A team of 50 maulvis and maulanas have helped dispel the taboo around Covid-19 vaccination among the Muslim community in Dharavi and helped vaccinate 18,000 residents, so far. This was facilitated by the timely intervention of an NGO, Bhamla Foundation, where rosters were prepared for maulvis to move door-to-door in teams.
They reminded the Muslims in Dharavi of an Islamic Hadees – that their religious faith lays stress on protecting the country and its people during an epidemic, so as to not ruin the chances of beating the virus. Covid-19 vaccine sceptics in the community were persuaded into obedience as clerics convinced the naysayers of its importance.
Asif Bhamla, founder, Bhamla Foundation told FPJ that there was a taboo in the minority community in Dharavi surrounding inoculation – vaccines cause illness – and also partially due to misconceptions propagated by some political parties. Vaccine hesitancy was also due to illiteracy, propaganda, lack of inclination and a non-serious attitude.
“People were misguided that the ill-effects of vaccinations would result in health issues. Further, lots of believers worried that vaccinations contained pork; animal products are common in injectable products, leading Muslims to worry that these might be ‘haram’ when the vaccination drive began."
The foundation had proposed to the state government and senior Ulemas to use mosques and madrassas as vaccinations camp sites to increase comfort level amongst Muslims.
Meraj Hussain, CEO of Bhamla Foundation, said, “Maulvis are playing a crucial role in telling them that taking vaccines will not just help them but people around them. With an Islamic Hadees, when the government announces to get vaccinated, one should follow it.”
Hussain added that people in Dharavi were misguided into thinking that the vaccination drive was against the minority population.
“I have videos where they declared that they wouldn’t take the shots at all. Adults, especially those above 45, were scared and thought they would die. There were messages circulated that they would get fever and spoil their health,” he said.
Maulana Khalid Shaikh of Jama Masjid in Dharavi said, “There was a fear in our community that vaccines would cause some illness or inconvenience. But all maulvis were shown a video first on the efficacy of vaccines. We went door-to-door to explain about its importance.”
Maulana Shaikh said they had formed teams comprising four maulvis each and
doctors explained that vaccines would help the formation of anti-bodies and also on their efficacy in keeping the virus at bay.
“According to Islam, we need to take precautionary measures during an epidemic. It is for our own welfare. The drive is ongoing in schools.”
Maulana Shaikh added that there was a lack of knowledge and ignorance on vaccines within the community. “Allah has made us a medium to do this good work. It is our religious duty to dispel doubts and create awareness on the vaccine. We have managed to bring people to centres. We go door-to-door after our afternoon and evening namaaz. We are getting help from Allah and ‘dua’ from people for this work,” he said.
Dharavi, Asia’s largest and densest slum—6.5 lakh people are spread over 2.5 sq km—realised early on that community leaders could play a significant role in creating awareness and persuading residents to follow authorities’ directives. Muslims comprise around 30 per cent of Dharavi’s population. There are nine Jama masjids and 200 small mosques in Dharavi.