AP 9 Sep 94 3:28 EDT V0879 1994. The Associated Press
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- The prospect of an Islamic-Vatican alliance undermining the U.N. population conference has dried up with Muslims joining complaints that Vatican views on abortion are slowing down the meeting.
"We are drowning in these issues ... let's move on to others," Mohammed Ali Taskhiri, head of the Islamic Republic of Iran's delegation, said in an interview.
Taskhiri appeared before the conference Thursday in the white turban of a "mullah," or religious leader, and said the meeting could constitute a "positive step" toward world cooperation on family planning.
He listed some objections to the conference's draft plan setting 20-year guidelines for population policy. But his speech did not echo outraged cries by other Muslim politicians that the meeting would encourage promiscuity and homosexuality.
Such Muslim anger had raised the prospect of an alliance with the Vatican, whose campaign against the meeting's proposed statement has culminated in four days of frustrating debate over abortion.
That alliance, however, appears to have crumbled because many Muslim complaints about the draft statement were based on different moral concerns than those of the Holy See.
Unlike the Vatican, Muslims do not oppose artificial birth control outright. And on abortion, there are differing views of what is allowed under the Koran, Islam's holy book, and Muslim law.
In fact, Taskhiri said Iran agreed to compromise language on abortion that the Vatican is fighting, a stance that conference officials say has been joined by Pakistan and other Muslim-majority states.
In his speech, Taskhiri repeated concerns expressed by many Muslims over the conference document: it should to nothing to undermine the family, the life of the unborn child should not be "compromised," and "sexual health education" should be limited to adults.
"One should not overlook the dangerous implications ... of expanding this education to children and teen-agers," he said. "We reject this very strongly."
He also said the conference "should not be exploited for the recognition of immoral behavior and homosexuality or measures which undermine religion."
That issue most Muslims would agree on. Abortion and artificial birth control, though, are another matter.
"The Muslim world has not come to grips yet with family planning," Riffat Hassan, a Pakistani professor of Islamic studies, told a seminar on religious views at the population conference.
Some Islamic radicals oppose birth control as a Western plot to limit Muslim growth. But the Muslim nations of Egypt, Bangladesh, Morocco, Tunisia and Indonesia have been praised for their family planning programs.
In most Muslim states, including Iran, abortion is allowed only to save the life of the mother. But Tunisia has legalized abortion. And some clerics have argued that sympathy should prevail for poor parents whose birth control method has failed.
Hassan, a professor at the University of Louisville in the United States, said no Koranic verse deals directly with family planning and abortion.
Opponents of abortion quote the Koran's Sura of the Cattle, verse 151, which says, in part: "Ye slay not your children because of penury - - We provide for you and for them."
But some with a more liberal view argue that a saying by Prophet Mohammed leaves a time for ending pregnancies. The prophet is quoted as saying the soul does not enter the fetus -- prompted by an angel -- until the fourth month.