Population Control:

Centrepiece of Imperialist Aggression Against the Muslim World

One of the most politically explosive incidents in this history of American foreign aid took place in Nigeria in early 1991. That was when a group of researchers uncovered a plot to plant fake Islamic teaching manuals in religious institutions in northern Nigeria.

According to newspaper reports appearing in several part of Nigeria during 1991 and 1992, the texts -- which presented an ideology in stark contrast to traditional Islamic views of contraception, abortion, and sterilization -- were written by a self-proclaimed "Islamic theologian" who received funds from UNFPA. Additional money was supplied by at least three U.S. government contractors involved in the promotion of birth control in developing nations.

Worse yet, the author of the "Islamic" booklets had participated in the preparation of a long-term "threat assessment" for the U.S. Department of Defence which recommended that population control be placed by western policy planners at the top of the International security agenda.

The project coincided with an enormous, high-pressure operation involving several developed country governments, the World Bank, and the United Nations to compel Nigeria's leaders to adopt a "population policy" -- a publicly articulated government position that favours measures to slash birth-rates. Such policies have been imposed on other nations through the joint efforts of international financial institutions and aid donors. As a general rule, the process involves conditions attached to loans and grants of foreign aid, threats to take actions adverse to the host country's economic or political interests, campaigns of disinformation carried out under the U.S. Agency for International Development's "technical assistance" programme, and ultimatums issued through diplomatic channels.

Nigeria adopted such a population reduction policy in 1988. It was met with predictable scepticism and condemnation.

In reality, however, far-sighted American officials had timed the hoax to start two years before the agreement was reached requiring Nigeria to initiate the U.S.-imposed population policy. According to an internal memorandum written by one of the U.S. contractors, the guides were part of a larger program to "explore the feasibility of working with organizations involved in family planning where Islamic attitude and opinion are important to program development and operation."

The idea was to attribute the texts to the Nigerian government through a series of payments to one Dr. A.B. Sulaiman, then an official of the Ministry of Health, who was given responsibility for coordinating a series of seminars and workshops expressly intended to undermine religious opposition to birth control. The overall goal of the campaign, according to a written contract, was to launch an "active explanatory effort to dispel the existing misconceptions about inconsistencies between Islamic teachings and population policy and family planning goals."

Despite all the carefully laid plans, of which the "Islamic" teaching materials were to form the cornerstone, the manual itself was never distributed. Religious leaders and reporters learned about the scheme from friends in the United States, and negative publicity ended the campaign.

Among other things, it was discovered that:

  • The author of the text, which was called A Resource Manual on Islam and Family Planning with Special Reference to the Maliki School, was one Abdel Rahim Omran, an Egyptian residing in the United States who had worked as an occasional adviser to the World Bank and who also conducted frequent missions abroad to promote birth control among Muslims on behalf of the United Nations Population Fund.
  • At the time of the discovery, Omran was the administrative head of a pro-Israel "think-tank" based at the University of Maryland. A 1989 newsletter from that institution's Centre for Development and Conflict Management described a recent trip by Omran to Africa and Asia, where Omran "coordinated and took part in a series of conferences on family planning in the Muslim world" and helped to engineer "a shift in attitudes from stiff resistance to acceptance of family planning."
  • Worst of all, Omran was working as a special consultant to the Department of Defence in 1988, when a series of studies was commissioned to examine dangers to U.S. national security posed by population trends. The studies, published in summary form by the Georgetown Centre for Strategic and International Studies a year later, warned of dwindling NATO troop strength and increased competition for government funds between military and social programs -- this the result of low birth-rates and the aging of the population. "Instead of relying on the canard that the threat dictates one's posture, [U.S. policymakers] must attempt to influence the form that threat assumes," the summary concludes. "[U.S.] policymakers must anticipate events and conditions before they occur. They must employ all the instruments of statecraft at their disposal (development assistance and population planning every bit as much as new weapon systems)."
  • Also participating in the Pentagon's 1988 demographic threat assessment project was Thomas Goliber of the Futures Group, a Washington-based research centre that specializes in government contracts in the fields of development and military research. It was the Futures Group that initiated the contract with Omran to write the theological source documents that were to be distributed in Nigeria. A United Nations directory of firms and organizations working on population programs identified the Futures Group as "a private organization concerned with policy analysis, development, and strategic planning," which works in "support of the analytical activities of several agencies."
  • Another USAID proxy contributing funds to the Omran scheme was the Pathfinder Fund, based near Boston, Massachusetts. According to a guide to population activities produced yearly by the United Nations, the Pathfinder project consisted of an effort to "revise source documents on Islam and family planning for theologians and teachers," as well as an endeavour to promote family planning among Islamic leaders, "to develop 'prototype' concepts and project designs in support of Islam and population policy development," and to locate "new materials needed from particularly Islamic leaders on certain topics for further use."

A brief overview of the organizations directly involved in the fake document scam reveals the extent to which the United States is willing to go in order to undermine Islamic institutions in pursuit of its "security" goals.

