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Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a horrific procedure done on very young girls in the Middle East and Africa. Unfortunately, we know that the procedure has also found its way to the US; I wrote about a case from April 2017 that is still in process.
In May 2018 a debate was held with three highly credible people engaged in this issue: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has formed a foundation to deal with this issue; M. Zuhdi Jasser, a well-known medical doctor, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and moderate Muslim practitioner; and Alan Dershowitz, civil rights attorney, who worked for a period with a group in Michigan that wanted to find a way to normalize a version of female genital mutilation. It was a fascinating debate (more of a discussion) that shines a light on why all of us should be concerned with this issue in this country. (It’s not available on video at this time.)
This post highlights some of the points from the discussion that I thought were noteworthy.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali described the various types of FGM. The tragedy of this procedure is that it is done to small girls who don’t understand that their genitals will be mutilated, causing them misery for the rest of their lives. Due to the interest in receiving the procedure for their daughters, doctors in Europe are consenting to do the procedures in hospitals. According to the World Health Organization, 200 million women alive today in 30 countries have been cut. Young girls are told that they are impure, even filthy, if they don’t have the procedure. The psychological trauma cannot be measured. Although suggestions for modifying and simplifying the procedure have been offered, Hirsi Ali promotes “zero tolerance”; she was forced to have the procedure as a child. Hirsi Ali explained that she was no longer a Muslim; she said she could no longer perform the “cognitive aerobatics” that it would require.
When Alan Dershowitz spoke, he explained that he was consulted by a Muslim organization in Michigan about how the procedure could be continued lawfully; he suggested a “pinprick,” similar in his estimation to a man who has been circumcised but not in the formal Jewish tradition; a grown male who chooses to marry a Jewish woman must complete the brit milah procedure by having himself pricked and a little blood is drawn. (Dr. Jasser assured him the procedures were not comparable.) Dershowitz has since been released as the group’s attorney; he is also reconsidering the morality of maintaining the procedure, given its intent and the effect on young girls and women.
Finally, Zuhdi Jasser spoke to this issue. He was in full agreement with Hirsi Ali and explained that the procedure was a practice of misogyny. That no matter how a version of FGM is performed, it is a form of hate and abuse. He and Hirsi Ali said there was a Hadith (writing after the Koran) that seemed to refer to this practice, but it was one that needed to be eliminated. Jasser is a well-known proponent of Islam reform, which he believes will need to include the equality of men and women; FGM has no place, therefore, in an enlightened Islam.
So why is this important to not only young girls everywhere, but particularly in the United States? As the Muslim population grows, young girls will be subjected to this abuse and mutilation by their own mothers. They will have no say in these decisions. And those who have already gone through the procedure will likely continue it with their own daughters, even though it is more a cultural practice than a religious one. After all, who wants their daughters to live lives of impurity and filth?
By the way, we don’t hear about these practices in the US for a number of reasons: doctors are conspiring with parents to conduct FGMs illegally; some families take their daughters abroad to receive these services; and Muslims are not willing to report these illegal actions. Meanwhile, the suffering of these little girls continues.
One of Hirsi Ali’s last comments was that we have to tell Muslim women that this practice is not only illegal, but they are not welcome in this country if they wish to practice it. She firmly stated that these women need to be told, “It’s not going to happen on our soil.”
What are your thoughts?