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The Population Boom - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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For a long time now, talk has been circulating in Jordan about the increasing population growth and its harmful effects on the country. Many people poked fun at the birth control campaign that was launched by the Jordanian government, which announced that it would distribute 600,000 condoms (with a value of approximately US $1,200,000). This was not the first time that a campaign of this nature was launched in an Arab country; twenty years ago, a larger campaign was launched in Egypt as part of an aid program led by the United States. At the time, the campaign was laughed at and was a controversial matter as a small number of condoms, which were distributed on a large scale as part of the campaign, were sold as children’s balloons!

All joking aside, the problem of an “immense” increase in population levels is apparent in a number of Arab countries and is a cause for serious concern; it affects the efficiency of existing developmental plans and hinders the accomplishment of clear and measurable results, especially in the fields of health, education, the infrastructure and other vital fields.

This crucial and complicated issue has become a severe problem due to the various opinions within Shariaa; from those that support the idea of birth control to those that violently and strongly oppose it. However, the facts continue to speak for themselves: Many parts of the Arab world are unable to make the most of, or manage, their human resources in a sound manner. With the passing of time, population growth has turned into an explosive bomb that has struck the whole of society. You only have to look at newspaper advertisements or the adverts transmitted by some satellite channels or at what is available at pharmacies to see the infatuation with sex in the Arab world and it is inevitable that this will translate into high numbers and high population levels.

The blame cannot be placed on the general public since there are other parties that contribute to further aggravating the problem through various means.

Some governments have failed to notice the warning signs early enough and have failed to put in place awareness plans in advance. Consequently, matters have been dealt with through short-term reactions, which ultimately have resulted in confusion and maladministration.

A group of jurisprudential opinions contributed to the crisis as it warned against and prohibited discussing the idea of family planning as a methodology, culture and idea without any adoption of, or consideration for, the principle of Fiqh al Maqasid [objectives of Fiqh] and its goals and without really understanding the situation and offering the required Shariaa support in a comprehensive manner in which the interests of the majority would clearly be taken into account.

If population growth is not supported by development that believes in living a dignified life, effective education and medicine, it will turn into a frightful and detrimental nightmare, the increasing price of which will be shouldered by the coming generations.

To date, most Arab societies deal with this problem with a great sense of denial and mockery. They have failed to benefit from “increases” in the levels of population so as to become influential productive, industrial or agricultural powers. Yet they have transformed into growing “markets” that are strongly sought by major multinational corporations because they are merely new “statistics” to be added to marketing lists.

If population growth is not managed by short-, medium- and long-term plans, since the economical aspects are as vital as the health and legislative factors, this would open the gates to crime and social imbalances on a larger scale. The region already has many problems and certainly does not require more.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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