16 September 2008

Kenya: Muslims Join Catholics in Opposing Proposed Abortion Law

Nairobi — Muslim leaders have joined Catholics in opposing a proposed law to legalize abortion, which has renewed controversy on the issue.

The leaders urged Members of Parliament (MPs) to throw out the Bill, stressing that it was against religious and human norms to legalize the procedure. The Bill, drafted by the Federation of Women Layers (FIDA-Kenya) and the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW), is yet to be tabled in the legislature.

Supporters of the Bill say complications arisisng from illegal, backstreet abortion are a major cause of hospitalization among women in Kenya. They also cite crisis pregnancies resulting from increased sexual violence, especially against minors.

But the Chief Kadhi Sheikh Hammad Kassim said Islam was against abortion and that Muslims will not sit by and see such a legislation being allowed to pass in Parliament. He reminded Muslim MPs on their obligation to protect the interests of the community and said they should come out strongly to oppose the Bill. "This law is clearly against the teachings of Islam and our (Muslim) MPs have an obligation to ensure that it is not passed," he said, according to the weekly Friday Bulletin, a Muslim newsletter published in Nairobi.

Sheikh Hammad said the only exception where the procedure is allowed in Islam is when the life of the expectant mother is in danger and the only way to save her life is through abortion. Another is after confirmation that the foetus is badly deformed. "But even these situations have to be certified by a reliable doctor and should be done before it (the foetus) attains 120 days," he said.

Similar sentiments were echoed by the chairman of Majlis Ulamaa Kenya (the National Council of Muslims Scholars) Sheikh Khalfan Khamis who also advised Muslim MPs and other legislators to value human life, he urged them to stand firm and reject the Bill. "We should not in any way allow such a legislation to be brought to parliament; it is against human nature," he said.

Sheikh Khalfan said Muslims had already stated their view on the matter and would not relent on their opposition regarding the proposed law. The Bill is expected to be tabled in parliament once it reopens.

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