Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Right to Say ‘No’ to Vaccine

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009   No comments
Neerja Singh

I am feeling confused and stupid, not normal states of mind for me. The world is making elaborate preparations to protect itself against a disease that has killed 3,500 people and nobody is batting an eyelid? In a world where many more routinely die from a lack of clean drinking water, we are prepared to roll out a global vaccination drive for a disease that mostly presents with mild symptoms and nobody thinks it’s odd?

I wonder why nobody is questioning the numbers being bandied about and why we are all accepting the lies that are being dished out in the name of saving humanity from H1N1. Happily, seeing as I am not employed by a newspaper and free to share my views, I would like to shine some light on things that have been bothering me.

On April 4, the World Health Organisation started reporting on a new form of influenza that had probably come from pigs and infected several hundred people. Subsequently, daily updates tracked how quickly the H1N1 infection was travelling through the world and killing hundreds. The term ‘swine flu’ was retracted after a while because the virus was found to be an odd ‘cocktail’ of viruses, containing six genes from the swine flu virus H1N1, but also some from various strains of influenza virus seen in birds and humans.

Researchers now claim the strange mix of virus strains could only have occurred in a research laboratory, and there is even a public litigation suit filed by a Jane Burgermeister who has proof that 72 kilos of this ‘virus’ was actually shipped to various ports by Baxter to start this entire hullabaloo. Getting back to the story, the hysteria whipped up by alarming new numbers on a daily basis has scared several governments into ordering millions of H1N1 vaccines and the FDA into bypassing crucial testing checkpoints to approve new vaccinations in a matter of months.

Again, Burgermeister claims to have proof that the vaccine was patented by Baxter in 2007, much before the virus was known. Also, the efficacy of any vaccine against a virus is dubious because the organism keeps mutating. In the UAE, 3.2 million vials have been ordered and mandatory vaccinations are set to be rolled out for schoolchildren when shipments are received some time in October.

Fortunately, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Facebook page gives the average Joe a platform to reach out to powers that be, and a discussion board has been created asking him to give us the choice to refuse vaccinations for our children. There are enough links out there to several independent studies and Youtube videos. Anybody who wants to educate himself/herself can see the overwhelming evidence that the H1N1 scare is a ruse, and that the vaccinations may in fact be more dangerous than the virus.

First of all, let’s get some perspective on the actual damage being done by the disease. Since the WHO started reporting on H1N1 deaths on April 4, about 3,500 people had died across the world as on September 18. According to the Canadian Medical Association, seasonal influenza routinely kills an average of 36,000 Americans and 2,500 Canadians each year in North 
America alone.

Australia’s minister of health for Queensland Paul Lucas has also called for a rational media response, saying regular flu kills about 1,000 to 3,000 Australians each year, where 200 have succumbed to H1N1 this year.

Yet the WHO Director General Margaret Chan declared it a pandemic level 5 – level 6 being the highest – claiming that ‘large-scale disease’ was imminent. This was on April 29, when 129 people had died from H1N1. On the same day, Prof Paul Ferguson, leading the WHO task force on H1N1, predicted that ultimately 40 per cent of global population would contract the disease. Really? Three billion people would fall sick with a disease that 129 had succumbed to? On what basis were these dramatic predictions made?

Whatever their motivations for these dire warnings, I believe we owe it to ourselves to educate ourselves and find ways of protecting our loved ones and countrymen. For one, several studies have directly linked vaccinations to the outbreak of diseases like AIDS, autism and all kinds of cancer.

For those who’d like to delve, there are papers to this effect that have been ignored by the medical fraternity for obvious reasons. If that is too heavy a read, Youtube also has several interviews with guilt-ridden vaccine researchers who’ve resigned from their jobs to give media interviews confirming that pharmaceutical companies are aware of vaccinations’ connection with autoimmune diseases, but keep touting these money-spinning ‘essential drugs’ to Third world countries in the name of aid. In some cases — like small pox — doctors admit they recommend vaccinations despite their inherent risks because not taking a vaccine could result in death. However, in the case of H1N1, this is not the case because the largest majority of people who contract it suffer mild symptoms.

