LONDON: A doctor working on the frontlines of the UK’s fight against COVID-19 has pleaded with the country’s Muslim community to ignore conspiracy theories that he said are spreading “like wildfire.”
Dr. Sharjeel Zafar Kiani, who works in the city of Birmingham, said he has witnessed first-hand the strain that British hospitals have been placed under, and said some of that blame lies with the misinformation and conspiracy theories that have proliferated since the virus first emerged.
“It’s been hugely frustrating seeing how much air time conspiracy theorists are getting on social media,” Kiani said. “The conspiracy theories seem to have spread like wildfire.”
A significant issue in the UK’s Muslim community has been the myth — debunked at numerous times by various sources — that the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine contains animal products that make it non-permissible religiously.
Those who repeat these claims, Kiani said, “are playing on people’s anxieties and fears, and people’s mistrust of the pharmaceutical industry and medical science.”
He added: “The conspiracy theories, along with misinformation, cause harm because there are very vulnerable members of the community who need this vaccine. In terms of the Muslim community, I would ask people to listen to the experts in the field.”
According to the British Islamic Medical Society, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the UK’s Muslim community.
It said there are complex reasons for this, among them the fact that British Muslims tend to be more “vaccine-hesitant” than the wider population, in part because of the widespread misinformation surrounding the vaccine’s permissibility in Islam.
This issue has not gone unnoticed among British-Muslim community leaders. Last week, the CEO of one of Birmingham’s largest mosques, Green Lane Masjid, told Arab News that it was encouraging its congregation to take the vaccine and listen to the advice of medical professionals.
Earlier in January, imams across the country delivered Friday sermons that addressed the conspiracy theories, and made clear that protecting life by receiving the vaccine is of the highest importance in Islam.