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Lies to block the Saudi population policy paper

The Saudi Shura Council will meet a second time to vote on a recommendation to reject a population policy draft paper

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

The Saudi Shura Council will meet a second time to vote on a recommendation to reject a population policy draft paper drafted by its members to reduce fertility rates. The lawmakers had previously rejected one version of the recommendation. The whole issue is nothing more than a free-for-all debate and it is every member’s right to express his or her opinion and vote as he or she wants.

The problem is that those who failed to convince the Shura Council members have resorted to fraud and intimidation by accusing the draft document of promoting indecency, homosexuality and the forced reduction of fertility rates. However, these are all lies. The question is: Is it acceptable to incite the society in order to win a voting battle at the Shura Council? Unfortunately, defaming others with lies and false accusations has become a norm that is ignored.

Defaming others with lies and false accusations has become a norm that is ignored

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The members who oppose the draft document could have said it’s inappropriate because, for example, they want higher reproduction rates or because they oppose linking economic performance to population growth. However, they are claiming that the draft document is a foreign conspiracy that seeks to lower reproduction rates and encourages homosexuality. These accusations are peddled by those who stand against the Shura Council members who intend to vote in favor of the document which serves society and which does not contradict its religion and traditions.

A statement to the council

Shura Council member Dr. Latifah al-Shalan recently made a statement to the council to address the campaign which was launched by some extremists on the basis of forged facts. Her statement reads as follows:

“Mr. President,

A society’s power today is measured by the strength of its economy, its political stability and intellectual development and not by its population. Let’s take a look at Yemen whose population is 24 million while Denmark is home to only five million. Iraq’s population is 33 million while that of Sweden’s is nine million. The countries which achieved the highest rate of economic growth, social welfare and industrial progress are countries in North America, Western Europe and Asia - like Japan which controlled its population growth. Let’s compare its (Japan’s) situation with Uganda, Afghanistan and Niger.”

So, does the document call for decreasing the population? That is what its critics claim. However, Doctor Latifah responds by saying:

“Population growth is still high despite the decreasing fertility rate. This is due to the increase of the population base (women at the childbearing age) as their number in 2004 was 4.2 million while in 2020, it will be around 6.3 million. A table (in the draft document shows that) for 17 years after 2004 the number of newborns will continuously increase every year. Therefore, there’s no population decline, and the analyses we are hearing are not scientific but shallow and superficial readings of numbers that are rather misleading.

“Statements that there are vast empty areas that must be populated and claims on threats of war are totally unrealistic. These vast areas without a diverse economy and water resources will threaten the existence of thousands of human beings one day. It will be a matter of life or death. The type of wars we are being warned about today do not require soldiers carrying Kalashnikov guns. Battles are managed from thousands of feet above the ground using drones and means of electronic warfare.

“No one can argue about the right to control birth rates as this is what the (prophet’s) companions and those who followed them adopted via natural means which humans found through instinct and logic granted to them by God. We have a number of fatwas (religions edicts) on the matter, and an example is the permanent committee’s fatwa number 16013.

“Anyone looking at the draft document in a fair manner can see that the government’s orientation is not toward decreasing the population but is actually geared toward a developmental plan that aims to create a strong society with a focus on families who enjoy health, sufficiency and integration and where quality comes before random quantity.”

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on December 29, 2014.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.