Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes a truth. This seems to be the case with the so called burgeoning Muslim population. An oft-heard statement is how the community is breeding at a faster rate and the danger of it causing a demographic upheaval. But nothing can be farthest from truth.

Familiarity is the first myth of reality. What one knows best one observes the least. The canard of high growth rate among Muslims has played on the public imagination so much that one fails to see the reality. A cursory look at the census data shows that growth rate in the community has in fact registered a decline.

According to Sachar Committee report, the Muslim population growth has slowed down and in future it will be slower. “Eventually, the population is bound to reach replacement levels,” the report says.

A popular misconception is that Muslims are against adoption of family planning methods. The emergence of vote bank politics has only given currency to this fallacy. That birth control concept goes against the teachings of Islam is another falsehood.

But the Sachar Committee says there is a ‘substantial demand’ from the community for fertility regulations and modern contraceptives. Over 20 million Muslim couples currently use modern contraceptives and their number will grow if choice-based reproductive healthcare services are made available, says Sachar committee report.

Muslim scholars are unanimous in their opinion that Islam doesn’t prevent adoption of family planning methods as a temporary measure. What it objects to is adoption of permanent methods such as vasectomy and tubectomey. But even this is permissible provided the life of the mother is at stake.

“Islam encourages proper planning and strategy in all aspects of life and this also includes the size of the family. Fathering children is one thing and taking good care of them is another,” says Dr. Fakhruddin Mohammed, director, MESCO.

Improper interpretation of Quran and Hadith, many feel, is the main reason for the misconception about Muslims and family planning.

Does limiting the family size indicate deficiency in one’s faith? While some feel so, others hold a different view. There is nothing wrong if one doesn’t go for a large family with the intent of taking proper care of children. “Islam doesn’t support poverty. It encourages well being and social order,” says Mazhar Husain, executive director, COVA.

Growth of large families has nothing to do with religion. It is the education and socio-economic norms that determines the size of the family irrespective of the faith one professes. But this fact is usually lost sight of and Muslims are singled out for blame, says Mr. Husain.

“My grandfather had 12 children while my father had six and I have four and my son has just one. Poverty and education has never been an issue in our family. It is the changing social norms that have made the difference,” says Dr. Fakhruddin and points out to the remarkable success achieved by many Muslim countries in birth control.

The fertility rate among Muslims in Kerala, the most literate state, and Tamil Nadu is indicative of the changing trend. The Muslim population here has recorded a lower growth than the Hindus. This clearly shows that the community has plumped for the ‘chota parivar, sukhi parivar’ concept.

It may not be strictly ‘hum do hamare do’ policy, but many Muslim couples these days do not have more than three children. Linking population growth to increased poverty, many think, is a Malthusian theory which sustainable agriculture has proved wrong.

Small may be beautiful. But one never knows the child one tries to stop may turn out to be a blessing to the family.

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