Fatwa council bans cloning, okays embryonic stem cell research

The National Fatwa Council is against human cloning for any purpose but welcomes the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research. This is provided the cells are not harvested from cloned embryos.

The council said today in March last year it had issued a fatwa against human cloning, but felt it was timely to raise the matter again in response to the latest scientific controversy where an alien cult known as the Raelians have claimed two births of cloned babies.

Its chairman, Datuk Dr Ismail Ibrahim, said the cloning of humans went against Islam's teachings on the sanctity of human life and the supremacy of God as creator.

"The status of human beings should not be lowered to that of animals. This is what cloning does," he told a Press conference at the Malaysian Islamic Advancement Department office here.

Reproductive human cloning (cloning for the sake of having a child and not for therapeutic research) in particular, had serious implications that could erode the family institution, human relationships and society, he added.

The cloned child's status would be difficult to determine, and for Muslims, this would complicate marriage and inheritance issues.

If human cloning took off as a trend, it would add to the problem of single mothers, Dr Ismail added.

"It goes against the natural order of the reproductive process, which is the joining of a man's sperm and a woman's egg to create a human being. Even this is scientifically established. For Islam, the man and woman must also be legally married," he said.

Human cloning does not require sperm. Instead, a woman's unfertilised egg is removed of its nucleus, and is fused with the nucleus of another cell from her body. The cell starts dividing to form an embryo which is planted into the woman's womb.

The council also decided that reproductive cloning by married couples was haram because the baby would not be a child, but a "twin" of the parents.

On the use of embryonic stem cells for therapeutic research, such as the growing of new organs for transplants, the council said it was permissible as long as the embryo was not cloned, and was below 120 days, or four months.

"Before 120 days, the embryo has not yet been infused with a soul (roh)," Dr Ismail said.