Thursday, January 8, 2009

Girl Children of Iraqi Kurds: Female Genital Mutilation in the Name of Islam

The Washington Post had an article before New Year's that began with the story of a 7 year old Kurdish girl undergoing a procedure of Female Genital Mutilation (also called female circumcision) "in the name of Allah". Her mother said "Islam and our elders require it."

The government official in charge of human rights views it as a "small problem" not requiring intervention:
The Kurdish region's minister of human rights, Yousif Mohammad Aziz, said he didn't think the issue required action by parliament. "Not every small problem in the community has to have a law dealing with it," he said.

The Washington Post article notes that there is dispute over whether this is required by Islam:
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.

The Wikipedia article has interesting material on this dispute. I've deleted the footnotes, but you can go to the Wikipedia article and find the citations if you are interested.

Female genital cutting predates Islam.In Saudi Arabia, in the area known as the Hijaz, where Islam originated, FGC was already being practiced during the lifetime of Muhammad. Female genital cutting is not commanded by the Qur'an and is not practiced by the majority of Muslims. In Egypt, mufti Sheikh Ali Gomaa stated: "The traditional form of excision is a practice totally banned by Islam because of the compelling evidence of the extensive damage it causes to women's bodies and minds."

[edit] Sunni View

There are differences of opinion among Sunni scholars in regards to female genital cutting. These differences of opinion range from forbidden to obligatory. The debate focuses around a hadith from the Sunni collections. One narration states that "a woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. Muhammad said to her, 'Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.'"Abu Dawood, who relates the narration in his collection, states the hadith is poor in authenticity. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani describes this hadith as poor in authenticity, and quotes Imam Ahmad Bayhaqi’s point of view that it is "poor, with a broken chain of transmission" Zein al-Din al-Iraqi points out in his commentary on Al-Ghazali’s Ihya ulum al-din (I:148) that the mentioned hadith has a weak chain of transmission." Yusuf ibn Abd-al-Barr comments: "Those who consider (female) circumcision a sunna, use as evidence this hadith of Abu al-Malih, which is based solely on the evidence of Hajjaj ibn Artaa, who cannot be admitted as an authority when he is the sole transmitter. The consensus of Muslim scholars shows that circumcision is for men".

Imam Shams-ul-haq Azeemabadi asserts that, "[t]he Hadith of female circumcision has been reported through so many ways all of which are weak, blemished and defective, and thus it is unacceptable to prove a legal ruling through such ways." While some scholars reject ahadith that refer to FGC on grounds of inauthenticity, other scholars argue that authenticity alone does not confer legitimacy. One of the sayings used to support FGC practices is the hadith (349) in Sahih Muslim: Aishah narrated an authentic Hadith that the Prophet said: "When a man sits between the four parts (arms and legs of his wife) and the two circumcised parts meet, then ghusl is obligatory." Dr. Muhammad Salim al-Awwa, Secretary General of the World Union of the Muslim Ulemas states that while the hadith is authentic, it is not evidence of legitimacy. He states that the Arabic for "the two circumcision organs" is a single word used to connote two forms; however the plural term for one of the forms is used to denote not two of the same form, but two different forms characterized as a singular of the more prominent form. For example, in Arabic, the word with the female gender can be chosen to make the dual form, such as in the expression "the two Marwas", referring to the two hills of As-Safa and Al-Marwa (not "two of the same hills, each called Al-Marwa") in Mecca.[53] He goes on to state that, while the female form is used to denote both male and female genitalia, it is identified with the prominent aspect of the two forms, which, in this case, is only the male circumcised organ. He further states that the connotation of circumcision is not transitive. Dr. al-Awwa concludes that the hadith is specious because "such an argument can be refuted by the fact that in Arabic language, two things or persons may be given one quality or name that belongs only to one of them for an effective cause." [e.g. the usage in "Qur'an in Surah Al-Furqan(25):53", "bahrayn" is the dual form of "bahr" (sea) meaning "sea (salty and bitter) and river (sweet and thirst-allaying)", and not "two seas".]

In March 2005, Dr Ahmed Talib, Dean of the Faculty of Sharia at Al-Azhar University, stated: "All practices of female circumcision and mutilation are crimes and have no relationship with Islam. Whether it involves the removal of the skin or the cutting of the flesh of the female genital organs... it is not an obligation in Islam."[54] Both Christian and Muslim leaders have publicly denounced the practice of FGC since 1998. A recent conference at Al-Azhar University in Cairo (December, 2006) brought prominent Muslim clergy to denounce the practice as not being necessary under the umbrella of Islam. Although there was some reluctance amongst some of the clergy, who preferred to hand the issue to doctors, making the FGC a medical decision, rather than a religious one, the Grand Mufti Ali Jumaa of Egypt, signed a resolution denouncing the practice.

One of the four Sunni schools of religious law, the Shafi'i school, rules that trimming of the clitoral hood is mandatory. Sheikh Faraz Rabbani states, "That which is wajib [obligatory] in the Shafi`i texts is merely slight 'trimming' of the tip of the clitoral hood - prepuce." Contrary to the WHO definition, he states that this practice is not "FGM, nor harmful to the woman or her ability to derive sexual pleasure." He states that "excision, FGM, or other harmful practices" are not permitted. In 1994, Egyptian Mufti Sheikh Jad Al-Hâqq argued that the procedure may not be banned simply on grounds of improper use. Al-Azhar University in Cairo had issued several fatwas endorsing FGC, in 1949, 1951 and 1981, but then over ruled these with a more recent fatwa totally banning the practice, as it goes against the principles and teachings of Islam.

The discussion of the difference between trimming the hood and slicing off the clitoris reminded me of what Paul said in Galatians 5:12.

Hat Tip Michelle Malkin

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