Like most U.S.-based population groups, Pathfinder has a colourful background. It was organized in the late 1920s by the eccentric soap company heir Clarence Gamble to promote "racial cleansing" in the United States through an unsuccessful attempt to hire black clergymen to preach contraceptives to the masses. According to a 1995 history of intervention in Latin America, Thy Will Be Done by Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett (Harper-Collins Publishers, New York), Pathfinder was one of several population-oriented "non-governmental" organizations which received money for its overseas operations from the Central Intelligence Agency.

Most recently, the group has been involved in a series of activities financed through the USAID Office of Population. Many of its "development aid" efforts could fairly be described as sabotage.

A directory of population projects in developing countries is published every year by the United Nations Population Fund. A recent edition lists a series of "three-day orientation seminars on population and family planning" that were conducted in Indonesia by Pathfinder for "120 religious leaders representing 70 conservative Islamic religious schools toward a goal of motivating them to become active supporters of the family planning movement." In Bangladesh, according to the same source, Pathfinder is responsible for implementing an "Islam and Family Planning" project in which 20 publications addressing ideas about birth control are to be prepared and distributed. Also in Bangladesh, Pathfinder is involved with a project that holds "receptions to honour two-child couples" and otherwise acts to "promote the two-child family as a social norm" and stress the health benefits of birth control -- "all within the context of Islam." Meanwhile, in Gambia, Pathfinder operates a "male motivation project" and a simultaneous exercise to dispatch "peer counsellors" to dispel "misunderstandings" about the benefits of U.S.-sponsored birth control.

A Nov. 14, 1986 memorandum to Pathfinder included the draft of a plan for circulation of the Omran text, revealing that the program was intended to counter an inclination on the part of Nigeria's Muslims "to be especially conservative and traditional" about matters involving human procreation.

The draft included this warning: "Any tendency toward politicisation in this matter might have serious effects." This cover memo was written by Moye W. Freymann and Linda Lacy of the Carolina Population Centre in Chapel Hill, North Carolina -- yet another actor in the U.S. effort to check population growth in the South.

Under contract with USAID, the Carolina Population Centre, housed at the University of North Carolina, centre drew up the plans for a $100 million population program which is widely credited with having brought about a reversal of Nigeria's pro-natalist policy in 1988. According to a computer database of USAID population activities, the centre is also active in the design and evaluation of population control activities in several other countries, including Indonesia, Egypt, and Jordan.


As controversial as it became once exposed, the Omran scheme is in reality a only very small part of a larger assault on Islamic institutions in Nigeria. An even larger propaganda activity is being run with USAID money by the Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University.

The "population communication project," as USAID calls it, received some $60 million in U.S. government funds between 1990 and 1995 for the dissemination of "messages" via the mass media. That global project was supplemented by an additional $15 million for communication activities within Nigeria alone.

According to an agreement between Johns Hopkins and USAID -- written in 1988, the year the population policy went into force -- the programme is intended to produce and distribute tens of thousands of newspaper articles, radio and television programs, dramas and announcements, commercial and educational films, music recordings, traditional entertainment, posters and booklets, special magazine inserts, and other propaganda for distribution throughout Nigeria in a variety of local languages.

Among the specific aims of its so-called "population communication services" campaign is the production of five-minute testimonials from religious leaders for broadcast in appropriate regions of the country, outreach campaigns for opinion leaders, and the preparation of "special materials addressed to specific groups," including promotional literature on "Islam and family planning." According to the same 1988 project authorization, these activities are designed to create "a broad political and social constituency supportive of family planning policies and programs" and to achieve "significant attitudinal changes favouring smaller family norms."

The use of clandestine communications to influence attitudes toward birth prevention is a risky, expensive, and complicated enterprise. Messages must be carefully and scientifically prepared before dissemination, so as to maximize the use of cultural symbolism and exploit the vulnerabilities of target groups. Often the process entails the most meticulous sort of sociological analysis, the recruitment of "in-place operatives" to assist in the development of themes; and a drawn-out process of audience pre-testing by which the reactions of targets are tested and analysed and messages are revised over and over until they provoke just the right response. Furthermore, the opinions of local people must be tested continuously in order to identify changes in attitudes and behaviour among specific groups (and sub-groups) who have been exposed to various aspects of the propaganda campaign.

Even with such sophisticated precautions in place, however, mistakes can -- and do -- happen. A message may lack subtlety and arouse misgivings. A local recruit may grow suspicious of the activities in which he or she is involved. Or, a public dispute about hiring or payment can erupt, jeopardizing the anonymity of the sponsor. For this reason, contacts are usually kept several steps away from the government or institution carrying out the action, with dummy corporations and front groups often serving as barriers to detection.

Because of the risks inherent in media manipulation, it is crucial that institutions or organizations carrying out such programmes on behalf of the U.S. government have a solid background in this kind of undertaking. Indeed, Johns Hopkins brings special expertise -- and experience -- to the task.


From the late 1940s to the early 1960s, the school served as a focal point for the development of the U.S. government's modern psychological warfare program. Under a contract between the U.S. Army and the Johns Hopkins University's Operations Research Office, the school researched and published several books and analytical reports which became the standard teaching materials for military psy-war personnel.

