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Female Circumcision 1

A Viewpoint

by Mardiana Abu Bakar



A horrendous picture of a 10 yr old Egyptian girl, Nagla, screaming in pain as a barber cuts off parts of her genitals has stuck in my mind. And I hope this picture will remain in many other minds too, and for a very long time.

The circumcision ceremony of Nagla was shown worldwide over Cable News Network (CNN) last month and it created an international furore. Let it be a reminder of the crime that should never be inflicted on daughters in the name of culture or misconceived religious injunctions.

For it is precisely that combination of antiquated culture and distorted religious injunction that had brought about the unforgiving pain on Nagla and on many other young girls in the Middle East, Africa, and now with mass immigration, in Europe and North America.

Nagla's pain will not end with that horrendous episode. She might haemorrhage and suffer severe infections that might lead to death. Even if she recovered, sex, which is a conjugal right within marriage, will be less a pleasure than a chore, and childbirth a battle with death.

What is even more difficult for me to accept is the revelation by International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics which met early this month, that every day, 5500 similar mutilations take place. Details of the rituals in these countries vary according to region and culture, but the basics are the same: between infancy and adulthood, all or part of a girl's external genitalia are cut away with knives or razor blades. The Federation therefore, moved that this mutilation ritual, euphamistically termed "female circumcision", be outlawed.

As a woman and as a mother of a nine-year-old girl, I will vote 5500 times over if only I could wipe the practice off the face of this earth. I wept for the physical pain that Nagla must have been put through, the indignity of being held down by strong men, and the violation of her body. Which is why, as a Muslim woman, I find it outrageous that the practice has become associated closely with Islam in many minds.

A colleague reacted to the picture by saying, "Why do Muslims do this to their daughters?" I am not sure how this association with Muslims came about. To begin with, the practice of female circumcision is encouraged, but not compulsory, according to three out of four main schools of thoughts of Islam. One the fourth pronounced it is a must. And even then, the spirit of the injunction is not to mutilate. As the Mufti of Singapore pointed out to me earlier this year, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) stated emphatically that female circumcision should be done "as minimally as possible". The Mufti declared that the practice of female circumcision in Singapore "involves cutting off a tiny part from the outer portion of the clitoris" - about 1mm to 3mm is snipped off the very top of the clitoris. Other parts of the geinitalia remain untouched, and the woman's sexuality is not put into any danger.

Here too, the practice is carried out by a woman, a doctor or a midwife - in the privacy of a room, with the mother and the aunts in attendance.

I am not an advocate of female circumcision: I belong to the school of thought that says this injunction is optional. But I think we should respect the choice of Muslims who choose to circumcise their daughters, so long as the practice remains true to the spirit of the Prophet's injunction, and that they protect their daughters' dignity and well-being.

Posted by KuralSiz at 12:09 AM

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