ANTI-VACCINE MOVEMENT

Written by Natasha Sidek

According to Merriam-Webster, anti-vaccine is defined as an opposed to the use of vaccines where a handful parents and anti-vaccine activists told lawmakers on the House Health and Human Services Committee that they believe vaccines are responsible for countless cases of autism, learning disabilities and death.

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The anti-vaccination movement is a loose organised conspiracy theorist subculture which blames the medical practice of vaccinations for a wide range of health problems.

The movement, to a large majority led by people with no medical or scientific qualifications, is based largely on alleged short and long term side effects of vaccination. Since the argument is made that vaccines are deadly poisons, the anti-vaccination movement fails to gain traction outside social media, then by necessity they argue that some kind of cover up must take place that the vaccines serve an agenda.

According to Free Malaysia Today, there are recent reports about new cases of diphtheria in Malaysia and it raised serious concerns about the anti-vaccine movement in Malaysia. It was reported that a two-year-old boy from Kedah and a seven-year-old girl from Malacca died from diphtheria. The number of children who came in close contact with the deceased has been suspected of the disease.

The two deaths related to diphtheria have alarmed the medical community in Malaysia as diphtheria is a disease caused by bacteria from an unhealthy environment and can be prevented through immunisation. Such cases seem to indicate the growing of anti-vaccine movement in Malaysia and it has become an issue of concern.

As stated in BBC News, the news coverage on anti-vaccine movement are more largely reported in international prospect and the point of perspective are also different compared to local news agency.

Some Malaysian parents have expressed their fears of side effects and links to autism. Andrew Wakefield, who is dubbed as the ‘Father of Anti-Vaccine Movement’, allegedly found links to autism to childhood vaccines but his study was retracted in 2010 after it was proven to be an “elaborate fraud”. However, even when many other studies have debunked these myths, some parents are still suspicious to vaccination and suspected that it may have caused autism.

According to BBC News, anti-science rhetoric has serious consequences for society. The rants on social media to the belief that vaccines cause autism, scientific ignorance takes on a variety of frustrating forms.

The people who choose not to vaccinate their children have a misguided belief that vaccines contain DNA from pigs, making the vaccines forbidden or haram for Muslim families. The rumours could have started as some vaccines on the global market are cultivated using the trypsin enzyme from pigs.

But even in these cases, scholars argue that the porcine elements are negligible that Islam allows it as it saves lives. According to Dr Musa Mohd Nordin, the consultant paediatrician and neonatologist said the oral polio vaccine was a big issue because it uses trypsin from porcine sources.

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BBC News also reported on the religion sentiment that a Muslim in Asia and the East had seen “strong anti-vaccination propaganda”. The news reported that the rumours had been spread that a conspiracy to control or even harm the Muslim population was being initiated through administered vaccinations.

The anti-vaccine movement is giving diseases a second life as reported in local news. Even though Malaysia achieved low levels of vaccine-preventable diseases for diseases such as diphtheria and neonatal tetanus, these diseases have not been eradicated completely. Many of the viruses and bacteria are still circulating in this country and that is why it is important that children especially infants and young children receive the recommended immunisations on time.

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The investigative reporting from The World Health Organisation (WHO), the Centres for Disease Control in the YS and the Ministry of Health of Malaysia have unequivocally stated that none of the vaccines given singularly or simultaneously causes autism.

Every propaganda from the anti-vaccine movement should be confirmed and study by all parent so they will not be manipulated by the movement. Evidence has shown that scientifically vaccine would not harm people either in autism or any other diseases. The issues on pig enzyme also being highlighted and should not be worried by the parents as it is clear from it.

Stereotyping of the Arabs by the Western Media

Written by Rasheffa Rashid

Post-tragedy September 11 in 2001, the world especially the western counties became more aware of the existence of Muslims, unfortunately for the wrong cause. The way the western media portrayed and exposed the incident that took over 3000 lives, blamed a group of Muslims and labelled them as terrorists for intruding and killing innocent people. The misconception of media had made the world especially the western, with some have not ever heard of the religion Islam started hating without understanding further and they also believed the information media fed them with.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported a 1,700 percent increase of hate crimes against Muslim Americans between the years of 2000 to 2001.

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Since September 11, the perception on Islam and its followers in America changed and every Muslim was started to be labelled as terrorist. The western media had its own agenda in portraying the incident which some experts claim is a conspiracy against Islam itself or maybe the Arab world. The 9/11 “terrorist attack” also impacted other Muslim countries and also affected the Asians.

Even after 15 years since the tragedy, Muslims are still trying hard to clear the tarnished name of Islam. Many efforts had been taken to educate the western world on the simplicity and humbleness of the religion. While these efforts were in progress, some western population started to understand the religion better, with some decided to follow the faith of Islam. Figures by Muslimpopulation.com proved that the Muslim population has been increasing with high rates of conversions and through births. Islam has become the fastest-growing religion and now has the largest followers on the planet with 2.08 billion Muslims. The site estimates that by 2030, one out of three persons in the world will be Muslim.

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However, this did not stop the western media from continuously stereotyping Muslims (Asian Muslims or Arab Americans) if a terror attack or a bombing incident occurs. The initial suspects are always Muslims. Osama bin Laden was always the main suspect for the attacks, and after his depart, The Islamic State (ISIS) is the new plot to blame the involvement of Muslims in terrorism activities. For example, the Daily Mail on 26 June 2016 with the headline: Terror suspect dubbed ‘the man in the hat’ after Paris and Brussels attacks becomes British police’s first ISIS Supergrass reported, Mohamed Abrini, 31, a Belgian, had been linked to the recent Paris and Brussels attacks, he was dubbed ‘man in the hat’ due to his attire at Brussels Airport in March. It was reported that Abrini has been helping the British police to stop terrorist plots and jihadists, however, he became the main ISIS suspect for UK, now he faces court hearings in Belgium. He was spotted on CCTV travelling to Paris two days before the Paris attack which killed 130 people in November 2015. He is also investigated for his link to the suicide bombing at Brussels Airport March 2016, which took 22 lives.

