A gynaecologist says population growth should not be based merely on demographics.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malay Muslims should come out of simplistic interpretations about family planning, said a gynaecologist, adding to a growing debate on the subject sparked by Terengganu’s latest initiative to encourage families to have more children.
Dr Harlina Siraj of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said couples should plan their families so that they would not be financially burdened.
She said many viewed family planning as rejecting the qada and qadar, the Islamic concept of divine destiny.
“We cannot be so simplistic because there are many things to consider,” Harlina told FMT today.
“Family planning should be seen differently. If it is seen as irresponsible and rejecting a blessing, we have to change the way we see it today. It is those who do not plan who are the irresponsible ones.”
Harlina, who is active in Muslim NGO Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia, cited research which showed children born to parents who had “planned and waited” have a brighter future.
Recently, think tank, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) said the Terengganu government’s move to give incentives to raise the birth rate in the state may worsen poverty in the state.
In response, Malay rights group Perkasa defended the programme, saying there was no proof children born in poor families would miss out in life.
On December 12, Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman said the campaign would continue until it achieved its target of 25,000 births a year, compared to the current 20,000.
The state is offering couples RM100 for their first child, RM200 for every subsequent child to the seventh child, and RM500 for each following child. The cash incentives will be paid into their National Education Savings Scheme (SSPN-i) accounts.
According to the Statistics Department, Terengganu has the second highest birth rate in the country after Putrajaya, with 23.8 births in 2015 and 23.7 births in 2014 for every 1,000 residents.
Up to couples
Harlina said it was up to couples to decide the size of their families.
“Nobody can force them, but every couple must take into account their own capabilities (to raise children),” she said.
Harlina cited an explanation by Islamic scholar Dr Abdel-Rahim Omran in his book, Family Planning in the Legacy of Islam.
She said couples should take into account five criteria before deciding to have children, including physical ability, economic capability, emotional state of the mother and social support.
“Every couple has different levels of capability,” she added.
A fatwa from Al-Azhar, the institute considered as an authority in the Muslim world, had in 1988 ruled that family planning was sanctioned by Islam.
Harlina said while she did not object to Terengganu’s plan, population growth should not be based merely on demographics.
“It is good if the incentives go into the SSPN-1 accounts and not paid like BR1M, and I also don’t think couples are going to have more babies just to get the money.
“But it would be better if the state government used the money to create a support structure for working mothers.
“Their main problem is there is no quality childcare support system,” she said, adding that many working mothers were forced to abandon their careers after having children.