SHAFAQNA- The minority Muslim community in Malawi has said it will oppose any proposed legislation that would limit number of children per family, seen as an attempt to control Muslim population boom in the southern African nation.
“We are quite aware of the consequences population boom is having on our country, but as a second largest religion in Malawi, we will not be in support of any law that would limit number of children per family,” Sheikh Cassim Chongolo, Secretary General of the country’s supreme Muslim body, ULAMA Council of Malawi, told OnIslam.net.
“This would go against teachings of Islam and nature. We oppose any quarter of the society advocating for this piece of legislation,” he added.
The Muslim leader asserted that Islam calls for taking care of children, but not limiting the number of kids per family.
“As religious people who are guided by the dictates of the Holy Qur’an, we would only support any measures which could be put in place to allow families to take care of their children before they can have some more, but not necessarily a law,” Sheikh Chongolo said.
“Enacting a law would mean going against what we believe in.”
Malawi’s population doubled over the past few years, standing currently at 16 million.
The country’s family planning organization, Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) says the population is projected to reach 40 million by 2040.
The proposed legislation advocating limiting the number of children per family has been suggested recently by some of the country’s most influential traditional leaders.
They have argued that the rapid population growth was overstretching delivery of basic social services.
“The Government has been struggling to provide quality basic social services like health and education to the growing population of the citizenry,” Paramount Chief Kyungu, from the country’s northern part, told OnIslam.net.
“We propose enactment of a law so that every family would have at least a maximum of four children and not more than that. Stern punishment could be given to those who could go against this law. Let us try this approach.”
Concurring with Kyungu, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Chief Medical Officer in Malawi, Mirriam Lutz, said achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) and the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) could be challenging in the face of the rising population in the country.
“Rapid population growth affects the health, education, agriculture and economic development of a country. A large population can mean overstretching provision of basic social services to unmanageable levels,” Lutz told OnIslam.net.
“The country’s rate of population growth is quite alarming and worrying. It’s exacerbating poverty levels. There is therefore need to face this challenge with sober minds. If a law is an effective remedy, let all Malawians agree on this and not only a small segment of the population.”
Malawi Muslim leaders have rejected the argument of the government officials, saying that there was need for the nation to come together and propose measures to contain rapid population growth.
“There is need for all faith groups and other sectors of the society to come together and approach this challenge with unity of purpose, without hurting each other’s beliefs,” Sheikh Chongolo told OnIslam.net.
Renowned scholar and academician, Dr. Imran Shareef, added there would be no basis to formulate this kind of law.
“There would be measures to control population boom, if need be. But enacting a law to depopulate people is a mockery to creation and we wouldn’t at all cost allow that. Population growth couldn’t be a basis to enact a law,” Shareef told OnIslam.net.
“Enacting a law that should police reproduction is a sensitive matter, therefore shouldn’t be allowed to succeed. What we would encourage is intensive civic education on the importance of child spacing.
“Malawians irrespective of their religious beliefs should appreciate the need to adequately care for a child before another one is born, without any law telling them what to do.
“As a nation, we should be careful with laws which could generate religious tensions,” he added.
Supporting the stand taken by the Muslim community, Fr. George Buleya, Secretary General of Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), a mother body of the Roam Catholic Church, Malawi’s largest Christian denomination, said “matters of reproduction cannot be legislated.”
“The Bible is very clear on reproduction, therefore, enacting a law against reproduction would mean going against what God expects of us. This would draw the wrath of God. We wouldn’t be in support of this proposed piece of legislation,” Fr. Buleya told OnIslam.net.
The World Bank ranks Malawi one of the poorest nations in the world with its majority poor struggling to survive on less than US$1 a day.
Officially, Malawi is a secular nation, but with diverse religions. Islam is a second largest religion after Christianity.