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Home > 2022 > Book Review: Quraishi’s The Population Myth | Chanda Rani and Aamir (...)

Mainstream, VOL LX No 15, New Delhi, April 2, 2022

Book Review: Quraishi’s The Population Myth | Chanda Rani and Aamir Raza

Friday 1 April 2022


Reviewers: Chanda Rani and Aamir Raza *

The Population Myth: Islam, family Planning and Politics in India
by S.Y. Quraishi

HarperCollins India
2021, 256 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9390351545
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9390351541

In recent years particularly after the landslide victory of the BJP in 2014 its followers, leaders and biased Media have vigorously perpetuated the propaganda that Muslims are deliberately increasing their population to outnumber the Hindus in India. A common belief that Islam disapproves of family planning is frequently offered as an explanation for the purported truism that Indian Muslims have overly large families. Hindu Nationalist uses this polemical subject and other conspiracy theories related to Muslim population to develop a sense of paranoia among the majority Hindus that they will become minority in coming future and Muslims will successfully able to established Islamic rule in India . These misperception propagated through constant lies and numerous myth has contributed to the national polarization and Anti- Muslim hatred throughout the country.

In the light of this popular Hindu-Muslim demographic, the book ’The Population Myth: Islam, Family Planning and Politics in India’ by S.Y. Quraishi Former Chief Election Commissioner published in 2021by Harper Collins bust the misapprehension with facts and data from unimpeachable sources. The book critically analyses the politicization of demography in India. It evaluates India’s demographics from a religious perspective and explodes the myth with demographic evidence by using the data from the censuses 1951-2011, National Family and Health surveys. It demystifies the issues related to Islam on family planning and strongly puts that Muslims in India are not really anywhere close to being dominant and the paranoia of Muslim takeover Is baseless.

Many remarkable and scholarly books have been written on population explosion. But ‘The Population Myth’ by S.Y Qureshi is unique in a sense that it places the data and arguments in a comparative perspective especially between religions which is rare. Rather busting conventional myths S.Y Qureshi rivetingly engages and deliberates on the complex interrelationships between population dynamics and fertility, development choices and politics. This book under review is a valuable addition to existing literature available on Muslim thoughts in respect of planned parenthood.

The book is divided under nine chapters connected to each other conceptually to explain the complex nature of population growth in India and approaches the multi dimensional aspects of religious demography very objectively and scientifically.

A scintillating research the book not only focuses on the deconstruction of myth but also explains the population control structure in India by analysing the effectiveness of Government’s policies and plan to achieve the target of balanced population. The author has made seminal effort in explaining that rather than religion it is other factors such as poverty, status of women, availability of medical facilities and some other economic and social deprivation on which the population growth of any group depends. In India too the relative backwardness of the Muslims in almost all the factors like literacy level, age of marriage, exposure to mass media and economic factors has led to the fertility differentiation between Hindu and Muslim. But with improvement in literary and living standards in last few decades the fertility rates level of Indian Muslim is steadily declining. The National Family and Health survey-I (NFHS-I) (1992-1993) depicts a fertility gap of 30.3% between the Hindus and the Muslims: the difference was one child per woman. The NFHS-4 (2015-2016) shows a further reduction in the fertility gap of 20.5 %: the difference standing at 0.5 children per woman. According to P.N Mari Bhat, former director of the International Institute of Population Science (IIPS) Hindus will achieve Replacement level fertility– the level of fertility where a couple is replaced by their offspring- by 2021; Muslims will accomplish the same by 2031. However, Population Stabilization– the state where birth and death rates decline and growth becomes stable – of the Hindus will be achieved by 2061, and for the Muslims by 2101.

Qureshi argues that Fertility level depend on different metrics and a strong focus on the developmental factors especially education, income, availability of family planning services at all levels will help in achieving the fertility stability among all the communities.

The book delves into the Quran and Hadith to dismantle the myth that Islam encourage large families. Qureshi argue that in fact Islam is the forerunner of the concept of family planning. He quotes a verse from the Qur’an and two hadith which he considers as a ‘complete prescription for family planning’ and clinching evidence. He also quotes the opinion of renowned Scholars and Ulema to conclude that Islam is the originator of the family planning.

Qureshi is not stick to family planning in India but also makes a comparative analysis of family planning policies of different Islamic Nation whose majority population is Muslim and stated that despite powerful clergies in these nation didn’t find Islam antagonistic to the concept. The success stories of family planning in Muslim countries like Iran and Bangladesh are the result of involvement of the religious leaders and the inferences from religious text to support the exercise.

The book approaches the vexed issue of Religious demography very objectively rather than driven by emotional and political sentiment. It rightly asserted that family planning is not a Hindu-versus Muslim issue as two communities have similar statistics. There is range of socio-economic factors which determines the fertility behaviour. Therefore prejudices against Muslims based on False myth and misconceptions for population growth to capture political power is only an attempt to stereotype the whole community leading to their further otherization.

The book is not only restricted to encapsulation of the politization of demography but also covers the different strategies through which family planning can be promoted not only among Muslim but also the whole population as large in India. It attempt to mediate the ever widening gap between two communities through the help of facts and interpretation of data. It challenges the conventional falsehood through rigorous research ,case studies and example of community driven practices. In the current context where the politics of population is dominating the Indian political landscape this book is definitely a worth read for anyone who wants to clarify prejudicial views on population issue.

(Reviewers: Chanda Rani, Researcher at CSDS and Former post graduate student at Jamia Millia Islamia; Aamir Raza, Researcher at CSDS)

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