Female genital mutilation is a barbaric, regressive, and a torturous practice adopted in Islam against young girls. It’s imperative for Muslim girls to come together and raise their voices against such brutality.
Abu al- Malih ibn Usama’s father relates that the Prophet said: ‘Circumcision is a law for men and a preservation of honor for women.’” — Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75
“Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah: 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.’” — Abu Dawud 41:5251
“Aishah narrated: ‘When the circumcised meets the circumcised, then indeed Ghusl is required. Myself and Allah’s Messenger did that, so we performed Ghusl.’” — Jami` at-Tirmidhi 108
These are some Quranic and Islamic scripture quotes to justify female genital mutilation. Unfortunately, such barbaric practices are propagated in the name of honor by the Islamic faith. Whereas Hindus and their customs are viewed as anti-females conveniently by the pseudo-liberals and secularists. However, they conveniently ignore the unethical practices of others. Hindu festivals like Karwa Chauth or Kumari Pooja have been targeted deliberately under the banner of patriarchy or women’s subjugation. But there’s almost no liberal out there who talks publicly about FGM. Don’t Muslim women deserve respect?
Demeaning, intrusive, barbaric, and torturous, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a cruel, and a degrading practice. There are thousands of women who undergo FGM around the world, regardless of where they live. There are countries where this happens publicly and others where it happens privately. This abhorrent practice isn’t only observed in Africa & other nations but also in Mumbai, the financial capital of India.
Bohras are a Shia subsect that practices FGM, also known as khatna. The subject is well-kept and a taboo that’s best not discussed. Everybody, especially human rights champions, must understand that FGM isn’t a custom but a mandatory practice. As per Islam, “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)
Inhuman practice across borders
This misogynistic practice has unfortunately been in practice for centuries, despite widespread education. Even highly educated Muslims resort to inhumane practices with their children. As a means of preserving the purity of girls, such practices are carried out openly in Somalia. Everybody knows that removing external genitalia has no medical or religious significance, yet this happens. If the clitoral head is removed, severe bleeding, urinary problems, problems during childbirth, infections, and even death can occur. But who is to stop?
By comparing the economic parameters and the social impact, one can still understand what is happening in Somalia. The question is, why does the Bohra community follow this? Bohra is one of the richest and most economically advanced Muslim communities, so why are they still practicing it? The answer lies in Islam’s basic principles, which everyone must observe regardless of their social or economic status or nationality.
The clitoris of a woman’s vagina is also known as ‘haraam ki boti’ or ‘the source of sin’, which means ‘unwanted skin’ in the Bohra community. The idea behind cutting off this part of the vagina stems from centuries of patriarchal sexism, namely when a woman realizes what pleasure she can receive through her vagina. It is believed that she might go “astray” in the marriage, or bring “shame” to the community.
When it comes to the structure of the female body, the sole purpose of the clitoris is to derive pleasure. Psychology today states that no other female or male organ is designed to enable pleasure. Due to its social stigma, it is performed by untrained women and midwives due to a desire for secrecy. Young girls, i.e. before puberty begins, are subjected to these unsupervised, untrained procedures with blades or knives.
Resistance against FGM
Under the guise of preserving the honor, this inhumane and mindless practice has traumatized countless girls and women. This issue continues mainly because the Syneda (the Bohra high priest) refuses to engage with both the women and the media in discussing this issue. Though it’s banned by the UNGA, Muslims have always breached the stated rules despite the prohibition.
In the African nations, one is looked down and chastised for not following the norms, in the name of religion. For instance, one Egyptian in response to a campaign on FGM said “It is a religious thing. Do you want to change religion?” “You only listen to what the West is saying.” It is challenging to bring changes to these practices since they have been so deeply rooted in religious beliefs. Despite Muse Bihi Abdi’s efforts to make the practice illegal in Somalia, he was not able to succeed. This was a result of backlash and stiff resistance he encountered from the Muslim community.
While political leaders have attempted to ban FGM in Somalia, their efforts have not been successful. This is a result of the extreme level of control exercised by Imams and religious leaders. “Whatever women say, whatever we say, at the end of the day there’s some imam who says, ‘Oh, this is wrong.’ Those few words wipe out all the efforts that have been done.”- Edna Adan Ismail
A traumatic experience such as this permanently scars many women and puts their lives at risk. What is so shocking is that countless females are tortured and harmed, while no one raises an eyebrow? Why aren’t those who bat for equal rights, rather harp on the tune of feminazism, ever bat an eyelid? Aren’t Muslim women entitled to justice and deserve to be heard? Has anyone ever seen a JNU protest against FGM or the so-called secular media outlets rallying against it? Why is this hypocrisy reserved for Hindu celebrations? Can’t such brutal Islamic practices and those who follow them be named and shamed? What is so convenient about ignoring such practices for the sake of religion? The questions are many, but the answer draws a blank.
As per Sanatan beliefs, women are accorded respect and equality in society, and they are not punished for being female. Embarrassing practices like FGM say a lot about the perverse mentality of meaning to dominate and subjugate women. National and global media must be called out for their hypocrisy for being mute spectators of a disgraceful practice. Consequently, if these media outlets raise their voices against Islam or Christianity, their allegedly ‘secular’ beliefs will be questioned. Hence, we can see intentional blindness.
Muslim women need to raise their voices against such practices and be on an equal footing with Muslim men. By stepping out of the shadow of forced patriarchy, this constant belittling must and should stop.