There are some truths to the nature of H1N1, sure. It is highly contagious, for one. The Communicable Diseases Centre (CDC) in Atlanta estimates that H1N1 must have touched about two million Americans by now. However, of the several hundred thousand who fell sick, only about 2,000 died of the disease. If only one in every thousand people who get the disease will die from it, why not focus on finding what is protecting the balance 999?

The fact is the human body has been designed to fight infections, it does so on a routine basis. We have all fretted over our children when they were young and got a cold every second week. But we’ve also seen that as they grow older and their immune system matures, they don’t fall sick as often because their bodies have developed antibodies to the germs in their environment along the way.

As long as we eat nourishing fresh foods, get plenty of rest and moderate amounts of exercise, we could — as I have — spend an entire lifetime away from hospitals. And this is what I believe governments must support individuals on. Vaccines, I believe, are invasive procedures; they bypass the body’s natural defence mechanisms and introduce bacteria straight into the blood stream: a bit like breaching a fortress and tunnelling under its wall to bomb the castle directly.

For any government to take away the right for people to participate in a decision affecting their bodies is wrong, and I hope all countries including the UAE will make the humane choice in 
this matter.

Neerja Singh is a Dubai-based writer and can be reached at singh.neerja@gmail.com

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ramadan in September-Forever !?

    Saturday, September 12, 2009   No comments
By Adis Duderija

First a disclaimer. What follows below is not meant to be an exhaustive or academic treatment of the issue at hand but more or less haphazard reflections and “thinking aloud’ on behalf of the author.

Islam , not unlike other universalist-claiming faiths, face a number of challenges in the contemporary world ranging from bioethics ( eg. Human cloning) to that of politics (relationship between religion, state and society) , socio-economic development and education.
Much has been and will be written about these issues, including by this author.This piece of writing will tackle a question that is not as ‘grande’ as those mentioned above which ,however, has been just as much debated and contested. The question relates to the issue of fasting , in particular, finding a solution to the question of fasting in geographical areas very close to the earth’s two poles. While this at first, might be considered a very marginal issue ,especially compared to those mentioned above, hopefully the merit of discussing this issue and the author’s proposal will be disclosed as the reader reads on. This is so because some of the reasons why this issue is worthy of examination opens the door to other bigger questions pertaining to the Islamic tradition and the shaping of its future contours

Some years ago in the late 1990s I followed some of the discussions of this issue on a number of Muslim forums and websites and to the best of my knowledge two solutions were proposed in relation to the dilemma posed above in relation to fasting:
1. Following the fasting times in Makkah.
2. Having breakfast and dinner as one would normally have if it was not a fasting month.
While I personally do not have problems with any of the two solutions offered above and believe that the question of fasting is a personal matter a following idea ( that some other people might have though of before but I am not aware of ) : Why not fix the fasting month to that of the month of September when the autumn equinox takes place ? Before I address possible objections to this let me elaborate first on , from my point of view , proposal’s benefits.
1.) Unlike the other two solutions this proposal would be closer to the spirit and the letter of the Qur’anic beginning and ending the fasting day cycle because one would be able to commence and end the fast in accordance with the actual sun setting and sun-rising(or dawn braking) times.
2.) The fluctuations in the duration of night and day all around the world is minimised.
3.) The temperatures in both hemispheres are as similar as they can possibly be
4.) More people would be willing top take up the fast
5.) Just like in the lunar calendar the month of fasting would fall be in the same month as it is in the lunar calendar ( the ninth month –Ramadan)