One of these publications -- A Psychological Warfare Casebook, an 880-page volume published in 1958 by the Johns Hopkins University Press -- contains basic guidelines for mass media campaigns to influence foreign audiences. "Themes used in any one campaign should not be large in number but they should be carefully selected, timely, and appropriate to the objectives sought and to the target audience or audiences addressed, and should be suitable for conveyance by the media of dissemination available," says one chapter in a section on "Media, Methods, and Techniques." It adds that the ideologies spread must appear "reasonable, timely, logical, and in accord with existing conditions," and that they must also be "expressed in the proper idiom, language, and accent in order to elicit the most widespread and sympathetic hearing." Moreover, continues the text, "messages must appear to be credible to the group addressed ... [and] presented in a manner consistent with the target audience's cultural background and understanding."

Another section in the same Operations Research Office publication discusses the "black propaganda" operation -- essentially an attempt to present messages in such a way that audiences falsely believe them to originate with members of their own community. In this respect, says the 1958 psy-war reference text, "black propaganda requires operatives thoroughly acquainted with every relevant aspect of the society and culture in question."

The "black" media operation also requires a substantial amount of "accurate intelligence" and the recruitment of collaborators from within the target population. Says the same textbook, "Full length ideological articles, positive and negative, can be provided, and if native journalists having sufficient integrity, intensity of conviction, identification with the 'best interests' of the group being propagandised, and persuasive skill can be secured, long-term propaganda effects may be forth coming."

Yet another section of the Johns Hopkins Operations Research Office Psychological Warfare Casebook is headed, "Music -- a Medium for Psychological Warfare," and describes the success of overseas radio campaigns that have utilized music as a means to disguise the propaganda content of broadcasts.

It can hardly be considered a surprise (or a coincidence) that the 1988 USAID-Johns Hopkins contract for population propaganda in Nigeria calls for actions that appear to jump right off the pages of the old Army psy-war instruction book. In fact, a "programme description" included as part of the written contract calls for:

  • workshops for media practitioners (such as producers and managers of television and radio, and editors and journalists of newspapers and magazines)... observation study tours for selected media practitioners... motivational and technical video programs for broadcast, or for transfer onto 16 mm film to be shown through mobile vans...
  • a music project [undertaken] nationally and by region to the end that popular songs containing family planning themes are composed and recorded by popular local musicians, and distributed and aired.
  • symposia and meetings for traditional and religious leaders at the national, regional, state and [local] levels... [assisting with] constituency-building activities addressed to influential groups, professional associations, and opinion leaders... motivation sessions for elders who could, in turn, influence younger generations... special materials addressed to specific groups (e.g. Islam and family planning...)
  • [the integration of] family planning messages into existing popular radio and television series (variety shows and soap operas), and into newspaper and magazine sections.
  • [production of] at least 3,000 television, radio, film, and folk media programs and spots, and newspaper and magazine inserts in at least five languages, [for] dissemination and use by Nigeria's 22 television and 35 radio stations, by its 19 daily and 18 weekly newspapers, and by its 9 major nationwide magazines.
  • 5-minute television and radio fillers with family planning messages, including recorded testimonials from traditional and religious leaders... television and radio specials and serials... television and radio spots, jingles, and newspaper ads.
The contract is likewise explicit about the intelligence-gathering function of the "population communication" project, as well the fact that the messages are intended falsely-attributed to local sources, as outlined in the "black propaganda" section of the Johns Hopkins psychological warfare reference:

"The contractor will identify and segregate audiences by age, sex, ethnic group, religion, residence (urban-rural), literacy, and language, determine the media and the messages optimally appropriate for each audience, and employ media and messages based on this determination," says the project description. It adds, "The contractor will optimise the influence of its family planning messages by taking all necessary and appropriate actions to assure these messages are clear, focused, consistent, reinforcing, and culturally appropriate, and that they are frequently and conspicuously disseminated and distributed by familiar, credible, and multiple channels of communication."


The mass media is not the only means by which foreign-funded "aid" programmes have attempted to undermine the influence of Muslim leaders to suit the needs of the global population control scheme. Another that is especially useful for influencing leaders is the "conference of experts."

Under a classic scenario, a conference will be organized by some major institution involved in the population program -- the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank, the United Nations, or a combination of institutions. But the donor invariably selects a local organization to serve as its "official" host.

Such a meeting is almost always billed as a forum for the debate of "all" points of view. But the foreign donor takes care to ensure that participants advocating its own ideology are in the majority. This not only provides the opportunity to claim that the outcome represents a "consensus" -- it also serves to discredit the views held by others, who are deliberately made to look like a defeated minority.

A typical meeting of this sort was convened in Indonesia on Feb. 19-24, 1990 as the International Congress on Islam and Population Policy. A memorandum from the files of the New York-based Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception, an American aid contractor specializing in sterilization, notes that the meeting demonstrated a "positive shift" in opinion in favour of western family planning. These changes in attitude, the April 6, 1990 report explains, "are related to continuously educating and informing religious leaders on the various dimensions of the population problem, and the health conditions of the child and mother in case of unplanned growth of the population, so that they can interpret Islamic teaching differently."

