On the two-child limit instituted against some Burmese Muslims

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

I happened to chance upon the article “Burmese Muslims given two-child limit”, which, for me, contained the following salient points:

o    The Muslims in two mainly Muslim provinces have been given a two-child limit

o    There will also be a ban on polygamy

o    The policy is adopted ostensibly to ease tensions

o    A government spokesman mentioned that the population growth among the Muslims is 10 times that of the Buddhists.

When I read these details, I realized that the article I wrote about the Buddhist Bin Ladin and how his views relate to the larger Burmese Buddhist psyche was in fact not outside the mark. It seems then, that such views, at least concerning the “over-reproduction” of Muslims, are quite acceptable, at least to the formal government authorities.

But I must question at least two things mentioned in the original article: Firstly, it seems difficult to envisage how tensions would be eased when the Muslims living in predominantly Muslim areas are policed into cutting down the number of children they may bring to the world (regardless of whether the Muslim male is in a monogamous or polygamous marriage arrangement), so that it conforms to the supposed permissions given to them by government authorities[1].

Secondly, it is difficult to see how Muslims actually have a growth-rate literally ten times higher than that of the Buddhists. This is considering that unlike other places such as Northern Europe where the growth-rate is close to or below zero, the Buddhist-majority countries of Southeast Asia have always had a marked growth-rate, due mostly to environmental factors that encourage population settlements in such areas. Thus, it is difficult to imagine how a growth-rate so much higher than the neighboring Buddhists would be maintained in such an area without it becoming known well before the riots had begun.

In fact, if we consider the free information available online[2], we would see that even the Muslim-majority countries with the highest crude-birth rates per 1000 people, are only about 2.5 times higher in this category than Myanmar as a nation – this is also considering that “population growth” is very different from “crude birth rate”, and that the actual divergence between the “most fertile” Muslim country and Myanmar is much less than what the crude birth rate would indicate.

But this leads to the question -directed to all those who believe in such claims- which is that even if we suppose that Muslims do have a growth rate 10 times that of others, what is the exact problem others have with this? After all, if we consider the whole world as a “democratic field” where people may take action with respect to themselves and their relationships as they please (one of the supposed fundamentals of the current world order), then there is nothing stopping either the Muslim or the non-Muslim from having as many children as he wants to have.

Then there are other issues, such as the alleged “backwardness” of the Muslims which the proponents of such claims say are the target of their objections[3], but for me at least, it is obvious that even the allegation of “backwardness” is a mask for xenophobia, and the refusal to explore the possibility that there may be truth to the Islamic faith and practices. I do not wish to point at the Burmese Buddhists or anyone else in particular, but my sincere advice for all the people who think like this is that, since they know about the existence of Muslims, they have an intellectual responsibility to seek out information about Islam and the Muslims, even if the possibility of intellectually engaging with Islam may seem outrageous to them at the beginning.

I may write more about the issue of Rohingya Muslims, and of the “overpopulation of Muslims” in the future, but I hope that people may begin to understand what two-child limit policies may have in the background, and how such a background may be properly confronted.

[1] I will not get into the specifics here, but Buddhism per se does not ban polygamy.

[3] That is, they say that they cannot let Muslims become so numerous, since Muslims will throw the world back to the Dark Ages in such a case.