How can the Guardian realistically expect to end this practice if it is afraid to expose the Islamic justifications for it? No, Muslims did not invent female genital mutilation, and are not the only people who practice it. But they are the only group whose theological and legal traditions contain justification for it. Until that changes, many more women will fall victim to this practice, no matter what the Guardian does.
Muhammad is said to have justified the cutting of women’s genitals: “A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.” (Sunan Abu Dawud 41.5251) The problem with this is that the distinction between cutting and cutting severely is subjective.
Some Islamic authorities say that this is a weak hadith. That’s wonderful. I hope they manage to convince every Muslim authority in the world that this is the case. Unfortunately, many remain misunderstanders of Islam. A few examples:
Gambia: “Alhaji Abdoulie Fatty, the Imam of State House Mosque has rebuted [sic] claims published on 1st June edition of the Daily observer, entitled ‘Female Genital Cutting Unislamic’ as utter rubbish.” — Gambia’s Daily Observer, June 6, 2007
Egypt: “Omayma Idris, a Cairo-based gynaecologist, says that more than 90 percent of all married Egyptians today are thought to have undergone mutilation. After the prohibition, she says, one could see a decline, ‘but since the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists are in power in Egypt, the numbers are on the rise again; they encourage families to do it again.’…Salafists and representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood – the political home of Egypt’s President Mohamed Mursi – want to see female genital mutilation legalized again.” — Deutsche Welle, November 23, 2012
The late Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi of Egypt’s venerable Al-Azhar University once called circumcision “a laudable practice that did honor to women.”
Indonesia: “The the Muslim intellectual Sumanto Al Qurtuby says the faction that supports tetesan [female genital mutilation] is linked to the Salafi and Wahhabi community, which together with other fundamentalist groups are concentrated in Bandung and Aceh. They believe that circumcision is ‘morally’ encouraged by Sharia, or Islamic law, and reiterated in the hadith, in anecdotes related to the life of the Prophet Muhammad.” — Asia News, December 7, 2012
Australia: “Islamic law permits by definition, by prophetic statement and by practice female circumcision” — Australian Imam Afroz Ali, The Australian, December 24, 2012
There is also justification for the practice in Islamic law:
“Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) (by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the bazr ‘clitoris’ [this is called khufaadh ‘female circumcision’]).” — ‘Umdat al-Salik e4.3, translated by Mark Durie, The Third Choice, p. 64
“Female genital mutilation: facts you need to know about the practice,” by Maggie O’Kane for The Guardian, February 6 (thanks to Piers):
Link to video: End female genital mutilation: join the Guardian’s campaign
• The first known record of female genital mutilation dates from the time of the pharaohs. The mummified body of a princess was found to have been genitally mutilated.
• Although the practice is mainly found in some Muslim societies, who believe, wrongly, that it is a religious requirement, it is also carried out by non-Muslim groups such a Coptic Christians in Egypt, and several Christian groups in Kenya. It is used to control women’s sexuality and fertility by mutilating their sex organs to make sex too painful.
• Over 130 million women living in the world today have been mutilated.
• 6,000 girls are mutilated daily in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and in diaspora communities.
• The practice is usually carried out by a “cutter” midwife in villages using a razor blade, but in some countries such as Egypt and Indonesia it is carried out in clinics and hospitals.
• Up to 24,000 girls are at risk of cutting in the UK, according to one estimate.
• The practice has been outlawed in the UK since 1985 but in 28 years no one has been prosecuted.
• During the same period In France, 100 people have gone on trial for female genital mutilation and there have been 29 convictions.