Several Islamic clerics in Uttar Pradesh are coming together to educate Muslims on the necessity of vaccinating against polio, a crippling disease on the rise among children belonging to the community.
Lucknow's maulanas, or clerics, met here Monday under the aegis of the Rotary International that has been closely involved with the polio eradication campaign.
Some clerics have volunteered to join the vaccination teams, which face Muslim resistance in several places. The clerics said they would visit villages during the immunisation drive to inform people about the vaccine's safety.
A seven-member executive committee and 17-member working team of ulemas were constituted to review the polio vaccination drive in Uttar Pradesh, which accounts for 438 polio cases - the highest in the country.
"We will personally go with the vaccination teams to those areas where Muslim families are unwilling to let their kids take polio drops," Khalid Rasheed, the imam of Lucknow's Eidgah, told IANS.
Rasheed, also the chairperson of the Ulema Council of India, said: "We are going to urge the government to take an equal interest in ensuring basic health amenities in areas where they were carrying out the anti-polio drive."
"Earlier, ulemas were not concerned about the vaccination drive and neither did government agencies include them in the eradication programme. But now we have come together to fight polio since a majority of the cases being reported are among Muslim children," he said.
He admitted: "Yes, we have also received reports that Muslims were resisting the anti-polio drive as they have certain misconceptions and suspicions about polio drops.
"It is, therefore, the duty of the ulemas to visit the areas and allay doubts through awareness programmes."
Maulana Saidur Rehman Azmi, the principal of Lucknow-based Islamic University, said people feared that the polio drops were contaminated and could cause damage.
"The government should find out if the vaccines have expired or the cold chain was broken during transportation," he added.