The same memorandum, written by Zein Khairullah, describes the purpose of the 1990 conference as to "develop a plan of action to encourage cooperation among countries in the Muslim world in the area of development and population" and to explore "alternatives and options for the formulation of population policy in the framework of national development in the Muslim world during the 1990s."

Conference recommendations include prompt action to assure the "propagation of Islamic values ... including the eradication of misconceptions of Islamic attitudes toward population issues." The memorandum adds: "The congress further urges all Muslim countries to formulate population policies according to country specific needs, and integrate these policies into development plans and giving them [sic] high priority."

But the highlight of the 1990 conference was the approval of the Aceh Declaration, which called upon "all Muslim Communities the world over to initiate and/or promote a concerted and coordinated effort in the fields of population policies and population programs."

Conferences like the one in Indonesia are meant to be publicized throughout the world as major political events. Thus it is curious that many of the same "experts" and "opinion leaders" seem to surface at almost all of them.

The 1990 Congress, in fact, was the second such meeting that had taken place in Indonesia. An earlier and smaller one was held there six years before. Indeed, according to a 1984 report in the International Planned Parenthood Federation's journal, People, the 1984 gathering was the outgrowth of yet another rendezvous which took place in Seoul, South Korea in 1980. The South Korea forum, says IPPF, officially created the congress, placing it under the direction of one Prof. Abdel Rahim Omran, an Egyptian living in the United States, and the key figure in the aborted conspiracy to plant revised religious documents about birth control in Nigerian teaching institutions.

An even more incredible history surrounds the group which was publicly charged with sponsorship of the 1990 gathering in Indonesia -- the International Islamic Center for Population Studies and Research in Cairo, Egypt. It, too, can be traced to a "conference of experts which took place almost 20 years earlier.


Although the International Islamic Centre for Population Studies and Research did not begin its active life until 1975, its roots can be traced to another "expert" conference -- this one organized by the London-based International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and held at Rabat in December of 1971.

The sponsor is important. IPPF is an outgrowth of the U.S. birth control and "eugenics" movements which established an "international headquarters at London in 1948 with funds from multinational corporations and explicitly racist organizations. Its purpose of existence was to extend "modern" birth control methods to virtually all of the non-industrialized world.

IPPF is also mentioned in formerly-classified planning files as a partner of the U.S. government in the effort to curb population growth and to contain the rise of the southern hemisphere. One such document, a report prepared in May of 1976 by a population task force of the Under Secretaries Committee of the National Security Council, offers a lengthy analysis of U.S. efforts to encourage population policies in developing countries. According to the report, population reduction policies had been rejected by most nations because of disagreements about the "need to inhibit fertility, because of suspicions about western motives, or for reasons related to what the task force called "religious influences."

The memorandum suggests that the government overcome such "sensitivities" by using groups considered "private" or "international" as fronts. According to its analysis, "support of family planning in uncommitted countries will normally have to be through international organizations like UNFPA and WHO and private voluntary organizations like the IPPF. [Such] organizations should be encouraged ... particularly in countries whose sensitivities make a direct approach on population planning inadvisable."

The IPPF-initiated Rabat gathering was attended by carefully-selected persons from predominantly Muslim nations. During the proceedings, a telegram from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was read which proposed the creation of a "demographic research centre" at Cairo's influential Al-Azhar University. The proposal was explained to conferees by one "Mr. Heneidi," the UNFPA representative at the conference, who said the new centre would be involved in religious and scientific training, publishing, sponsorship of seminars and workshops, and providing advice to other nations. It was also stressed during the meeting that the university's religious faculty would play a key role in the creation of the new centre and that its activities would be in accord with Islamic beliefs.

However, the sponsorship of the conference suggests otherwise. Indeed, history proves that the real goal was to gain a controlling interest in a research institute with credibility throughout the Islamic world -- thereby making it possible to orchestrate a series of gradual changes to introduce "new" opinions about population.

During its first years of operation, the centre maintained a low profile, issuing no major pronouncements that might attract suspicions about the its sponsors or their motives. Then in 1979, after the establishment had undergone a "honeymoon period" and had largely avoided critical scrutiny, it launched a three-day "Pan-Islamic Congress on Motherhood" which, in the words of a report appearing in a U.S. government-financed database, "urged Muslim women to avoid too many closely spaced pregnancies" and "to avoid high parity." The conference expressly approved the promotion of birth control among Muslim women. A year later, a paper presented at another conference on "Population and Family Planning" openly discussed the need for research to determine "the influence of Islam on contraceptive attitudes and practice."

Throughout the 1980s, the centre's pronouncements became more and more directly supportive of western population control aims, and the institute itself evolved into the hub for export of "revised" Islamic opinion that its founders had intended.

