Madhya Pradesh government of Bharatiya Janta Party has been inspired from the most unlikely of places - Pakistan - to devise a family planning programme for the Muslim community based on a 'Pakistani model' that advocates use the religious texts and clerics for awareness campaign as well as the mosque to distribute contraceptives.
"What comes in the way of family planning is ignorance and not religion. The community should come out of darkness (unawareness). The state government would follow the example of Pakistan, which has reportedly decided to distribute contraceptives at mosques and involve clerics in spreading family planning awareness," state Health Minister Ajay Vishnoi said.
A recent news report had quoted Pakistan's Population Planning Minister Chaudhary Shahbaz Hussain as saying that the birth rate in his country was 1.86 percent, which the ministry wanted to bring down to 1.3 percent by 2020.
"I have received inspiration from Pakistan and what BJP's national executive member and columnist Muzaffar Hussain has written in his book 'Census Islam and Family Planning'," the minister said.
The book, which claims that Islam advocates family planning and population control, will help correct misconceptions about the family planning programme among the Muslim community," Vishnoi said.
Expressing concern over the increasing population in the country and why the Muslim community's increasing population is 'dangerous', the book highlights the support family planning finds in Hadis and Quran and the references to family planning in Islamic literatures.
Besides containing a list of fatwas issued in countries like Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia and Iran in support of family planning, the book throws light on the practice of family planning in Islamic countries including Pakistan and even pats the neighbouring country for promoting the practice.
Accordingly, the state government will distribute free of cost 10,000 copies of the book, published by Vishwa Hindu Parishad-run Vishwa Samvad Kendra, so that "the message of family planning reaches the people", Vishnoi told IANS.
Some Muslim clerics and scholars, however, have flayed Hussain's interpretation regarding family planning and Islam.
"He is neither an authority on Islam nor on family planning. I feel some of the Quranic verses he quotes do not convey the meaning he has derived from them," they say.
"Shariat does not say anything either in favour or against family planning. It rather indicates towards 'keeping the women young and that there should be no burden on women', that is possible only when she has fewer children. These days every country is doing it and it is a major success in Egypt and Bangladesh," says social activist and ex-professor Zameeruddin.
"As such there is no harm in creating awareness on family planning. If one goes by the socio-economic parameters, both Hindus and Muslims stand on the same platform. Then why single out Muslims alone. The intention of the BJP government do not appear to be clean," Zameeruddin said.