These planned attacks that were proclaimed by ISIS changed the perception on Islam where it portrayed the brutality of religion in killing and attacking countries they target. In other ways, the western media is trying to portray that the attacks did not stop with Taliban or Osama bin Laden, it is trying to show to the world that the religion Islam itself is cruel and takes many lives for its own objective, in the name of jihad. The scenario in some way ruined the awareness works conducted to explain about Islam post 9/11.  What the western population failed to understand is that most Arabs in America are not necessarily Muslims, and most Muslims are not Arabs, while there are Arab Americans that originate from Lebanon and Syria, while some Muslim Americans are African Americans from South Asia. For them, as portrayed by western media, Muslims are terrorists.

The western media has represented Arabs and Muslims since decades ago. The west conceptualised Islam ever since the first contacts with Arabs Muslims. The term Islam as it is used today seems to mean something simple, the fact is, it is actually part of a fiction, an ideological label and a part of minimal designation of a religion called Islam. Today Islam sadly is a traumatic news in the West.

The negative picture of what Islam and Arabs are was described early in the Middle Ages, especially during the Crusade Wars and along the Arabs expansion in Europe since decades ago. The West promoted almost the same stereotypes for Arabs and Muslims and the pattern is now carried through the many channels of media to brainwash and block the minds of the people in the western world, suiting its agenda.

Many researchers examined the stereotyped image of Arabs in the Western media since many years ago. This is observed in a study by Shaheen (1983) which portrayed:

“…how the American media stereotypes of Arabs accompany a child from his early years to graduating from college, through editorial cartoons, television shows, comic strips, comic books, students textbook, in magazines and newspapers.” (Shaheen, 1983).
Shaheen said, the Arabs were dehumanized and presented as the ‘bad guys’”.
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The west media never respected the Arabs, may it be Arab Americans or Asians; the hatred against Islam has been pre-conceptualized negatively in cartoon images on newspapers and magazines. Scholars had also studied this stereotyped image in editorial cartoons and comic strips. A study by Stockton in (1994) resulted that images of the Arabs had been presented in hundreds of cartoons from editorial pages and comic strips. All the cartoons Stockton studied presented a dehumanizing image of Arabs. The latest incident of humiliating Muslims and Arabs was a comic strip by a French satirical weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo, publishing a number of cartoons mimicking Prophet Muhammad SAW. This angered Muslim around the world, the magazine later became targets of two terrorist attacks, in 2011 and 2015, respectively.

The American society also stereotypes Arab American women as veiled, docile, home bound victims. A researcher addressed how contemporary American fiction presented Arabs and Muslims as “backward, greedy, lustful, evil, or inhumane”.

“…this group makes “convenient scapegoats in almost all contemporary fiction that deals with Middle East themes”. (Terry, 1983)

The stereotyping of Muslim women began during the Taliban’s insidious reign in Afghanistan, it illustrated lifestyles of the Muslim women under the Taliban rule after 9/11. Muslim women faced discrimination even from the way they dress. Issues on veil and headscarf have been on- going for many-many decades. Among the popular cases is the story of the three students in France where their rights to wear headscarves in school was discriminated. Their acts to stand up for their religion turned many heads, teachers protested and the France government got involved and new guidelines and rules were made siding the school management. The fight of the three girls began in 1989 and it went on until 2003.  Between 1994 and 2003, around 100 female students were suspended or expelled from middle and high schools for wearing the scarf in class. In nearly half of these cases, their exclusions were annulled by the French courts.

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The identity of the Arabs has also been distorted by the media, the complexions of male and female Arabs described differently, where the men are always shown with dark complexion and the females are often fair.  The distortion of Arabs identity is observed in the Disney cartoon ‘Aladin’, where the personality of legendary figure Princess Jasmine was changed ranging from her name to her character. Ascribing to her all the features that are allegedly believed to characterize Muslim and Arab women. The change of identity, the color of complexion and the clothing of Jasmine in the cartoon showed to the world especially children about the characteristic of Arabs, is an indoctrination process to blindfold the people of the world and the young about the Arabs. This proves that the process to spread negativity about Muslims has been designed many-many decades ago through many mediums of the media. The media has the power to influence the mind of its listeners, viewers and readers through many channels where messages are delivered.

The reason for the western media to stereotype Arab Americans and the Muslims around the world, is because of the inferiority of the ‘other’ stereotyped image presents, it is not only promoting the superiority of the stereotyper, but also provides immunity for transgressing against the stereotyped group. Stockton recognized :

“…. that such stereotyping can be justify key policy decisions taken by political power for it to justify injustices committed by individuals or nations against the stereotyped ‘other.” (Stockton, 1994)

The impact of the negative stereotyping of Arabs on Arab Americans, has caused the Arab community to suffer in many ways, as the negative stereotyped image of Arabs has been planted in the minds of Americans and the rest of the world over the decades. It was also found, in a study on American press coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflicts in 1956, 1967 and 1973 that showed negative stereotype of the Arabs was used as a weapon by the American media in favour of Israel.  Having its own propaganda to oppress the Muslim world and the religion Islam itself, the America-Israel leaders had plotted the stereotyping of the Arabs Muslims decades ago by misleading the world on the truth about the Muslims and their lifestyle in practising the religion.

References

Anderson, C. (2002, November 25). FBI reports jump in violence against Muslims. Associated Press.