According to a directory of population groups published at the U.N., the centre's activities are varied. It conducts studies on "the implications of demographic trends," the "linkages between population growth and socio-economic development," and other "basic population data." More importantly, it carries out studies concerning the "socio-cultural determinants of fertility" and "attitudes to family planning," and participates in "communication" campaigns designed to "dispel misinformation on Islam and family planning." It also operates a study centre providing "professional and general education in the context of Islam" which is designed to promote "awareness" of population issues among staff and students at Islamic teaching institutions around the world. The centre's budget is surprisingly small in comparison to that of most other population organizations, particularly when one considers the broad scope of its work and its crucial importance in breaking down barriers to population reduction among the world's Muslims. Indeed, the centre received slightly less than $400,000 from UNFPA for its population work in 1990.

But the discrepancy can be explained by the way in which the centre works with its outside financiers. The institute's most conspicuous activity is its presence at international conferences where its pronouncements are treated as if they were the views of the entire Muslim world. But the role of the centre in these events is actually quite limited. In fact, such conferences are nearly always the creation of foreign aid donors, lending institutions, and powerful global family planning organizations.

In other words, the centre is a mouthpiece for a pronouncements from the west which -- like the "black propaganda" of the Johns Hopkins University Operations Research Office and population communication project -- must be attributed to a credible source. Thus, it is necessary only that the university's name be lent to various declarations to lend authority to otherwise-suspect ideas, while the expense of formulating and disseminating these opinions to governments, academic institutions, conferences, and the press is borne by the foreign donors themselves.

One might expect that such cynical manipulation would be far too sensitive to be discussed openly in journals and other literature. But a surprising number of reports give relatively explicit descriptions of project goals.

  • For example, the UNFPA, using its institute at Al-Azhar as a front, planned to conduct a five-year communication campaign targeting Somali religious leaders starting in 1990. The centrepiece of the ideological influence operation was a three-day conference on "Islam and Child Spacing," which took place at Mogadishu in July 1990. This description of the conference and its goals appears in a conference summary prepared for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID): "It served as a forum for exchanging opinions on the concepts of Islam on child spacing and formation of the Muslim family with [the intent] to motivate responsible officials in Somalia to begin planning to solve its population problems."
  • A database of population research maintained with U.S. government funds notes the results of attitude surveys done in Amara Haggo, Sudan. According to the report, none of the women interviewed in the region during 1991 were using any form of contraception, and most cited religious reasons for their refusal to do so. The report includes the following recommendation: "Health educators should refrain from using the terms family planning, birth control, or limiting the number of children since these could imply sin. They should use instead birth spacing which emphasizes the health of mother and child."
  • Open File, a newsletter of the IPPF which helped to set up the population center at Al-Azhar, describes a similar campaign in Bangladesh in its October 1991 issue. According to Mukkaram Chowdhury, chief of the IPPF-affiliated Family Planning Association of Bangladesh, the group is waging a propaganda campaign to convince Muslims and others not using birth control that large families are the cause of poverty, and that limiting births is the key to "responsible" parenthood.
  • A June 1991 report from the East-West Population Institute, a U.S.-funded group active in Asia, concludes that Islamic religious views are the main reason for high fertility in Pakistan, and urges that population programs find creative ways of enlisting the support of religious leaders.
  • A 1988 USAID project evaluation hints that people were offered bribes or other inducements to state pro-family planning opinions in a mass media campaign to popularise modern fertility control in Egypt through television programs. In the words of a database of USAID project activities: "According to the evaluation team, the presence of television video crews and the provision of small incentives during the question and answer sessions contribute to the success of these programs."
  • The August 1991 issue of the UNFPA newsletter Population reports that several Islamic leaders from Zanzibar had been recruited for special orientation sessions arranged by the U.N. group and held in Egypt. The article notes that virtually all of Zanzibar's people are Muslim and thus hold the view that "family planning is a contravention of God's commandments." It adds that the teaching program was explicitly intended to "counter such misbeliefs" and to persuade religious leaders to "spread the family planning message."


Yet another alarming story about the deception of Muslim peoples in West Africa appears in the December 1992 edition of the U.S. journal, International Family Planning Perspectives. The report is a narrative of a program run by two American foreign aid contractors -- the Population Council and Save the Children Federation (SCF) -- with the help of the local IPPF affiliate in Gambia.

According to the journal, residents of Gambia had overwhelmingly opposed to western-style birth control, believing, in the words of the article, that such interference with procreation is "discouraged by Islamic teachings." The response of the aid groups, it says, was to start a special project "to involve imams willing to teach about the connections between Islam, health, and family planning."

The report quotes a Population Council worker, Placide Tapsoba, who helped organize the campaign: "The spiritual head of each village is the imam. The people rely on him more than anyone else in the village; what the imam preaches is what they believe. If he preaches against family planning, they trust him. That is why we chose to go through the imam to reach the people."

With nearly U.S.$100,000 to spend on the "imam project," its planners went to work trying to recruit religious leaders who would be willing to "stress the compatibility of Islamic teaching with the prevention of unwanted births," the journal states. At first, the crew managed only to enlist the cooperation of a single imam. The article reveals that in June of 1990, this imam was taken to the initial "project area" for the express purpose of holding meetings with other religious authorities. Acting on behalf of his foreign handlers, he "emphasized the sizable maternal and child health problems in Gambia, and attempted to dispel misconceptions about contraceptive methods, point out ways in which Islam supports the use of family planning, and seek the imams' participation in similar meetings in their villages," says the journal.

