All faiths must unite to stop vaccine disinformation – Qari Asim

THE pandemic has changed life for all of us. The lethal virus has caused many of us to lose our loved ones.

It’s been a challenging year since coronavirus first entered our headlines and homes, but there is light at the end of the tunnel with the roll-out of new vaccines.
However, we must all work together to ensure that we come through this pandemic. It is certainly difficult for anyone not to feel a sense of fear, anxiety, and helplessness during the coronavirus pandemic.

Qari Asim is Senior Imam at Makkah Mosque, Leeds, and chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board. This was him conducting Friday prayers online last year. We are being tested in our priorities and our ability to cope in a time of confusion and despair. As a faith leader, I have been utterly humbled to see how communities have pulled together in a way that rarely makes the headlines during times of heightened fear and uncertainty. However, unfortunately, it has become apparent that some communities are wary of the vaccine. Being vaccinated is not going to result in anyone being ‘tagged’.

Up to 1,000 people would traditionally take part in Friday prayers in Leeds. There is already an unprecedented amount of scrutiny and intrusion into our private lives with our phones, CCTV, GPS, and other technological advancements. Vaccination is not linked to an increase in the intrusion of our privacy. The online space is spammed with information overload by those who are neither experts in the field nor have tried to verify the source of the information received. This is dangerous and we all have a responsibility to take care of one another, which is something Islam places an enormous emphasis.

Qari Asim at Makkah Mosque in Leeds.
Our focus should be on protecting and saving lives rather than dividing amongst ourselves. At the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, of which I am chair, we have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure people feel safe and comforted, and that BAME and Muslim communities are reassured that they are a priority in the national agenda.
Most recently with the vaccine becoming increasingly spoken about, we are hosting a variety of webinars to highlight the critical nature of this vaccine and partnering with Muslim doctors from across the country for their expert opinion.

The broad consensus amongst experts and Islamic scholars is that because vaccines generally help to prevent the spread of a potentially deadly virus, the vaccine should be taken to save lives. We know that BAME communities have been disproportionately affected throughout the pandemic, with analysis from Public Health England highlighting that once in hospital, people from BAME backgrounds were also more likely to require admission to an intensive care unit. Studies also showed BAME people accounted for 11 per cent of those hospitalised with Covid-19 but over 36 per cent of those admitted to critical care. The vaccine is an important part of the solution.
As an Imam, I am urging that misinformation is not spread and that content is challenged. As MINAB have always encouraged, ‘verify before you amplify’. While individual choice is respected, this is not a time to divide but to unite as one society to tackle the virus. Those wary of the vaccine, your individual choice and feelings are respected but we must all stop the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories. We do not want to fan the blames of Islamophobia and give rise to scapegoating communities as we continuously saw during last year. It is possible that some extremist groups will exploit BAME communities – even if only a few are speaking out about the dangers of the vaccine. We cannot risk disparaging and stereotyping others. We will defeat the virus that has impacted us all, and we will continue to save lives, but we can only do that together. As one society. MINAB is continually updating guidance and advice on the pandemic and, even with the vaccine, is still encouraging social distancing and appropriate sanitation at all places of worship across the UK. For more information please visit:
Qari Asim is Senior Imam at Makkah Mosque, Leeds, and chair of the Mosques andImams National Advisory Board. Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.

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