Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Onslaught of the Quacks | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Even the President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh has declared that he has discovered a herbal concoction that cures AIDS in three days, leading to accusations hurled by the medical community that he is just another quack. Only the president’s health minister supported him, and to scientifically account for the cure, the latter only said it was a secret formula and that he trusted His Excellency’s scientific abilities. Undeterred, the president even responded saying, “I am not a witch doctor and in fact you cannot have a witch doctor. You are either a witch or a doctor [!].”

Of course, the president is correct—he is one of the many quacks, the number of which is multiplying as those who seek treatment for incurable diseases become desperate. The Gambian people are desperate as the economic conditions deteriorate, which prompted them to take part in large demonstrations. With his back against the wall, the president came up with the AIDS cure and then traveled to Cuba to thank his unwell, fellow dictator Castro for his medical aid. If you believe that fraud is a requirement for authority, then what about the opposition? Sheikh Abdul Majeed al Zindani, the red-bearded leader of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, also claimed that he had found a cure for a number of incurable diseases, including AIDS. It emerged that a number of AIDS-positive children were brought from Libya for Sheikh Zindani to cure. Yemeni authorities had to save the children from his treatment and repatriated them, thus ending the farce. Not only did Sheikh Zindani destroy the youth mentally with his extremist thinking but he also wanted to ruin them physically.

Quacks are competing with physicians and specialists. Enjoying great popularity, their voices have become louder and their public profile higher. Appearing on satellite television channels, they even dare to spit on viewers in the name of treating the people who call in. In such an unhealthy climate, in our gatherings, we enjoy these stories of medical miracles and quackery, and, following in the footsteps of the ignorant commoners, educated people only cheered on these myths of spiritual and magical treatment in fear of being treated as outcasts if they question them.

Is the popularity of quackery a state of despair, a symptom of ignorance or big business? The truth is that it is big business. Now, those who carry out witchcraft and quackery earn more than those in the highest positions of the medical profession. On account of profitability, television channels dedicated to quackery have been launched, and existing channels have assigned hours of air time for it, a practice that has caused healthy people to end up in hospitals, according to Saudi Arabia’s health minister, who called for banning them and holding their owners accountable for committing medical crimes.

The medical community has only to defend the profession and openly confront the various promoters of such fables. If it does not, the lawyers, engineers or clerics certainly will not.