Preventing pandemics through Islam, science
By Azlan Othman

His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, Deputy Sultan said threats of disasters like health pandemics would provide us with the impetus to undertake strategic measures towards prevention and avoidance in a more holistic and integrated manner, based on Islamic perspectives and latest scientific discoveries since the teachings of Islam and findings of science have always complemented each other.

His Royal Highness made a sabda yesterday at the opening of the three-day National Seminar for religious scholars and experts on influenza A (H1N1) at the International Convention Centre yesterday.

HRH hopes that the bridging of knowledge and information that emerges from the meeting of the scholars and experts in this seminar would allow us to be more objective in formulating long term prevention strategies.

"Based upon what has been stated by the World Health Organisation regarding zoonoses diseases, which are diseases that are contagious from specific animals to humans, there are more than 200 zoonoses identified worldwide and the figure is expected to increase in the next decade due to changes in the methods used in the animal farming and breeding industry.

"We should be more wary and strive to eliminate any elements which may contribute to disaster in this country as has been implemented in the objectives of our policy of banning the sale of liquor, a substance which has proven to endanger the lives and dignity of mankind, and as such the 'fiqrah' (wisdom of thoughts) should be made a reality.

"The strategy of 'prevention is better than cure' is not only a synonym applicable to medicine, it also forms a part of the divine values of the teachings of Islam in shaping the daily lifestyle of its followers. This matter is also very relevant in the issue of maintaining cleanliness, which is a basic obligation of the religion," the Deputy Sultan said.

"We should take heed and be reminded from the Quran that disaster, catastrophe and devastation upon mankind are attributable to mankind's own acts and behaviours. With respect to maintaining cleanliness in public areas, the relevant authorities in this country would continue to endeavour in enforcing regulations and the relevant laws including those for operators of premises that serve food, schools and other public premises for the general well-being of the public," HRH said.

Earlier, the Deputy Sultan said that the goal and objective of this national seminar is to further enrich our cumulative knowledge on how to overcome issues and challenges of strategic importance by examining objectively the issue of influenza A (H1N1) disaster with the learned guidance of the scholars and experts.

"This is in line with His Majesty's titah on the importance for us to study and analyse the actual cause of the disaster itself.

"The fundamentals that went into the organisation of this seminar were both timely and would be of great benefit to the community in general in creating a greater awareness and deeper understanding as well to public policy makers in enabling them to make more informed decisions regarding any possible failure in addressing the root causes of this threat," said HRH.

"I was also made to understand that an exhibition in conjunction with the seminar would also be held to provide an intellectual approach from the perspective of Islam and science regarding influenza A (H1N1) and animals of the porcine species to provide a proper understanding of issues relating to the influenza A(H1N1) calamity."

Earlier, Minister of Health, Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Suyoi in his welcoming speech said since A (H1N1) was first reported in Mexico in March last year, 213 cases have been reported till today. The latest global situation shows that the most active area, which reports the spreading of the virus, is Southeast Asia. The virus has caused close to 17,000 deaths till today.

In Brunei, A (H1N1) is under control as a result of the cooperation given to the Ministry of Health from both government and non-government agencies, besides advices on steps to prevent it like practising self-cleanliness. He also said over 40,000 people have been vaccinated in the Sultanate.

The seminar, which runs until March 25, is jointly organised by the Ministry of Health and State Mufti's Office and will highlight H1N1 topics, the situation in Brunei and the world as well as other related issues. - Borneo Bulletin (24th March 2010)