollar-equivalents in mass vaccination campaigns that they can ill afford. Mass campaigns are no longer needed once a country has eradicated polio but must be reinstated after an importation.


» Also in 2004, the Iraqi Communist Party alleged that the Yazidi religious sect in northern Iraq was facing genocide as a result of poisoning. It stated: “Four hundred cases of poisoning have been recorded, most of which are in critical condition.… The matter has gone as far as affecting the physician of the only hospital in the village, who died of poisoning.” The World Health Organization has investigated and found that 50 cases of gastrointestinal illness (not 400) had been reported in Dohuk in northern Iraq. Thirteen of the cases were from a housing complex in Khanak inhabited by the Yazidi, who practice Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of Persians and Kurds. The water supply was in poor condition, and it was contaminated with sewage, not poison. This is particularly ironic because, according to the tenets of Zoroastrianism, in order to conserve the purity of water, fire, and earth, the dead cannot be immersed, cremated, or buried; Herodotus noted that the Persians do not urinate or spit in rivers. So the Yazidis would have been expected to take particular care with their water supply.


» In May 2005, a rubella outbreak in a cluster of unvaccinated religious communities in southwestern Ontario, Canada, also probably originated from the Netherlands in the same way as the polio cases a quarter-century earlier.


The moral of this story: If you are a religious fundamentalist and care about your health, don’t believe every rumor you hear, don’t refuse vaccination or treatment, and keep your water supply clean.


Jack Woodall is the director of the Nucleus for the Investigation of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the department of medical biochemistry at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. [email protected]

http://www.the-scientist.com/2006/2/1/59/1/
 

ramonmercado

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In Pakistan the Fundamentalists are still the anti-vaxxers.

Polio cases in Pakistan have rather increased in recent years. Recently, Prime Minister Imran Khan held a high-level emergency meeting regarding the alarming situation in the country and directed government officials to start awareness and immunisation campaigns. Mr. Khan is also scheduled to lead the polio programme from November.

Babar Bin Atta, the Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio, told The Hindu that polio eradication was, in fact, very simple. “If we vaccinate enough children in a given area, then poliovirus has nowhere to hide and disappears from that area. In Pakistan, we have not yet managed to reach this target, but we are determined to do whatever it takes to make this happen.”

Mr. Atta has been working hard to fight the anti-polio propaganda in the country. He got over 800 pages and profiles propagating anti-vaccination campaigns blocked on Facebook. The government has also started a ‘Polio Facts vs Disinformation’ drive, which includes installing signboards in different cities, and launching campaigns on media and social media. However, many anti-vaxxers have fallen prey to the rumours started by some clerics that polio drops cause impotency or infertility.

In 2007, the BBC reported that Maulana Fazlullah, a militant cleric who used to run an FM channel, told his audience that the vaccination drive was “a conspiracy of Jews and Christians to stunt the population growth of Muslims”.

Polio workers say due to such propaganda, some parents only immunise their female children and not the male ones.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai recently told a TV channel that people who are a hurdle in the anti-polio campaign would be treated as terrorists. Polio workers have been targeted and killed during immunisation drives. Even police officers protecting them have lost their lives. Hina Inayat, a communications officer with the polio eradication programme in Peshawar, says teams take a lot of risks but continue to work with dedication. She says that in order to motivate the junior team members, all senior workers go to high-risk places themselves. Ms. Inayat, herself, went to a house where the male guardian was known to attack people with knives.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/inter...ip-of-a-crippling-problem/article29309935.ece
 

Carl Grove

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It always puzzles and annoys me when such people are described as "fundamentalists." The fundamental principle of all religions is to love everybody and treat people decently and with respect, and these maniacs totally ignore all that. Let's be more honest and call them extremists and fanatics. And while we're at it, call terrorists "terrorists," and not "militants."
 

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excellently put!
 

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Not all of them.

maximus otter
Quite. There are religions who are aggressive towards non-believers, those who are passive, and those who are welcoming.
 

EnolaGaia

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It always puzzles and annoys me when such people are described as "fundamentalists." The fundamental principle of all religions is to love everybody and treat people decently and with respect, and these maniacs totally ignore all that.
Such a benign social / ethical / moral outlook may be fundamental to a sort of (over-?) generalized meta-religious creed, but it is no valid basis for assessing "fundamentalism" in the context of any or all the religions (however broadly defined) such a creed presumes to encompass.

It's certainly true that the term "fundamentalism" is widely misconstrued, misunderstood, and / or misapplied. This does not imply it's completely devoid of meaning. Strictly speaking, the essential feature of "fundamentalism" concerns specification of some core set of beliefs or doctrines considered absolutely and uniquely necessary and sufficient, combined with strict adherence to this core canon to the exclusion of any additional nuances, glosses, or interpretations.

Fundamentalism is therefore intrinsically "conservative" with respect to the given canon it designates as the one true way. This canon need not be religious in nature, in spite of the fact the "fundamentalist" label is rarely used outside a religious context.

