Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has renewed his call for Muslim couples to eschew birth control, stating in a nationally televised speech that “Nobody can interfere in God’s work. The first duty here belongs to mothers.”
Speaking from Istanbul, Erdogan announced Monday that “no Muslim family” can use birth control and abide by their religion, speaking before the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV). “We will follow the road that my God and dear Prophet [Muhammad] say,” he told the audience.
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reports that his speech was intended to grant life advice to the young members of the TÜRGEV program, with birth control being only one of the dangers Erdogan encouraged his audience to avoid. The others included becoming a member of a terrorist group, with specific mentions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State (ISIS), and to avoid “addiction to technology.”
For much of his life as a public official, Erdogan has campaigned to discourage Muslim families from limiting the number of children they have, arguing that the religion demands procreation and active participation in the increase in the number of Muslims nationwide. The New York Times recalled in 2014 that then-Prime Minister Erdogan had led a campaign against cesarean sections, “arguing that women who give birth that way usually cannot have more than one child.” The Mayo Clinic suggests that the risk associated with cesarean sections do increase with every subsequent procedure, but there is no evidence they outweigh the risks of multiple natural births.
Of births generally, Erdogan said in 2014 that, for Muslim mothers, “one or two is not enough,” and that use of birth control is tantamount to “treason.” He has declared his ideal family size for all Muslim families to be three children.
In addition to encouraging Muslim families to bear more children, Erdogan has made repeated claims that Muslims should be proud of their discovery of America, hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus, most recently making the claim that Muslims discovered the Americas while attempting to convince the communist government of Cuba to allow the construction of mosques in that country. Erdogan has claimed that Muslims have a responsibility to debunk the Columbus story, basing his claim on the fact that Columbus described some land formations in the Caribbean as similar to mosques, because of their dome-like structure. No evidence exists among respected historians that any Muslim empire from Europe, Africa, or west Asia landed in the Americas before 1492.
Erdogan’s critics have warned on multiple occasions that he has exhibited signs of promoting Islamic supremacy. In January, Deputy Chair of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Ümit Özdağ accused Erdogan of having “Wahhabi tendencies,” citing what he saw as a long-term project to turn Turkey into a Muslim Brotherhood hub. Selahattin Demirtas – the head of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), another minority party that has become a political home for Kurdish Turks and Christians – has made similar statements, accusing Erdogan of seeking to establish a “caliphate” in Turkey.