A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Erdoğan's Anti-Birth Control Campaign

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a few days ago delivered a speech, or perhaps I should say a sermon, on birth control. He's against it.

Saying that no Muslim family can accept birth control, Erdoğan urged Turkish women to have many children in order to increase Turkey's population, a topic he has addressed before.

If his argument is that Turks should reproduce to increase population, that is one thing, but if he means that Islam forbids contraception, he is well outside the religious consensus. While there are conservative scholars who oppose all contraception, most Islamic legal schools  accept artificial contraception as long as it is reversible (not vasectomy or tubal ligation), and all oppose abortion. This is not a modernist issue: several hadith indicate that the Prophet Muhammad himself was aware of, and did not express disapproval of, the withdrawal method (‘azl in Arabic, coitus interruptus), the main form available in his day, unless it was done without the wife's permission. Other reversible methods are also generally accepted, and many governments actively promote family planning. Even the most theocratic regime, Iran's, actively promotes family planning and has seen a plunge in birthrates. Iran's program was directly authorized in a fatwa by Imam Khomeini himself, which in the eyes of the regime gives it the highest authority.

So Erdoğan, however much he may believe "no Muslim family" may practice contraception, is well outside the pale of mainstream Islamic jurisprudence.

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