Fundamentalism inherently involves some measure of dogmatism, inflexibility, and self-differentiation from others. The dogmatism dial ranges from mere fan-boy to outright fanatic.

These inherent factors entail the potential for self-attributed exceptionalism or superiority, which in turn entails the potential for prejudice and any or all the misbehaviors prejudice fosters. These potential features or outcomes need not be realized nor acted upon to be "fundamentalist" in terms of belief.


Let's be more honest and call them extremists and fanatics.
These are the most vague among the labels you mentioned, insofar as they connote relative intensity with regard to beliefs expressed or translated into actions. Neither can be reasonably ascribed without alluding to something (e.g., social context; range of alternatives) external to the true believer's true beliefs per se.


And while we're at it, call terrorists "terrorists," and not "militants."
I'd add: Call militants "militants" until they demonstrably qualify for the "terrorist" label.

Militancy denotes demonstrative, aggressive, and even combative action motivated by some doctrine(s) or belief(s). Militancy encompasses a wide variety of tactics, and it need not involve violence.

"Terrorism" is an extreme subset of "militancy" - a specific tactical approach defined by a focus on instilling widespread intimidation or fear, almost always involving indiscriminate violence.

All terrorists are militants. It is not the case that all militants are terrorists.
 

Carl Grove

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Quite. There are religions who are aggressive towards non-believers, those who are passive, and those who are welcoming.
There are people in said religions who are aggressive towards non-believers, but that is usually in violation of their own stated principles, which is the point I was making. The fact is that most "religious" people have really been brainwashed, resocialised, conditioned -- call it what you will -- and basically regard their religions as giving them a tribal identity which then somehow justifies hatred and aggression towards other religions/tribes. We can see this most strongly in the Old Testament. I suppose it could be argued that if people are given some good principles of behaviour to follow, that is better than letting everyone descend completely into anarchy, but in practice the more primitive emotions and motivations always come to dominate and overwhelm the good principles.
 

INT21

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There are people in said religions who are aggressive towards non-believers, but that is usually in violation of their own stated principles, which is the point I was making. The fact is that most "religious" people have really been brainwashed, resocialised, conditioned -- call it what you will -- and basically regard their religions as giving them a tribal identity which then somehow justifies hatred and aggression towards other religions/tribes. We can see this most strongly in the Old Testament. I suppose it could be argued that if people are given some good principles of behaviour to follow, that is better than letting everyone descend completely into anarchy, but in practice the more primitive emotions and motivations always come to dominate and overwhelm the good principles.
And so, kiddies, we return having come full circle, to the statement ' It is written;( or is it ?)'

I would suggest that the Old Testament does not hold the record for direct instruction to eliminate unbelievers.

INT21.
 

EnolaGaia

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... The fact is that most "religious" people have really been brainwashed, resocialised, conditioned -- call it what you will -- and basically regard their religions as giving them a tribal identity which then somehow justifies hatred and aggression towards other religions/tribes. ...
This sort of "tribalism" is evident in epidemic proportions here in the cyber-realm. The self-identification with, exaggerated allegiance to, and extreme actions supporting such "tribes" isn't limited to religion (or politics, or nationalism, or any of the other old school contexts).

This sort of tribalism was to some extent predicted by McLuhan when he first wrote of an oncoming "global village". Though he wasn't consistently correct in some of his predictions about this phenomenon, he was certainly correct in noting and describing how this growing tribalism definitely wasn't a purely positive or healthy outcome.
 
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Carl Grove

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And so, kiddies, we return having come full circle, to the statement ' It is written;( or is it ?)'

I would suggest that the Old Testament does not hold the record for direct instruction to eliminate unbelievers.

INT21.
Actually on some occasions the Israelites were directly commanded to destroy entire tribes who had not even shown aggression to them!
 

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It's worth mentioning that the CIA was involved in the polio vaccination scheme, which was bound to cause trust issues.
 

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It's interesting that in the opening few pages of '1984', when Winston is attending the 'Two Minute Hate', one of the scenes is a boat load of immigrants 'somewhere in the Mediterranean' being bombed by the home side.
 

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It's worth mentioning that the CIA was involved in the polio vaccination scheme, which was bound to cause trust issues.
On one occasion in Pakistan they set up a fake hepatitis B vaccination project, in an attempt to pin down the location of Osama bin Laden.

Islam doesn’t need real or imagined CIA involvement in order to oppose vaccination: it has recently declared both flu and measles jabs to be non-halal, for example.

maximus otter
 

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Ahh, my mistake, I recalled it as being polio.
 

Carl Grove

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The guy who stabbed 3 policemen and a policewoman to death in Paris yesterday had converted to islam 18 months previously and had refused to talk to women at his place of work.

Surely that should have set alarm bells ringing that something was very wrong with him?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-49931153
And his wife reported him having a severe psychotic episode the night before his attack. Were the police aware of his mental state prior to the attack?
 

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The guy who stabbed 3 policemen and a policewoman to death in Paris yesterday had converted to islam 18 months previously and had refused to talk to women at his place of work.

