Believing that Islam calls for all measures to protect lives, a group of Australian Muslim women are leading a campaign to boost COVID-19 vaccination in their community and confront faith-based misinformation.
“When you look at the family dynamics in Muslim communities, how large the families are, how densely populated some of these areas area … this is obviously going to show moving forward as we see the cases rises and the hospitalization numbers rise,” co-organizer Nelja Mohammad told SBS News.
Mohammad is one of the volunteers running the Melbourne-based SistaHub group with the aim of preserving the health and wellbeing of Muslim women during the pandemic.
The group, which includes medical professionals and community leaders, released a video campaign last week to directly address misconceptions about COVID-19 while also considering faith and gender.
The SistaHub group is planning pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics to encourage vaccination.
The first two clinics will run on the 29 and 30 October in the Wyndham and Hume city councils, operated by female doctors and nurses in a religious appropriate manner.
“We wanted it to be a safe space. We wanted it to be run by people who look like them, who obviously feel comfortable to come forward,” Mohammad said.
“We’re not sending you to some isolated clinic or somewhere where the environment is unfamiliar to you, especially if you already have hesitations.”
The campaign comes amid tension relation between government and Victoria Muslims after they were singled out as playing a role in spreading the virus during the early weeks of Victoria’s 2020 outbreak.
“It’s made it really, really hard for a woman to trust anyone really, let alone, the government,” Mohammad said.
“Any messaging that was consistent … unfortunately was being perceived as a threat or with some kind of agenda behind it.
“To overcome all of that it has to come from people within the community.”
Mohammad hopes the SistaHub campaign, which prominently features Muslim health care professionals, would “bridge the gap” between government information and the community.
Australia Muslims make up 2.6% of the population of 26 million, according to the last census in 2016. This was up from 2.2% in the 2011 census.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) instructed Muslims to seek medical treatments: “Make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not created a disease without appointing a remedy for it.” (Abu Dawud)
Earlier this year, Alaa Elzokm, the imam of Elsedeaq Heidelberg Mosque in Melbourne, worked hard to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic among Muslim congregations and community and educate people on the importance of the vaccine.
Australia Fatwa Council also released Coronavirus Vaccine fatwa, pronouncing both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines as halal for Muslims.