Both Turkey & Japan want a baby boom. But Erdogan issued a faux fatwa


babyWith Shinzo Abe’s July 10 election victory, Japan will be fighting the good fight on the economic front. And for constitutional reform. The population war is waged more quietly. For, two countries – Japan and Turkey – are very focused right now on growing their population but only one has made headlines around the world.

It should’ve been Japan, whose problem is a lot more urgent. Instead, it was Turkey, whose president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is not afraid to speak his mind.

Mr Erdogan has made an Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!) argument to his Muslim country.

Abou Ben Adhem, of course, was a poem by James Henry Leigh Hunt. (I’ve put it at the bottom of this blog.)

Mr Erdogan slammed the use of contraception, saying it does not serve the interests of a “Muslim family.”

He went on to declare: “We will multiply our descendants. They talk about population planning, birth control. No Muslim family can have such an approach.”

Mothers, he added, have “the first duty”, which seems to be limited to popping out babies and aiding his peoples’ demographic dominance.

What could Mr Erdogan possibly mean? Turkey is at just over replacement level in terms of fertility rate – 2.18 children per woman. A baby boom is not an emergency issue but it’s also true that Turkey’s Kurdish citizens generally have three or four children, roughly twice as many as their ethnic Turk compatriots. According to some estimates, by the 2040s, most of Turkey’s young people will come from Kurdish-speaking homes. The Kurds will have won their battle for the Kurdish-majority Southeast by waging a demographic battle.

Even so, there was an unappealing air of the fatwa about Mr Erdogan’s injunctions about the need for Turkish Muslim families to have more babies. It  stirred anger – among women, those who want the right to choose and others who want the government keeping a safe distance from the bedroom.

Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.