Ahmad Kamal, Student Jamia Ahmadiyya Ghana
Vaccination is one of the greatest public health achievements in modern era. Vaccines have helped battle against diseases – including polio, smallpox and measles – at astonishing levels. But some groups reject the science, citing a distrust in modern medicine and government. Others say mandatory vaccine requirements violate their religious freedom; some say that a secret society of billionaires is plotting global domination through vaccines.
Recently, there has been a growing interest in the latter and the Internet has aided the spread of such conspiracies. It seems humanity has always clung onto myths and conspiracies that have no reality to them.
A lack of education and knowledge of the world could be blamed for this. However, what’s worrying is that in our age of education, science and knowledge, such conspiracies are still rife and are causing harm to society.
The important step is to validate, examine and critically pick apart such exaggerated claims. Conspiracy theories during Covid-19 have shattered the public trust.
On 4 May 2020, a half-hour video positing that a secret group of elite world leaders unleashed the coronavirus on the global population as part of a plot to either enact population control or force people to get vaccinated was posted on social media.
This video – popularly known as “Plandemic” – quickly took social media by storm. Uploads of “Plandemic” had more than eight million views across social platforms, with one version on YouTube hitting 7.1 million views before it was taken down.
This video is undoubtedly harmful as it falsely aims to spread that wearing masks will “activate” the virus, among other things. The video is rife with misinformation and conspiracy theories and is reappearing, though attempts to take it down are continuously made. (www.nytimes. com/2020/05/20/technology/plandemicmovie-youtube-facebook-coronavirus.html)
LifeSite News, a Catholic anti-abortion website has gathered more than 550,000 signatures at the time of writing this on a petition protesting against mandatory coronavirus vaccination orders. (https://lifepetitions.com/petition/no-mandatoryvaccine-for-covid-19)
In the 2000s, some Taliban members in Pakistan and Afghanistan issued fatwas (religious edicts) opposing vaccination as an “American plot” to sterilise Muslims. After the spread of this false propaganda, vaccination officials were kidnapped, beaten and even assassinated. Thus, polio remains an endemic in Pakistan because of such misinformation campaigns.
Observing the current situation in America, the racial inequality can be trailed back to when distorted theories concerning Africans were hammered into the minds of the public, just to legitimise slavery.
In the early nineteenth century, imperial Britain barred slavery and halted the Atlantic slave trade and in the decades that followed, slavery was gradually outlawed throughout the Americas. But even though the slaves were “freed”, the racist fallacies that justified slavery persisted and loopholes to legitimise slavery were set deep into the American constitution. To justify their racism, people argued that blacks were less intelligent than whites and their moral sense, less developed.
Doctors alleged that blacks lived in filth and spread diseases – in other words, they were a source of pollution. They were branded as less intelligent, more violent, lazier and less concerned about personal cleanliness than whites. They were thus tainted as the agents of violence and disease etc.
These prejudices were increasingly entrenched as time went by. The vile myths struck a chord in American culture and Western culture generally. They continued to exert their influence long aft er the conditions that created slavery had disappeared, the effects of which we are seeing today in America.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is no stranger to conspiracies against them. Endless lists of baseless conspiracies are drawn against Ahmadis, from being British agents to dividing the Muslims to creating a “heaven and hell” – conspiracy theories against Ahmadiyyat continue to expand and grow, both in number and novelty.
Added to these are the hollow claims against the personage of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah, peace be upon him. All these lies were spread to deceive the general public and sway them far away from the truth.
Muslim clerics fabricated tales and fed them to their followings, including young children. The sad reality is that these children grew up hating Islam Ahmadiyyat and failed to carry out any sort of substantial research to investigate the authenticity of their beliefs.
This has resulted in Ahmadis being severely prosecuted in Pakistan or at least seen with contempt.
Life-long neighbours turn into bitter enemies overnight aft er listening to the mullahs spew (false and baseless) hatred about Ahmadis.
Hence, many of the troubles humanity faces stem out of consistently trying to camoufl age the truth. Lying is indeed one of the greatest vices facing humanity.
This is why the Quran and the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, strongly condemn falsehood and dishonesty. The Quran even asks why people say that which they have no knowledge of.
This was further echoed by the Promised Messiah, peace be upon him, who continuously taught his community to stay well clear of lying and deceit. He said:
“Whosoever does not give up lying and deceit is not of my community. Whosoever is consumed by material greed and does not lift his eyes to look at the Hereafter is not of my community. Whosoever does not truly give precedence to religion over the world is not of my community.” (Noah’s Ark, p. 31)
The responsibility to take everything with a pinch of salt and to validate all that we hear, share and promote is everyone’s responsibility. The threat of baseless conspiracy theories is very real and can have detrimental consequences.
(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Al Hakam or the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat)