WORLD : Stop Having Children in the Name of the Prophet, Iran President Urges

<i> From Times wire service</i> s

President Ali Khamenei today told his countrymen that they can no longer use Islam as a justification for increasing the country’s population at the rate of five children per minute.

The official news agency IRNA quoted Khamenei as saying that the Prophet Mohammed initially encouraged his followers to have more children to help spread Islamic civilization, since there were under 100,000 people in the Arabian Peninsula at the outset of Islam.

“But this does not mean that for the rest of history every Muslim family is obliged to have 8, 10, or 12 kids,” Khamenei said. “Do not make an excuse out of the prophet if you want to have more children.”

The president said he would not “reject or insist on” birth control but that it was obvious that fewer children were easier to bring up and that parents could pay more attention to them.

Iran’s population growth rate is currently one of the highest in the world at 3.7% a year. IRNA said the population was estimated at more than 50 million in the latest census and that it was expected to double over the next 20 years.