The mainstream media and Islamic advocacy groups in the United States constantly tell us that female genital mutilation is a cultural practice that has nothing to do with Islam. They do this despite the fact that the among the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, Shafi’is consider circumcision obligatory for women; Hanbalis say it is an honorable custom, but not obligatory; Hanafis say it should be done as a courtesy to the husband. None of the three, you’ll note, say that the practice is wrong, immoral, un-Islamic.
Anyway, the upshot of this situation is that while most Westerners take for granted, if they’ve ever heard of female genital mutilation at all, that it is un-Islamic, it remains only Muslims who haven’t gotten this message.
“For Kurdish Girls, a Painful Ancient Ritual,” by Amit R. Paley for the Washington Post, December 29 (thanks to Morgaan Sinclair):
TUZ KHURMATU, Iraq – Sheelan Anwar Omer, a shy 7-year-old Kurdish girl, bounded into her neighbor’s house with an ear-to-ear smile, looking for the party her mother had promised.
There was no celebration. Instead, a local woman quickly locked a rusty red door behind Sheelan, who looked bewildered when her mother ordered the girl to remove her underpants. Sheelan began to whimper, then tremble, while the women pushed apart her legs and a midwife raised a stainless-steel razor blade in the air. “I do this in the name of Allah!” she intoned.
As the midwife sliced off part of Sheelan’s genitals, the girl let out a high-pitched wail heard throughout the neighborhood. As she carried the sobbing child back home, Sheelan’s mother smiled with pride.
“This is the practice of the Kurdish people for as long as anyone can remember,” said the mother, Aisha Hameed, 30, a housewife in this ethnically mixed town about 100 miles north of Baghdad. “We don’t know why we do it, but we will never stop because Islam and our elders require it.”
Kurdistan is the only known part of Iraq –and one of the few places in the world–where female circumcision is widespread. More than 60 percent of women in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq have been circumcised, according to a study conducted this year. In at least one Kurdish territory, 95 percent of women have undergone the practice, which human rights groups call female genital mutilation.
The practice, and the Kurdish parliament’s refusal to outlaw it, highlight the plight of women in a region with a reputation for having a more progressive society than the rest of Iraq. Advocates for women point to the increasing frequency of honor killings against women and female self-immolations in Kurdistan this year as further evidence that women in the area still face significant obstacles, despite efforts to raise public awareness of circumcision and violence against women. […]
Supporters of female circumcision said the practice, which has been a ritual in their culture for countless generations, is rooted in sayings they attribute to the prophet Muhammad, though the accuracy of those sayings is disputed by other Muslim scholars….
Of course. But they don’t seem to be able to dispute the accuracy of those sayings effectually enough to curb this practice where it is found among Muslims.