Saturday, 18 January 2014

Not what you would expect: Iran. Shi'ism and Fertility Treatment

In a provocatively titled article, 'The Islamic Republic of Baby-Making',  the online world affairs periodical Foreign Policy addresses an unexpected dimension of Shi'i Islamic thinking in Iran, centering around an issue that affects a large segment of the population in various Middle Eastern societies.

IVF Research Lab in Iran

IRAN, LIKE OTHER MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRIES, has an extremely high infertility rate. More than 20 percent of Iranian couples cannot conceive, according to a study conducted by one of the country's leading fertility clinics, compared with the global rate of between 8 and 12 percent. Experts believe this is due to the prevalence of consanguineous marriages, or those between cousins. Male infertility is "the hidden story of the Middle East," says Marcia Inhorn, a Yale University medical anthropologist and a specialist on assisted reproduction in the region. Couple that with a shocking, multidecade decline in the average number of children born per woman, and it means that fertility treatment is needed in Iran more than ever.

Avicenna Centre for Reproductive Biotechnology
The attitudes of the Islamic Republic's clergy is not exactly what one would expect regarding such a delicate issue, which touches at the very core of relations between the sexes and, with that, also at the foundations of the social conservatism that can be considered the norm even among many progressive-minded Muslims.
while the world's attention has been focused on Iran's nuclear program, the country has been quietly working on a different sort of breakout capacity. The Islamic Republic -- governed by its strict mullahs, who've managed to botch progress in fields ranging from domestic manufacturing to airport construction -- has unexpectedly transformed itself into the fertility treatment capital of the Muslim Middle East. Iran now boasts more than 70 clinics nationwide, which attract childless couples, Sunni and Shiite alike, from throughout the region.
It is actually the centrality of the family which forms the impetus for this  acceptance of medical and scientific progress. It has also forced a return to the tenets of the faith and  to the principles underlying the Shari'a in order to advance drastic reinterpretations of relevant stipulations of Islamic doctrine and law: 
Although, to Westerners, Iran's Shiite clerics might appear reactionary, they are downright revolutionary when it comes to bioethics. In recent years, they have handed down fatwas allowing everything from stem-cell research to cloning.
...medical specialists set about finding a religious solution, seeking the support of sympathetic mujtahids(clerics qualified to read and interpret the Quran).The Shiite tradition of reinterpreting Islamic law was central to the clerics' willingness to go along -- in stark contrast to Sunni jurisprudence's focus on scholarly consensus and literal readings of the Quran, which has meant few fresh legal rulings on modern matters.
...Iranian clerics' willingness to issue innovative religious rulings coincided with a changing political and demographic climate that also spurred fertility treatments. In the wake of the 1979 revolution, the country embarked on a quest to boost population, but by the late 1980s and early 1990s, as Iran struggled to rebuild in the aftermath of its devastating war with Iraq 
However, there still is a catch:
IRAN'S LEGAL SYSTEM HAS YET TO CATCH UP with the implications of third-party fertility treatments. Under Iran's Islamic family law, babies born of sperm or egg donation fall into the legal category of adopted children and stepchildren, who are not permitted to inherit property from non-biological parents. Couples thus must find alternative ways to put aside assets to provide for these kids, and the rights and responsibilities of biological parents (the egg or sperm donors, who are meant to remain confidential but whose identities are sometimes disclosed in practice) remain unclear.
 To read the whole article click here


2 comments:

Hafiz Mansoor said...

Islam is a religion of peace http://preachingofislam.blogspot.com

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