UK Imams work to combat coronavirus vaccine disinformation

WION Web Team
New delhi Published: Jan 22, 2021, 07.49 PM(IST)

Covid vaccine Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Britain is the hardest-hit country in Europe with 95,000 deaths due to the pandemic. A biggest-ever vaccination effort is underway to end cycles of lockdowns and restrictions

Imams across Britain are helping to dispel notions of danger surrounding COVID-19 vaccine. The religious leaders are reaching out to people through their Friday sermons and influentials standing within the community.

Qari Asim, chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) which is leading a campaign to reassure its faithful, is among those publically advocating that the inoculations are compatible with Islamic practices.

"We are confident that the two vaccines that have been used in the UK, Oxford AstraZeneca and Pfizer, are permissible from an Islamic perspective," he told AFP.

"The hesitancy, the anxiety (and) concern is driven by misinformation, conspiracy theories, fake news and rumours." he added.

Britain is the hardest-hit country in Europe with 95,000 deaths due to the pandemic. A biggest-ever vaccination effort is underway to end cycles of lockdowns and restrictions.

However, a report from the scientific committee advising the government showed stronger mistrust of vaccines among ethnic minorities than the rest of the UK population. 

It highlighted that 72 percent of Black survey respondents were unlikely or very unlikely to get the vaccine. 

Among those from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds, the figure was 42 per cent.

Imams are particularly trying to dispel notion that the vaccines contain pork gelatin or alcohol. Pork and alcohol are banned in Islam. Falsehoods like vaccines being able to modify DNA are doing rounds.

Britain has an estimated 2.8 million Muslims

Asim said it was "legitimate" to question whether things were permissible under Islam but without paying attention to unfounded claims.

Misinformation around the coronavirus is all the more dangerous given several studies have shown that it can impact minorities disproportionately. 

"These are precisely the communities we should be trying to target," said Nighat Arif, a general practitioner based in Chesham, near London. 

When she received her vaccination, she posted a video in Urdu on social media aimed at the language's speakers living in Britain.

"I'm hoping that because they see someone who looks like them, who is a practising Muslim, wears a hijab, someone who is Asian who speaks their language, that's more relatable than something that's coming through from the government," she added.

Arif is still surprised by the refusal of certain patients to be inoculated, noting they will often get vaccinated to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia or to visit Pakistan or India.

She blames conspiracy theories spread online, which contribute to the science behind the process "being lost".

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