Thursday, March 1, 2007

Female Circumcision Debated on Egyptian Television

MEMRI has translated a debate between Islamic scholars on Egyptian television regarding the secular and religious nature of female circumcision -- i.e., a removal of the clitoris -- and the continued desirability of the practice. The debate was between M. Ashur, who argued that the practice was secular and should be outlawed, and M. Al-Mussayar, who argued that it is a part of religious practice acceptable under Sharia law and that it should be allowed.

Mahmoud Ashur: "Female circumcision is a traditional custom, and not a religious act. All the hadiths dealing with female circumcision are unreliable. . . . "Female circumcision is not part of Islam. Rather, it is a traditional custom. Under no circumstances should we follow this custom, because it leaves a deep wound in the souls of these girls,
. . . .
"This is a despicable, ugly, and evil custom. It is performed by a woman who uses inappropriate and non-sterile instruments. She may be passing on to the girl a terrible disease, or causing her a wound that never heals, because the person who performs this custom lacks expertise and experience, and does not know how to sterilize the instruments, and therefore she inflicts terrible diseases upon the girls."
. . . .
Muhammad Al-Mussayar: "All the jurisprudents, since the advent of Islam and for 14 centuries or more, are in consensus that female circumcision is permitted by Islam. But they were divided with regard to its status in shari'a. Some said that female circumcision is required by shari'a, just like male circumcision. Some said this is the mainstream practice, while others said it is a noble act. But throughout the history of Islam, nobody has ever said that performing female circumcision is a crime. There has been a religious ruling on this for 14 centuries."
. . . .
"First of all, there are reliable hadiths in Al-Bukhari and Al-Muslim which support female circumcision. . . .

Interviewer: "Nevertheless, hypothetically speaking, what is the main reason for [female circumcision]?"

Muhammad Al-Mussayar: "Some sources said: 'Reduce, but do not remove.' In other words, it is neither about removing the organ, nor about leaving it. It is a trustworthy Muslim doctor who makes the decision. She decides whether the girl needs it or not. We do not obligate every girl to undergo circumcision. We say it should be left up to the doctor, and she can evaluate the case and determine whether the girl needs circumcision or not."

Read the whole story here. One of the internal wars in Islam, hinted at in the above exchange, is whether to and how to modernize Islamic practices. Unfortunately, the Wahabbi form of Islam holds sway in many areas thanks to its propagation through Saudi oil wealth, and Wahabbi Islam is a true throwback to a world now more then a millenium gone. Further the means by which Mohamed left for his followers to modify their religion, ijtihad, has as a general rule, been deemed frozen for over one thousand years. It is more complex then that, but as generalities go, it is true.

1 comment:

Yankee Doodle said...

I notice you have two classifications for this post that are similar: "female circumcision" and "female genital mutilation". What's the difference?


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