Points two and three are particularly important because as all of us who have fasted understand that fasting can be a very demanding task both spiritually and physically often impacting considerably on one’s ability to fulfil one’s responsibilities and duties on a daily basis . (I remember several years ago fasting in Australia’s summer with temperatures constantly in the high thirties to low forties and the daily fasting period exceeding 16 hours’ –fortunately I was a student at the time so was able to complete the fast without major problems but think about the less fortunate people who are exposed to and at the mercy of the weather elements !) . This has important implications in terms of one’s productivity at work and in the case of Muslim majority nations economic performance. ( Now ,please don’t think that I am writing this as an ‘excuse’ for myself for not to fast or to make it easier for me to fast - As a university researcher I am effected much, much less by the harshness of climate than most other people-although I must admit that my productivity does go down somewhat ). It could also potentially have implications for one’s health and well being. Namely, many devout and conscientious Muslims would often fast in conditions under which their health and well-being is put at risk based on their strong desire to please their Lord.
Now , my proposal would to a large extent mitigate the effects of extra long daylight cycles and the harsh climate which would impact upon both the collective and individual productivity and well-being of the people.
Again I would like to stress that this proposal should not be seen as a means of ‘coping out’ because even fasting in the month of September can certainly be demanding in a number of real-life contexts.
I also am not suggesting that fasting , as we are being constantly reminded in khutbas and bayans, is all about refraining from drinking and eating but ,nevertheless, a major component of it is!
Now to possible objections.

Probably the first one would relate to switching from the lunar to that of the solar calendar. Now if one considers that many pre-Qur’anic Hijazi practices and customs were incorporated into the budding Qur’anic worldview and the prophet’s Sunnah ranging from cultural mores and norms pertaining to gender relations, modesty and virtues to that of law ( e.g. unilateral right of divorce for males only ,talaq) , war ( women and children taken as war bounty, the prohibited months of fighting) and societal practices ( such as slavery and day of communal weekly day congregation jawm al juma’ah falling on day when people were gathering traditionally in the markets or even the Arabic names of the lunar months themselves) that are often ( mistakenly) considered as an integral part of Islam as an ethico-religious and law system , the proposed new change , I hope , would be seen in a different light and thus more acceptable.

Perhaps the coming about of the institution of the lunar based Hijri calendar is also a pertinent consideration . Hijri calendar was introduced and instituted by the second caliph ‘Umar and thus ought not to be seen as an Qur’ano-Sunnahic practice per se. As such adhering to it is not a question of doctrine or faith.

The second objection would probably relate to the issue of loss of identity and imitating the ‘West’ . Now while this certainly has some merit it ought to be evaluated in the broader context . Firstly, regardless whether we like it or not the common era solar Gregorian calendar is, based on the ‘west’s economic ,cultural and political dominance, the internationally accepted civil calendar by which most Muslim conduct their lives in any case. It would have the benefit of non-Muslims (as well as Muslims) knowing exactly when the fasting month starts and ends (like Christmas) in order to foster and facilitate inter-faith sensitivities with the exchange of greeting cards etc . In respect to this I would add that Muslims could also make it a custom to celebrate a life of Jesus Christ ( as some of them already do) in theologically acceptable ways with their Christian friends and neighbors (or the New Year with their humanist secular friends and neighbors-New Year Eve celebrations have lost their religious significance in most places ) in order to foster inter-religious harmony ( here a possible objection would become from a series of isolated ahad and therefore not legally or culturally binding ahadith which stress the importance of distinctiveness of Muslims in relation to customs, festivals and dress that have been abused by many a narrow –minded and semi-informed Muslim and mistakenly interpreted in a decontextualist, ahistorical and universalist manner . As I have shown elsewhere in a more academic treatment of this subject these and similar ahadith have no place in a holistic and systematic methodology of interpretation of Qur’ano-Sunnahic teachings)

Lasly, related to the last point, the proposal would , even in a small but significant way, move us away from the history of mutual antagonistic identity construction that has been prevalent and in some cases still exists between the ‘Muslim’ and “Western civilisations’( which in actual fact are mere constructions of the Self and the other rather then reflecting actual historical circumstances which point strongly in direction of hybridism and inter-connectivity).

That is it. I am rather pessimistic about this proposal of mine ever taking effect but my aim would have been achieved if I have persuaded the reader to at least consider my proposal seriously and the broader questions relating to the Islamic tradition mentioned above.


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