Islam respects women. Islam prevents women from being made into mere sex objects. Islam provides for the "portable seclusion" of the burqah. In Islam there is no decadence, no exploitation, as there is in the cruel and intolerable West. If anything at all is ever to be found inhumane in the treatment or status of women in Muslim societies, even if those societies are suffused with Islam and its attitudes, that has nothing to do with Islam. See Shirin Ebadi. See Fatima Mernissi. See Leila Ahmad. See Leila Abu-Lughod. No, whatever bad things happen to women within Muslim societies has nothing to do with Islam but only with "cultural practices" that -- let us all repeat again -- have n-o-t-h-i-n-g to do with Islam.
Muslim "feminists" -- the sometimes sensible-sounding ones (Fatima Mernissi, less often Leila Ahmad) and the almost-never-sensible-ones (Abu-Lughod)-- have changed a good deal over the years. Now they are quick to sense that Islam is being implicated in the mistreatment by Muslim men, in Muslim countries, of Muslim women. This is something they don't like, and there is a quick circling of the wagons to make sure that in no case is Islam itself to be blamed. The fact that a manual of surgery on the subject of partial or full clitoridectomies is not appended to the Qur'an should fool no one. The text of Qur'an, the practices of the Sunnah (derived largely from Hadith and Sira) inculcate a view of women and of their distinct differences from, and inferiority to men, which naturally gives men the right to interfere and to cut-and-paste, with the emphasis here on cutting, in order to create a More Perfect Woman, less menacing in her dangerous sexuality.
That is also why she, that creature, must be covered up -- for men are poor, weak, forked things, and need to be protected from those wiles and endless guiles and come-hitherings of women. They therefore must be covered up for the same reason that they must be cut, here and there, to make sure that their centers of pleasure are removed. Otherwise there is no telling what they might do to entice men, or to drag the honor of their families into the dust.
Does the general message of Islam, do the attitudes toward women that naturally flow from familiarity with, and deep belief in, the texts of Islam, do anything to encourage the practice of what is clumsily called Female Genital Mutilation? Or is there no relation between the two, as Fatima Mernissi et al. would smilingly, plausibly, sweetly (with the hysteria just underneath, ready to explode) have you believe?
What do you believe?
Contrary to what Fatima Mernissi, Leila Ahmed, Leila Abu-Lughod, Diana Eck, and Shirin Ebadi, say about Female Genital Mutilation and the mistreatment of women in general, it would be far truer to say that those Muslim peoples and polities most willing to overlook the tenets and attitudes of Islam are those where women have the best chance at something like a semi-decent life. It is precisely to the extent that a country observes the Shari'a, or tries to, that determines the level of hideousness of the treatment of local Muslim women.
Forget, everyone, what Mernissi and Ebadi and Ahmed and assorted running dogs of Islam -- Karen Armstrong comes to mind -- say about Islam and "feminism" or "Feminism and Islam." Read Hirsi Ali. Read Azam Kamguian and those who blog at the Homa Darabi website (start with the scathing reviews of Shirin Ebadi). Forget the purveyors of nonsense (Purveyors of Nonsense To His Majesty King Abdullah, Hassan, Hussein, Muhammad, whatever you want, since round about 1985, when the whole ridiculous "Islam and Feminism" thing got started).
It would help if every young female marching off to "help the people" in Iraq or Afghanistan were to first, seriously, sit down and read carefully both the articles by such people as Azam Kamguian on Islam and women, and then as well to read the study of Islam and its incompatibility with human rights written by Reza Afshari. And see, in particular, Reza Afshari's unanswerable dissection of the smiling dishonesty of that phony "feminist" Fatima Mernissi, who started out as a self-proclaimed defender of women's rights, and rather quickly, seeing what this might do to the image of Islam, became a sudden Defender of the Faith, with a highly imaginative version of that Faith and its supposed history of "reform."