Saturday, June 9, 2007

A reply to Popovich's post about FGM

This is a reply to Popovich, an Australian blogger who read my post on FGM at Pommygranate's blog.
Here it is,

I have to admit that his reply was well-searched and well-written however, I would like to point out a few things.
"Except the part where she uses the term Female Genital Circumcision, but than refers to it as FGM thereafter, which actually stands for Female Genital Mutilation. A telling manifestation of double-think right there, I’d say.""

Female Genital Mutilation( FGM) or Female Genital Cutting (FGC) or Female Circumcision are all terms used to describe the same practice. I just used the terms interchangeably.

"Anyway, what is important is how a person justifies their actions - is it because “that's just how we do things round here” (ie. a cultural practice, like shaking hands in the West or rubbing noses amongst the Eskimos), or is it because the practice is made compulsory or recommended by their religious belief system? "

Ok..are all cultural practices derived from religion?

"The question is does Islam give justification for the practice?"

In a Hadith not in the Qu'ran. I will explain the difference in a while.
"Anyhow, are there any Christian priests in Ghana giving religious justification for FGM or does it exist despite the opposition of the Church? "

"In primarily Christian countries (for instance, Ghana), women undergoing circumcision make reference to the practice in the Old Testament, being performed by one of Abraham's wives, Sarah. However Genesis 17:23-27 only mentions circumcision being performed on male members of the household, and not by Sarah."

I also want to add that FGM was discouraged by priests, female Muslim activists and christian missionaries in Ghana but it still continues to exist because it is a cultural practice of course.

"FGM is certainly “obligatory” in most schools of Islam. In most schools it is seen as “noble”, “honorable” and “recommended”, but not obligatory."
The Maliki school holds that female circumcision is Sunnah, while Hanafi school as well as a reported view from the Hanbli school maintain that it is not sunnah; rather it is merely a makrumah (customarily recommended act, but no provisions in the Qur’an or Sunnah obligate nor recommend it). The Shafi`i school, on the other hand, and the famous view of the Hanbali school are of the opinion that it is mandatory as in the case of male circumcision.

"Anyhow, Kizzie sites three example here, two of conferences and one of a “meeting” of Muslim scholars where FGM was denounced. Note that all three events are from the last 2 years."

Fair enough!
I just mentioned recent conferences. I didn't know that I have to present a whole list of conferences held in the 20th and 21st century.

You have to keep in mind that:
-Most of the action taken to stop this practice was initiated by the UN for e.g:-
"n 1989, the Regional Committee of the WHO for Africa passed a resolution urging participating governments "to adopt appropriate policies and strategies in order to eradicate female circumcision" and "to forbid medicalization of female circumcision and to discourage health professionals from performing such surgery."
"In 1980, UNICEF announced that its anti-FGM program is "based on the belief that the best way to handle the problem is to trigger awareness through education of the public, members of the medical profession and practitioners of traditional health care with the help of local collectives and their leaders."
-Many of the conferences held in Africa in the 1990's discussed fgm in the context of "HIV prevention".
-Most of the conferences held in Africa to discuss fgm alone were held recently (e.g:- Al Azhar conference/international conference against fgm in 2001).

"I do wonder though whether these denouncement draw a distinction between “female circumcision” and FGM, by which some Muslims only refer to infibulation.
Female circumcision and FGM are two different terms referring to the same thing. Infibulation is a type of fgm, it is the most severe type.

"I also wonder why it took 14 centuries for these denouncements to come out. Where are the Fatwas banning the practice, other than those against Infibulation, the most severe of the four forms, prior to the the 21st century? Why did the scholars not try to rid of the Islamic world of this barbaric practice before Western influence shamed them into doing so? Why was a German human rights group needed to start the conference in the first place?"

I agree with you. In fact I'm asking myself the same question. I can't answer this question but I do have some ideas. First of all, I'm going to talk about Sudan for now. Sudan was the first country to ban fgm (1946 I believe!) but fgm has become part of the traditional sudanese culture and not only were the laws not properly enforced but even if they were properly enforced, it was going to take more than just laws to stop this practice. It's going to take a few generations to completely stop this practice.

I want to add that the Egyptian Health Minister did ban fgm in the 1990's but sadly, it didn't last long. In other words, the fgm debate is not at all recent but the action taken against it is recent.

"As for “Muslim scholars from all over the world [..] working together to ban its practice” (I am only seeing scholars from Al-Azhar)""
When conferences are held in Al Azhar, muslim scholars from all over the world are invited to attend.
"TARGET, a German human rights group, sponsored a conference on FGM in Cairo, Egypt. Muslim scholars from many nations attended"
""Egypt's two top Islamic clerics, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar, the foremost theological institute in the Sunni Muslim world, and Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, attended the conference, which drew scholars from as far afield as Russia."

"well, what about all the Muslim scholars all over the world encouraging it and using the Sunnah to justify it? They certainly seem to have the superior numbers."

