The Taliban has long personified the ignorance and intolerance found among religious extremists. Indeed, they first attracted international attention with their destruction of the famous giant Buddhas of Bamiyan. However, it is always impressive to see the degree to which its Islamic beliefs seem to produce uniformly harmful impacts on the populations under its cruel control. A report last week documented how there is a serious polio outbreak that is threatening global progress against the disease. The Taliban has denounced vaccinations as a Western plot and threatened anyone who receives one. It is a tragic irony since the disease has long been the scourge of the Middle East going back to ancient times, as this Egyptian tablet from the 18th Dynasty (1403–1365 BC) reflects. The ancient populations could only dream of a cure but, now that one is available, the Taliban again seeks to force its areas back into the dark ages.
Health officials have reported scores of crippled children as a result of the Taliban’s policy. The United States fueled the opposition to the program among extremists when it was disclosed that the CIA used a Pakistani vaccination team to gather intelligence about al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden — who was then killed by U.S. Special Forces. That success may prove to be a disaster for polio operations in reinforcing the medieval fears of groups like the Taliban. It is treated as just another part of God’s plan for an ever-suffering humanity.
Pakistan has the highest rate of polio in the world following by Nigerian and Afghanistan. THere is also an outbreak in Syria to add to the misery of that population.