While it is true that, despite some lately formed opinions of a lot of Americans, Islam, the religion of Muslims, with its visions of paradise and its architectural and artistic paradigms, can be a gentle, almost poetic, and esthetically pure practice. However, if its leaders are kooks, Muslims appear in Western eyes to be fanatical. Take for example the situation in Nigeria, a large West-Central African nation of nearly 134,000,000 people--mostly Muslim. One of the leaders, a doctor who heads a prominent Muslim group told his countrymen that polio vaccines are "corrupted and tainted by evildoers from america and their Western Allies." since October, three predominantly Muslim Nigerian states have banned door-to-door polio vaccinations. What has been the result of this xenophobic paranoia? Well, immunizing toddlers with mouth drops had reduced the number of polio cases from 350-thousand children annually in the 1980's to fewer than 800 cases worldwide last year.

We were getting pretty close to wiping out polio, just as had been the case with smallpox. Now, the virus is spreading again from Nigeria, where u-n officials say fully a third of the world's cases result from the vaccine boycott. That is fanaticism in its most stubborn and hurtful form. And the children have to pay the price.