Eventually, with the help of that first collaborator, the family planning promoters were able to convince a total of 22 imams to take part in the indoctrination process. As the journal adds, "Many said they had not been aware that family planning and Islamic teachings were compatible."

Between the fall of 1990 and late summer 1991, a series of public meetings took place in 26 villages throughout Gambia. The International Family Planning Perspectives report includes a detailed description of these gatherings:

"They were conducted by family planning motivators, two imams and an Islamic singer and drummer. At 4:30 p.m. on the day of the meeting, music called villagers to the site. The proceedings began with a prayer. The local imam then discussed Islam and family planning, backing up his argument -- that family planning benefits maternal and child welfare and brings husbands and wives closer -- with quotes from the Quran. After the national imam was introduced, he preached his support for family planning. SCF staff spoke about the benefits of their program; Department of Health and Gambia Family Planning Association staff discussed specific methods (although no particular method was emphasized) and how to obtain them in the village, and questions were asked by the audience."

According to the publication, the campaign was accompanied by sophisticated research to evaluate changes in belief as a result of the "imam project." Surveys were done in several villages after the first round of meetings, three months after the start of the project, and again at its conclusion. Similar studies were done in villages not involved in the scheme. The findings, according to the family planning journal, revealed that the project had indeed produced a profound change in thinking, as well as a "large increase" in acceptance of modern birth control methods.

But project organizers acknowledge that they encountered significant obstacles in implementing the plan. "The main source of difficulty the project coordinators faced," the report advises, "was convincing religious leaders to participate." Indeed, it adds, the program appears to have succeeded only because of some younger imams who had undergone prior orientation at western-funded institutions. Says the Population Council's Tapsoba, "Some of them are young people who went to study in Cairo. These people are more open to this kind of discussion."


The task of reversing the opinions of religious leaders such as those in Egypt, Nigeria, Gambia, and Indonesia is by no means simple. As the situations in these countries demonstrate, it must be done cautiously, slowly, and very, very carefully. One mis-step, as occurred in Nigeria, can bring about enormous protest and set project efforts back by countless years.

Covert influence campaigns are also extremely costly. Not only must extensive research be before deciding the content and context of messages, but host country collaborators must be recruited, educated, and employed in such a way that their links to outsiders are never even suspected. The establishment of "local agency" groups and the concealment of funding sources can also be a complicated and expensive process.

Given the magnitude of these operations and the amount of time invested, one can imagine that population control is an issue of the highest importance to policy-makers in Washington. Their concern, in fact, is somewhat self-evident.

Over the past several decades, political scientists, economists, and security planners, have foreseen a situation in which the influence of Europe and the United States will decline relative to the rest of the world. Invariably, these opinions have been based on projections about global population change.

The population of the United States, for example, dropped from 6 percent of the world's people in 1950 to just 5 percent in 1988; it is projected to fall to 4 percent in the early years of the twenty-first century -- and to begin declining in terms of actual numbers before the year 2020.

Similar predictions are made about Europe, which claimed over 15 percent of the Earth's total inhabitants in 1950, but barely 10 percent in 1985. Indeed, Europe is expected to have fewer than 7 percent of the earth's people in the year 2025. By the end of the 21st century, it is anticipated that the people of today's developing nations will outnumber those of the present-day industrialized world by a ratio of 18 to 1.

The relative demographic decline of the West is partly the result of birthrates lower than any ever recorded in all of world history. And it is partly the outcome of comparatively high fertility in the rest of the world.

"Disastrous demographic consequences seem possible as a result of low fertility," says Jean Bourgeois-Pichat of the International Committee for Cooperation in National Demographic Research (CICRED) in Paris. "The fate of the human species or at least of certain national populations is at stake in this process."

Pierre Lellouche, who served as an aide to French President Jacques Chirac as Paris mayor, envisions in an article published by Foreign Affairs a demographic vacuum in Europe ready to be filled by immigrants from North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia: "The African population is projected to triple within the next 30 years, reaching an estimated level of 1.6 billion. Moreover, the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent all have volatile admixtures of acute poverty, demographic explosion, and political instability. Together these regions will have some 4 billion people within 30 years, while due north sit 500 million aging Europeans already in a squall of demographic depression."

And demographer Jean-Claude Chesnais of the National Institute for Demographic Studies in Paris echoes the warning: "Europe faces an Islamization or Africanization as the demographic and economic gap between the two banks of the Mediterranean Sea widens and people move from south to north," he writes in the American Enterprise, a right-wing U.S. journal. "This gap is the greatest ever seen in the history of mankind, and it has serious social and political implications."

And Phyllis T. Piotrow, the chief of the Johns Hopkins University's USAID-funded population communication project, cautions in a 1978 publication of the Council on Foreign Relations: "when groups experience different fertility rates, the group with the highest per capita income and the greatest economic power is always the group with the lowest fertility. In these circumstances, population growth represents a threat to the status quo: to political dominance and economic and social stability."

