Critical Commentary: Radical Islam Aids and Abets Polio

Posted on March 3, 2013 by


The way an article is written has a dramatic effect on the reader’s reaction.  Authors have an arsenal of techniques for swaying opinion one way or another.  As a reader, it is important to recognize this and critically analyze articles in order to make up an informed and unbiased opinion.

David Frum, a contributing editor at Newsweek, The Daily Beast, and CNN, approaches the challenges that humanitarian workers are facing while trying to eradicate polio.  Radical Islamic militants are working against these humanitarian efforts, specifically in northern Nigeria, violently attacking clinics, health workers, and police who escort the foreign health workers.  These attacks have turned deadly, as Frum points out stating that 9 people were killed this month alone in northern Nigeria.  This is not a localized problem.  Other examples are sited including another 18 people killed in Pakistan in the past three months.

This article paints the Islamic people in a very negative light. There are multiple aspects in the article that steer the reader’s opinion as anti-Islam.  Though it specifically refers to the militants as “radical-Islamists,” it is easy for the removed reader to consider their actions and goals as collective for all Muslim people.  The word “radical” itself generally has a negative connotation.  People think of radicals as rash, crazy people.  Frum also associated the adjective “murderous” with these Islamic people. He claims that the unexpected impediment to eradicating polio entirely is “the murderous rage of radical Islam.”  In this sentence, he insinuates that the religion Islam is radical as a whole, and that all people are therefore murderous.

Frum also makes a comment that shows a lack of knowledge and understanding upon the Islamic people’s part regarding polio.  He states that the a local radio station in Nigeria broadcasted that the polio campaign was “part of a foreign plot to sterilize Muslims.”  Negative advertising such as this significantly influences people who may not have any prior education about the topic.  If the radical-Islamic people were properly educated and understand that the vaccines are extremely beneficial, their minds would probably be changed.  The Islamic militants’ view that it is a plot against them portrays that they have a very closed minded view and overlook the benefits of the humanitarians’ work.

The reader is also emotionally subjected to the severity of the polio issue through the photograph included in the article.  The reader meets eyes with a young child receiving what looks to be a polio vaccine.  The polio virus is particularly devastating in children making them wonderful “poster children” for the cause.  The article states that efforts to eradicate polio have “reduced the number of children paralyzed by the polio virus from 350,000 in 1998 to fewer than 225 cases in 2012.”  This evidence of the success, paired with photograph, pulls the reader to feel for the children who are being denied the opportunity to receive this life saving vaccine by the actions of the radical-Islamic militants.

This article, like many, “guides” the reader towards a certain opinion.  In this particular case, it depicts the Islamic militants as people with no care for the futures of the children who are being deprived the vaccine, or to those involved who were killed.  Though it may be difficult to defend them for their actions, it is important to look at them with an open mind.

Britta Johnson

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Posted in: Islam