Niger's president blames 'misreading of Islam' for high birth rate

Niger’s president blames ‘misreading of Islam’ for his country having the highest birth rate in the world at more than seven children per mother

  • Mahamadou Issoufou has advocated contraception in the Muslim country
  • He says women should not get married aged 12 because they are not responsible
  • He also warned about the effects of population growth and climate change 

Niger’s president says a misreading of Islam is to blame for his country’s explosive birth rate.

Mahamadou Issoufou, who counts Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel among his supporters, has been trying to drive down his country’s birth rate of more than seven children per woman.

He has advocated family planning and contraception in the 98 per cent Muslim country but says a simple misreading is the cause of the population problems.

Niger’s president Mahamadou Issoufou says a misreading of Islam is to blame for his country’s explosive birth rate of seven children per woman

He told The Guardian: ‘Before Islam came, women used to be married at the age of 18 but, due to a misreading of Islam, young women were having babies at the age of 12 or 13. But what does the Qur’an say? 

‘If an educated person reads the Qur’an, it talks about responsible parenthood. Islam says you should only have children if you can take good care of them and properly educate them.

‘Schools need to educate young girls because we do not want them having children at 12 or 13. Ideally, we want to keep them in school as long as possible, until age 18. This is something new to us.’

Issoufou has faced resistance from some religious leaders for his views on contraception but he fears the huge population growth combined with climate change could represent a real geopolitical problem.

He warned that migration may even exceed the levels seen in World War II.

Issoufou has overseen a slight decline in the birth rate to six children per woman.

Issoufou, who counts Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel among his supporters, fears population growth and climate change will alter the geopolitical landscape

In 1990, Niger’s population stood at 8million but by 2018 it had soared to 22.4million. 

Issoufou warned the population of Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, will double in 17 years and by 2050 it will have the second biggest population in Africa behind Nigeria.

This population growth will be mirrored across Africa, creating a huge wave of migration into Europe, exacerbated by the changing climate which will cause droughts and flooding, he warns.

He says Africa will suffer first and blames the wealthy across the world for causing his continent suffering.

The president says when people understand the cause of climate change, it could lead to ‘anger and social turmoil’.

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