Government officials take the situation at least as seriously. "If these trends continue for another generation or two," advises a report prepared for the U.S. Army Conference on Long-Range Planning in 1991, "the implications for the international political order and the balance of world power could be enormous."

Needless to say, the Muslim world is the primary focal point for the demographic fears of the west. Not only does Islam present a movement that is at odds with western ideology and interests -- it also sets up an obstacle to the promotion of aggressive "family planning" activities that could halt or even reverse present trends.

"Muslim culture has been described as conducive to the highest fertility rates in the world," says a blunt appraisal of "family planning" activities and their potential for curbing population growth, prepared nearly a quarter-century ago for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

"There are almost a billion reasons to suggest that Muslim influence will grow," writes political columnist Ben Wattenberg in a 1991 book, The First Universal Nation. "By far, the Islamic nations are the world's fastest-growing. The number of children born per woman is 1.7 in modern developed nations, 2.1 in Soviet bloc countries, and 4.5 in non-Islamic less-developed countries. In the Islamic nations the rate is 6.0." Wattenberg adds that the total Muslim population of the world was just 375 million in 1950, but that it is likely to reach 2 billion just 20 years into the next century.

From the American point of view, nothing less is at stake than control over the economic infrastructure of the world, its political institutions, its armies, and the abundant natural minerals and energy fuels found mainly in the southern hemisphere. With the stakes this high, it is sure that western nations will do anything necessary to escalate their campaign of depopulation in the developing world.


The concern about global population change is far from new. In fact, it has been recognized by scholars on both sides of the globe as far back as the very early years of the 20th century. In 1907, for instance, Egyptian author Yahya Siddyk issued a challenge to a European colonial establishment that had "conquered by the force of the cannon," but faced decline as a result of "hyper-extension." The rise of Islam, wrote Siddyk, "is a portentous fact, for its numerical strength is very great." And he predicted "a revolution without parallel in the world's annals." This threat to the colonial order was duly noted by author Lothrop Stoddard in a 1922 book named The Rising Tide of Colour Against White World-Supremacy.

And in 1929, British philosopher Bertrand Russell commented: "It cannot be expected that the most powerful military nations will sit still while other nations reverse the balance of power by the mere process of breeding."

By the time the United Nations was born in 1945, the anxiety over fertility differentials between the rich and poor nations had reached fever pitch. Indeed, a history of the U.N.'s population work notes that in 1946, a Royal Commission on Population had publicly declared that "the decline of the population of the West in relation to that of Asia 'might be decisive in its effects on the prestige and influence of the West.... The question is not merely one of military strength and security: It merges into more fundamental issues of the maintenance and extension of western views and culture.'"

Predictably, it was the British and the Americans who led the fight to include a Population Commission under the umbrella of the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Population Commission, in turn, became administratively linked to the General Assembly through the Population Division, which was headed by an American, Dr. Frank Notestein, formerly the director of the Princeton Office of Population Research.

Notestein possessed more than a passing familiarity with the western interest in population control. Indeed, he was one of the west's most influential thinkers. At an April 1944 conference sponsored by the Milbank Memorial Fund in New York, Notestein argued forcefully against a program of economic and industrial development in the Southern Hemisphere in the absence of accompanying policies of fertility control.

"Such a program," said Notestein, "would yield populations that would be larger and stronger than those that would arise from the perpetuation of past policies. By launching a program of modernization the now dominant powers would in effect be creating a future world in which their own peoples would become progressively smaller minorities, and possess a progressively smaller proportion of the world's wealth and power. The determination of national policy toward the undeveloped regions must be made in the light of that fact."

From the beginning, western leaders were fully conscious of the sensitivity of the birth control issue. A documented history of the population control program in China, prepared by the U.S. government-funded East-West Communication Institute in Honolulu, describes early rejection of birth control by Mao Zedong. On Sept. 16, 1949, two weeks before launching the People's Republic, Mao announced his official view that China's large population "is a very good thing." He specifically attacked western proposals to introduce birth control as "a means of killing the Chinese people without shedding blood," and predicted a future nation "where life will be abundant and culture will flourish." Chairman Mao's remarks not only illustrate an opinion common to virtually all "third world" leaders at the time, but also demonstrate the presence of overtures from the West to curb Asian fertility in the period immediately following World War II.

Further evidence of attempts to introduce birth control appears in a text written by noted French demographer Alfred Sauvy in the 1940s: "It creates a very disagreeable impression to see people who are white, European, or of European origin, trying to sow the seeds of sterility in populations that are about to escape from under their domination," Sauvy remarked.

Obviously, some means would have to be found to overcome the hostility that existed in the developing world toward the imposition of population control by rich countries. Toward this end, UN Population Division chief Notestein proposed a double-edged strategy. First, he urged the use of extensive propaganda for limiting births as part of a broader "health" strategy, and, second, he recommended the recruitment of a cadre of "native" elites who would adopt western views as their own and help to influence domestic policy.