I never said that all Muslim scholars or even all Muslims are against fgm. I just said that a lot of people are becoming aware of its dangers and are recognizing it as a social costum not a religious "fard".

"Before I start quoting some of these scholars, here are some quotations from the Hadiths that are commonly used to justify the practice"

You have to know that there is a difference between Hadith and the Qu'ran. The Qu'ran takes precedence because it’s the words of God. A similar thing is found in Judaism. I was discussing the similarities between Islam and Judaism with a Jewish guy a couple of months ago and he told me that they have a similar thing in Judaism (Hadith and Talmud/ Torat and Quran). He said that the Torah (Old Testament) takes precedence, like the Qu'ran does. And if things in the Talmud go against the Torah, then it is not permitted. Same type of deal as hadiths/sunnah vs qu'ran. There are many Jewish laws in the Talmud that most Jews are not aware of or don't practice.

"In Egypt we have four and a half million spinsters. The definition of a spinster is a woman who has reached 30, without ever receiving a marriage proposal. We have a spinster problem in the Arab world, and the last thing we want is for them to be sexually aroused. Circumcision of the girls who need it makes them chaste, dignified, and pure. "

personal opinion.

"FGM is a part of Islamic culture, it is an Islamic practice, which came to Indonesia with Islam and did not exist there prior."

-ok..I believe it is an old african practice that was incorporated into Islamic culture. I mentioned before that culture is heavily influenced by religion and vice versa. (e.g:- many people believe that many of the sufi traditions in sudan come from cultural values not religious ones).

"“The religious view is, if you are not circumcised you won’t have clean genitals after urinating. If then you pray, your prayer won’t be legal.”

This is not a religious view at all.

"The above dove-tails perfectly with what the religious arguments above - it is not an obligation, but an “honourable practice”. But far disturbing still are stories about the hundreds, if not thousands of Christian women from Indonesia’s Molucca Islands who were forcibly converted to Islam and in the process forcibly circumcised:""

I'm not even going to comment on this simply because I'm against forced conversions!

"Well, Kizzie, in a post-9/11 world Westerners have begun to take greater note of the fact that many Muslims use religion as justification for murder."

Is it fair to assume that all the crimes commited by muslims are committed in the name of Islam? ( this might answer the very interesting verses you presented)


Popovich said...

Thank you Kizzie, I've updated my post with a link to this one.

A personal question, if you don't mind. Do you wear the hijab? I am wondering because of the beautiful picture of "the Nubians" on your site... They are dressed rather "unislamically", what is your attitude towards that?

Kizzie said...

popovich, I do not wear al hijab and I believe its a personal choice.
not wearing it doesnt make me unislamic!
do u really judge a woman by whats on her head or by whats in her head? just a question
The nubians are wearing a tradional african costume, it represents our culture and heritage...I'm fascinated by what they are wearing!
I think you should visit my blog more often!

lu said...

in the discussion of tolerance, here are my two cents (totally unrelated to the topic here but important nonetheless).

being from canada i can say that the word 'eskimo' is no longer used and instead the self-named 'inuit' is more appropriate.

JohnM said...

Sudan was the first country to ban fgm (1946 I believe!)

You are correct. However, it is important to note that the country was under the rule of Britain at the time and consequently, such a ruling would have been regarded as a colonial imposition, which explains why it was ignored. Such as reaction probably owes as much to Nationalism as to Islam.

Has a post colonial government tried to enforce such a law?

Kizzie said...

just like I said even if the government tried to enforce a law it will never work unless the people themselves are educated about the complications of fgm. You have to spread awareness about the practice beffore expecting people to stop something they;ve been doing for generations.
Yes there is an fgm law now in sudan BUT it is still done.

thanks for the interesting fact:)

pommygranate said...


interesting response to popovich.

a question regarding the Hadith and the Koran. Does the Koran always override the Hadith? And what happens of there is mention of a subject in the Hadith but not the Koran? thanks

Alphamale said...

Did the prophet circumcise his daughters ?

By the way the book says this...

Islam denounces excesses in beautifying oneself when it alters the physical features that Allah created him with. The Glorious Qur'an considers such alterations as inspired by Satan, who "...will command them (his devotees) to change what Allah has created...” (An-Nisa': 119)

pommygranate said...

btw, who and what are these beautiful Nubians?

Kizzie said...

they are called "les nubians" but they are actually half french half cameeronian. They have amazing songs and a unique style!

Monica said...

While I know this was posted a year ago, I only just found it through a series links resulting in a few web searches. I learned a great deal from this entry of yours, and the original entry that spawned Popovich's response entry. It's a great relief to know that the issue is being addressed--though perhaps not address as heavily in the countries you have stated practice it the most. Your blog is quite informative, especially when read from the perspective of someone who knows very little about Sudan. Thank you for posting these entries.