Why men have this obsession when it comes to controlling the female body? Why Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision is practiced in many parts of the world? The recent reports coming from United Nations (UN) wherein the group which currently is in control of many parts of Iraq and Syria has released an Edict or a Fatwa that all female between the ages 11 to 46 years will be subjected to FGM. Now there is still no official communiqué from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) but since this information has come from the UN, one has to pay attention to this issue. However even if no such directive of FGM has been issued by ISIS, it is still an important subject.
Many countries in Africa, some parts of Arabia and Asia practice this ritual. In many parts of Africa, this ritual is rooted with tradition and culture but this has also given rise to several key medical problems which a young woman or even pre-pubescent girl child face. It has been medically proven that ritual circumcision or FGM can cause a lot of harm to women who undergo this barbaric practice with or without their consent.
Who is allowed to issue a religious Edict in Islam?
A fatwa in the Islamic faith is the term for the legal opinion or learned interpretation that a qualified jurist or mufti can give fatwa’s on issues pertaining to the Islamic law that too when someone approaches. The person who has the authority to issue a fatwa is called, a Mufti, i.e. an issuer of fatwa. But at present anyone in Islam who has the power and in the case of (ISIS) or the Taliban are issuing fatwa’s without having proper qualifications. Also a fatwa is not a binding law it is just an opinion of an Islamic scholar who has the knowledge and the ability for interpretation. If the declaration in Iraq for FGM is true, then it is possible that the edict was issued by someone who is not qualified.
Because FGM is more to do with culture rather than religion and in Islam there have been many scholars who have given serious commentary on this issue. Most Muslims do not practice this ritual as it is not required under Islam and Al-Azhar university the most important seminary for Islamic studies have clearly said that the practice of FGM in Islam contravenes its teachings. According to Dr. GamalSerour, an Islamic scholar from Al-Azhar University “Female genital mutilation has no religious basis in either the Koran or the authentic Hadiths, the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed.”
Since Al-AzharUniversity is considered the most important place for Islamic learning, any such declaration given by this seminary will be taken very seriously since after careful scrutiny and analysis of Islamic history it is found that there is no clear reference in Islamic law and that this practice is harmful to female.
Cause of FGM more of cultural than religious
FGM in most part of Africa or Asia where it is practiced is more to do with culture than religion, because the practice and dogma of religion may be same everywhere but the influence of local cultures and customs sometimes over lapse religion. The problem of FGM which many experts from both Islamic and world community agree that the practice is deeply ingrained in the minds of people who find it very difficult to give up this practice and only through education and spreading awareness among the people can this problem end. But this will take a long time and the support of the local government is must along with community leaders. According to World Health Organization (WHO) 125 million women and young girls have gone through this procedure in 29 countries in East Africa and Middle East which severely increases the chances for women dyeing during child birth and high numbers of deaths among new born babies.
FGM is more to do with our patriarchal society which is prevalent in Africa and Asia and it is about controlling women. Words like Honor and traditions are used so commonly to promote this practice that even many women who know from within their heart that this practice is wrong but still end up either submitting themselves and continue this ritual with future generation. It has never been about religion but has more to do with a women’s sexuality. Like in India, if a woman becomes a widow, she must forsake all the worldly pleasure and not long ago they had to shave their heads and were basically treated as outcast. When child Marriage was still practiced (sadly true even now in India) so many girls who became a widow at a very young age had to suffer the ignominy of losing their husbands. In reality all this was done to curb their sexuality and make them look unattractive. Bottom line, it all comes down to “Sex”.
Medical problems faced by women due to FGM
Doctors all over the world agree that the practice of FGM can cause and have caused serious physical problems for women. According to Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment“Immediate consequences of FGM include severe pain and bleeding, shock, difficulty in passing urine, infections, injury to nearby genital tissue and sometimes death. The procedure can result in death through severe bleeding leading to hemorrhagic shock, neurogenic shock as a result of pain and trauma, and overwhelming infection and septicemia”.
There are four types of FGM performed and according to experts the following procedures are performed on women regularly.
It is the Partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce.
Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision)
Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and positioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris (infibulations).
All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.
According to a report published by UNICIF, 130m women and girls have undergone FGM
- 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East practice FGM
- 33% less chance a girl will be cut today than 30 years ago
- But rising birth rate means more girls in total are affected
- 250m women worldwide were married before age of 15
Once a female which is more likely a girl who goes through this procedure which in my opinion would mostly be against her wishes, she can experience constant pain, infections, cysts and many other complications. Also women who go through this procedure have lot of difficulty getting pregnant and giving birth which can have a huge consequence with regards to the relationship that they have with their husbands. The problem of FGM is not only physically painful for women but also emotional, psychological and communal. Sadly most procedures of FGM are performed over infants and teenage girls and how many die due to this is not known. Also in these parts of the world girls are married at a young age and it helps raise the complications of FGM to new levels because having intercourse becomes a very painful process which leads to all sorts of other problem. Sadly the advice of modern medicine is ignored and the old practices continue and religious fervor takes higher preference.
ISIS and their puritanical stand
It has been alleged ISIS the Ultra-rightwing religious group known for puritanical interpretation of Islam may have started this practice in the areas which it now controls. This group of blood thirsty killers have no regard for human life will use any means necessary to subjugate people and especially women. By attaching FGM which is a cultural practice with religion they are only trying to legalize it and they have the ways and means to enforce this on people by criminal intimidation. Though they know that this practice of FGM is medically damaging for women, they are simply blinded by their faith and misinterpretation of Quran, Sunnah Sharia and the Hadit. Nowhere in Islam has it been said that people can be forced to become Muslims in Islam. Nowhere in Islam is it written to kill women and children. In Islam the safety and the livelihood of any minority is guaranteed and women enjoy significant rights. Also many eminent scholars of Islam who have intricate knowledge of the Islamic jurisprudence have denounced the practice of FGM.
If this is true the puritanical stand taken by ISIS is only going to backfire because they have just been passing one edict after another without understanding the conveyances of their actions. Even the Taliban did not enforce FGM in Afghanistan because it was contrary to their culture and customs. But these new breed of Islamic terrorist are completely blind and full of rage are in a different league of their own. They think all Islamic country will follow them and impose the same law but this is not going to happen because most Muslims would disagree with them. ISIS does not have it under Islam to issue fatwa’s as they are not qualified but somehow it has changed.
Sadly in many parts of the world, especially Africa and Arab peninsula groups like ISIS and Boko Haram are simply running wild and one has to wonder the plight of women (My thoughts are right now with those innocent girls kidnapped in Nigeria) who are already facing so much hardship everyday and to add this to their problem is not needed, not now not ever. Most ISIS fighters are products of hate and sectarian divide for decades and have simply become numb with no empathy and value for human life and their lack of respect for women.
It is bad enough women are subjected to all sorts of cruelty and restrictions in many parts of the world, but to mutilate their private parts in the name of religion is something we can all live with. Bad news travels faster than good news and the issue of FGM is going to be popularized thanks to ISIS and it is possible many ultra rightwing Islamic groups will follow them and this could lead to serious social crises in the Islamic world.