Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, one of the world’s most eminent seats of Islamic learning, has warned against fatwas banning the polio vaccine in Pakistan, describing the vaccine as a “religious, medical and humanitarian duty”.

The spread of decrees prohibiting the vaccination is a “violation of the rights of Pakistani children and their families”, the university said in a tweet on Wednesday, stressing that preventing a vaccine that is beneficial for the child, such as the polio’s, is “prohibited by Sharia”.

Violence, fear and misinformation offer challenges to authorities trying to reach every child who needs the polio vaccine in Pakistan, which has reported 19 cases this year.

The university’s statement came after Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel met Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University Prof Ahmed At-Tayyeb in Cairo, where he briefed his host on the flood crisis in Pakistan.

Al-Azhar called on countries, peoples and relief and charitable institutions around the world to stand in solidarity with Pakistan in this catastrophe that has claimed thousands of lives, displaced families, demolished homes and caused epidemic diseases.

The grand imam also made special prayers for the people who have lost their lives in floods and noted that “Pakistan is a resilient nation and will definitely cope with this natural calamity”.

Pakistan’s Ministry of National Health Services also confirmed the meeting in a Twitter post.

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