Recent reports suggest that the CIA set up a fake immunisation programme in Pakistan, in order to get the DNA of Bin Laden family members from his Abbottabad compound.
Of all the CIA's actions in Pakistan, this may prove to be the most stupid, and in terms of its effect on Pakistanis, the most damaging. Pakistan's many Islamists have frequently attempted to convince people that immunisation programmes against polio are in fact American plots to sterilise expanding Muslim populations. Similar campaigns have been found in Afghanistan and Muslim areas of Nigeria. The work of those striving to undermine such attitudes has been undermined, perhaps for a generation, by this ill-considered approach.
In the West it is now fashionable, in liberal circles, to rediscover the past contribution of Arabs to science and medicine. This is often, although not always, cast as demonstrating evidence of the advanced nature of Islam at a time of Western stagnation. Such commentators however are less comfortable with discussing contemporary reality, where certain Islamists are attempting to re-position knowledge in a manner which will be familiar to anyone who has dipped into the debate surrounding creationism in American eduction. With Saudi money on their side, opposing voices face a struggle to be heard.
Here, all knowledge originally comes from the Qu'ran - what need is there for medical or scientific developments from outside the Muslim world? Indeed as such trends are outside of Islam, how can they not be an attempt to damage Islam, and Muslims?
Whatever the CIA gained by getting a sample of DNA in Abbottabad, they have boosted the type of attitudes set out above. And that could lead to many more deaths, and much more suffering, than Bin Laden himself could have dreamed of.