DOH reminds Mecca pilgrims of MERs-Cov hazards PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 11 July 2014 13:05

The health department is not imposing a ban on the pilgrimage to Mecca, but is merely asking prospective pilgrims to reconsider, in deep reflection, their intentions due to the threat of being exposed to a still uncontained viral respiratory disease.

This was emphasized by eye surgeon Kadil “Jojo” Sinolinding, regional health secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, as he reiterated early this week the appeal of the central office of the Department of Health  to Muslims in the country to think of the dangers of performing the hajj in a land where there is prevalence of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome corona virus (MERS-CoV).

It was the central office of the Department of Health (DOH) that first issued an advisory two weeks ago, urging prospective pilgrims to reconsider, as a precaution, their plan to perform the hajj, apparently to prevent them from getting exposed to the deadly MERS-CoV.

“No one can ever tell who will get infected and who will not. A pilgrim who gets infected can pass on the infection to family members once back at their respective homes,” Sinolinding said.

Sinolinding said the intention of the government is to protect the pilgrims and their families from the dangers of the MERS-CoV, which has no cure and has been spreading in the Middle East virtually uncontrolled.

There are noisy extremists, mostly not even Islamic theologians, attacking the government via social media, branding the DOH central office and the ARMM regional health department’s common advisory as discriminatory.

Many moderate Muslims in the rank-and-file of the autonomous region did not find the efforts of the DOH central office and the ARMM’s health department against Islamic teachings.

“Prophet Mohammad had taught his followers many times over about the importance of cooperation among people, regardless of religions and races, in protecting mankind from all kinds of harm,” said a 43-year-old Yakan preacher, Adjul Isnain.

Muslim government employees observing the month-long Ramadhan fasting season, which started last June 29, said Mohammad, Islam’s progenitor, had very profound and comprehensive teachings on prevention of diseases.

One of them even cited hadith (religious saying) number 679, stated in Sahih Bukhari Book number 56, “If you hear of its spread in a land, don’t approach it, and if a plague should appear in a land where you are present, then don’t leave that land in order to run away from it,” as a very clear manifestation of Islam’s intent to protect mankind from harmful plagues.

Sinolinding told reporters the most vulnerable to MERS-CoV are the elderly and those whose immune system had been compromised due to other illnesses.

“It’s not about suppressing our centuries-old tradition of performing the hajj. It’s protecting the pilgrims from MERS CoV and their families and neighbors too when they return to their places of origin,” Sinolinding said.

Sinolinding said clerics working in the DOH-ARMM did not find the government’s advisory as spiritually offensive.

Sinolinding said it is still up to every faithful to decide, and that the health department’s only purpose is to appeal to prospective pilgrims, but not impose a ban on the hajj.

DZT learned from the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos that the about three-fourths of the more than 6,000 applicants for the forthcoming pilgrimage season are residents of the autonomous region.