New Delhi, Sept. 13: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has taken the lead in beginning discussions within the community on promoting family planning and literacy.
Like demographers, the leaders linked the relatively high growth rates in the community to poverty and illiteracy. They dismissed the notion that Islam discouraged family planning.
The 'revised' figures published by the Census Commission showed that the growth rate of Muslims had declined from 32.9 per cent in 1981-91 to 29.3 per cent in the last decade, but it was still high compared to that of the more literate Hindu community.
Muslims have a 59 per cent literacy rate, which dips to only 50 per cent when it comes to women.
The commission had initially released 'unadjusted' figures, showing that Muslims were growing at 36 per cent.
Board vice-chairman Maulana Syed Kalbe Sadiq argued Islam did not debar family planning, saying that if that were the case, Muslim countries like Iran would not have achieved almost zero per cent population growth.
'We will take up the issue in the next meeting of the AIMPLB in December and discuss steps to promote education and family planning among the downtrodden in the community,' he said.
Sadiq admitted sections of the clergy encouraged people to have more children, but 'we will emphasise that the strength of Muslims is not in quantity but in quality. The only way forward is modernisation'.
Sadiq has written to Shia and Sunni leaders, stressing that 'we must sit together and discuss a model of family planning' based on the example of countries like Iran which can be implemented in India.
He was hopeful that if ulemas, maulvis and bodies like the board and the All India Milli Council appealed for family planning, it was likely to have 'some effect'.
'We are ready to work with BJP and VHP to find solutions to the problem, as long as it does not involve murder and assassination,' he said, in a caustic reference to the VHP's militant reaction to the census report. 'Whatever be the agency, even enemy, we are ready to discuss.'