"It is important that specific and widespread propaganda be directed to developing an interest in the health and welfare of children rather than in large families for their own sake," Notestein insisted in his 1944 presentation to the Milbank Memorial Fund conference. "Such education would also involve propaganda in favour of controlled fertility as an integral part of a public health program." He added that it will be necessary "to develop a native leadership that will acquire new values rapidly and serve as a medium for their diffusion. To this end native political leaders, civil servants, and native middle classes are needed."

Notestein's blueprint for bureaucratic interference and group penetration remains to this day the backbone of U.N. population operations.


Indications are that open hostility toward western population activities is growing around the world. In the summer of 1994, just before the UN held its population conference in Cairo, a series of street demonstrations forced Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to abandon her plans to attend the controversial meeting. Similar grassroots protest led Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller to follow suit. The boycott quickly grew to include Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Lebanon.

And intellectual awareness is likewise on the increase. "No good Muslim will ever accept any human directive which contravenes the laws of Allah," begins a pamphlet published in response to the national population control program adopted by the Nigerian military government in 1988. The writer, Alhaji Usman Faruk, one-time governor of North Western State (now divided into Sokoto and Niger states), is a highly respected religious leader.

According to Faruk, the new population policy is certain to "lead the entire country into unpardonable regret." Discussing the divinely ordained balance between male and female and between human numbers and resources, he adds, that those who support anti-natalist programmes fail to take into consideration the resources that are made available to righteous people as a result of divine providence. "But God, on the other hand, being the Creator of all and Master of all, cannot be said to be taken unawares of certain developments," says Faruk. "In other words, the Islamic stand is that whatever our numbers are, it is easy for Allah to provide for all in His own Divine way."

Faruk presents the example of Saudi Arabia, whose economy at one time depended on meagre funds derived from pilgrimages and local trade. "However, when the population of Saudi Arabia started growing rapidly so as to outpace the available food, God, in His usual mercy and mysterious ways, caused the discovery of petrol -- in such quantity that has made it possible to support a population more than a hundred times the past population of Saudi Arabia."

The booklet also foresees devastating implications for morality and family life, leading Muslim societies to imitate "the cursed and debased societies of Europe and America." The widespread promotion of anti-pregnancy drugs and devices, Faruk adds, will lead to "an earthquake of moral laxity."

The author raises some pertinent points for leaders of countries tempted to cave into external pressures for family planning. The government, he insists, does not own the Nigerian people and therefore "cannot say they will reduce us or increase us like we are houses." Nor has the national leadership even revealed "how many Nigerians she wants to reduce even if Nigerians agree to be treated as sheep," Faruk writes. Furthermore, the country's rulers do not " know what will be the balance of her citizens after it has effected the so-called reduction" or "the extent of the country's resources" needed to sustain the population.

But Faruk is most adamant in his attacks on the West for its aggressive pursuit of population control. He notes that similar programs in Egypt led to the sterilization of both women and men, while, at the same time, "the Europeans who were controlling and funding the scheme ... handed over an opposite scheme for the Israelis," dispensing propaganda and financial incentives to bring about higher birthrates with the intent of seeing the Jewish population surpass that of the Arabs.

"Therefore, I have a strong suspicion that Nigeria's position within the African continent has well qualified her for the same treachery hatched and unleashed on Arabs 35 years ago." Faruk concludes: "One of the measures to halt Nigeria's rise to super power level is therefore through orchestrated family planning and birth control. Every known trick and deceit has been wrapped up in the scheme."

A more recent text, Islam and Child Spacing, by Ibrahim N. Sada, arrives at the same conclusion. The author, who heads the Department of Islamic Law at Ahmadu Bello University, explains the traditional Muslim rejection of birth control in these words: "Islam is regarded by the Muslim as a natural way of life. All its rules for the individual as well as for the general public are based on the fundamental principle that man should behave and act in consonance with the natural laws working in the universe and that he must refrain from any course of life that may force him to deviate from the purpose for which Allah created him."

Moreover, "the greatest reward Allah gives a person for his commitment to God, right in this world, is to give him various children. If one were to look at all the famous and known families in this country, it will be found that they are strong and famous not on account of their money or power but on account of their large number. If this is true of individual families, what more of a nation? This is why the Prophet clearly stressed that Muslims should marry and generate for He will be proud of their large number in the last day."

Like Faruk, Sada raises questions about the motives and morals of foreign peoples who propose birth control for the Islamic world. The booklet includes several quotes from early twentieth-century authors in the west who feared the rise of the dark races as the fertility of Europeans began its downward trend, and it contends that Islam is entirely incompatible with the western lifestyle.

His commentary ends with a plea to Nigerians: "We must use all available means to fight the trend if only to save our country from imperialist machinations to destroy it.... We must be left alone to decide our own interests and shape our destiny in line with our socio-cultural and religious values."

Agreement among scholars is widespread. "Artificial birth control is rebellion against the law of nature," said Dr. Aliu O. Akano of the Islamic Medical Association at a conference on population control held in 1992 at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. "It is against the very nature of man to interfere with procreation. Therefore, what needs to be changed is not the natural mode of behaviour but man's whims and tendencies which induce him to resort to easy courses and a life of pleasure without responsibility. To do otherwise is a sure way to destruction."


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