Surely that should have set alarm bells ringing that something was very wrong with him?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-49931153
I would argue that converting to Islam is not alarming in itself, but refusing to talk to women - particularly coupled with any religious conversion - should have signaled something was wrong. Whether it is strong enough a signal to make people think he'd turn violent, I'm not sure.
 

blessmycottonsocks

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I would argue that converting to Islam is not alarming in itself, but refusing to talk to women - particularly coupled with any religious conversion - should have signaled something was wrong. Whether it is strong enough a signal to make people think he'd turn violent, I'm not sure.
When a long-standing employee starts acting irrationally as this guy did, his line manager should have had a discussion with him and probably then referred him to HR for a medical/psychiatric appointment and assessment.
If I refused to talk to any female colleagues, there is no way I would remain in my position for 18 months.
 

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When a long-standing employee starts acting irrationally as this guy did, his line manager should have had a discussion with him and probably then referred him to HR for a medical/psychiatric appointment and assessment.
If I refused to talk to any female colleagues, there is no way I would remain in my position for 18 months.
Agreed. The story seems to indicate his refusal to talk to women was more recent, but in any case he clearly wasn't acting in a manner acceptable to mainstream European society, and should have been checked out.
 

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Agreed. The story seems to indicate his refusal to talk to women was more recent, but in any case he clearly wasn't acting in a manner acceptable to mainstream European society, and should have been checked out.
I don't think refusing to talk to women would be considered normal behaviour in any culture. Clearly he was showing signs of mental disorder, so why he wasn't immediately suspended for some kind of assessment is a real puzzle.
 

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I don't think they are particularly chatty in Saudia Arabia or Somalia.
 

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I would argue that converting to Islam is not alarming in itself...
I think it's an outward sign of an underlying mental illness.
 

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I don't think refusing to talk to women would be considered normal behaviour in any culture. Clearly he was showing signs of mental disorder, so why he wasn't immediately suspended for some kind of assessment is a real puzzle.
I was just being overly cautious in my statement. I do know that some conservative Muslims and Jews, for example, do not encourage a lot of interaction between the sexes, and some cultures where those thoughts dominate might discourage men talking to women. I don't think that's healthy or "normal", but it would be an excuse for not thinking something's wrong. Not so in France.
I would argue that converting to Islam is not alarming in itself...
I think it's an outward sign of an underlying mental illness.
Some might say converting to any religion is a sign of mental illness, but I disagree. Islam is quite diverse, and no more deserving of that view than Christianity or any number of other religions.
 

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I don't think they are particularly chatty in Saudia Arabia or Somalia.
Haven't been to either of those places, but in a hotel lift in Egypt my wife and I met a Saudi Sheikh of some kind, and he was chatting away and joking with us right down to the bottom.
 

Carl Grove

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I was just being overly cautious in my statement. I do know that some conservative Muslims and Jews, for example, do not encourage a lot of interaction between the sexes, and some cultures where those thoughts dominate might discourage men talking to women. I don't think that's healthy or "normal", but it would be an excuse for not thinking something's wrong. Not so in France.


Some might say converting to any religion is a sign of mental illness, but I disagree. Islam is quite diverse, and no more deserving of that view than Christianity or any number of other religions.
Conversion is usually a psychological reaction, it is more linked to the desire for a tribal unit to join, e.g. a religion, sect, cult, political party or social club, than anything to do with the religious/spiritual impulse. I think the great majority of religions have a high proportion of such people, plus those who remain in religions for reasons of social pressure. I don't mean to denigrate those who are entirely sincere, but many of the members of the CofE and Catholic Church that I have known fall into that category.
 

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I've known Catholic priests who bemoan the (overly) devout nature of converts vs. those who were born into the religion.
 

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Distrust of vaccines crops up in Apocalypse Now. Although untrue, was used as a metaphor for 'native' ignorance.

Here's a Guardian article about it from 2001. I remember reading this in the newspaper at the time.

Apocalypse lies

Despite claims that Apocalypse Now - due for rerelease in an extended format - exposed the truth about the Vietnam war, it is riddled with grotesque falsehoods and scenes of breathtaking phoniness
The relevant section -

Kurtz recounts his days in the special forces: "We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying ... We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile ... a pile of little arms.
(The piece's author Linh Dinh is Vietnamese-American and has an awesome CV until you notice his white supremacist leanings.)
 

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One from my own (tangential) experience:

I have a relative being treated for a serious illness, they were in a joint oncology/haematology ward for quite a long time (months) so got to know other patients. One gentleman refused transfusions and a bone-marrow transplant due to his very devout Jehovah's Witness beliefs. He had young children. He died.
 

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One from my own (tangential) experience:

I have a relative being treated for a serious illness, they were in a joint oncology/haematology ward for quite a long time (months) so got to know other patients. One gentleman refused transfusions and a bone-marrow transplant due to his very devout Jehovah's Witness beliefs. He had young children. He died.
Hopefully his children will escape from that sick cult.
 
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