In the Egyptian countryside, the dayas, with a handkerchief twisted around their finger, deflower virgins for their husbands. It seems that over there they even cut everything away for the women. What they walk around with between their legs is a true catastrophe. For hygienic reasons, so those pagans claim. Since when does dirt bother vultures? Pfff! … As for me, I was trying to imagine what a woman’s sex would look like when its contours had been butchered (The Almond by Nedjma).
There is no excess in male circumcision. However, with female “circumcision” the types are several. A female child can have her clitoral prepuce trimmed or have her entire labia cut off and sewn up. I have a problem with the term “female circumcision” – I don’t agree that women/girls can be circumcised. I treat the word as a misnomer for female genital mutilation and find it offensive especially when used by women. The foreskin over the penis if removed does not damage the organ whereas even the trimming of clitoral prepuce can severely damage the type of sensation in the female genital area because its purpose is to “protect the clitoris.”
In the 1960s FGM was banned in many Western countries including the United States prior to which many parents used to have the clitoral prepuce of their girls removed to discourage masturbation. That is the purpose of FGM – it diminishes sexual urge because exposure of the clitoris makes arousal painful. Factually many women will swear that they don’t know what vaginal orgasm means. For many women orgasm is only achieved through clitoral stimulation. Of course then FGM will keep their libido in check.
History of FGM goes back to ancient Egyptian times. It predates Christianity and Islam. Since these are the two major religions in Africa where FGM is mostly practised, it is unfortunately natural that many families who practice FGM on their girls are either Muslim or Christian. Recently many Muslim women and men have stood up with public interest groups against FGM in Muslim societies but it is hardly enough when according to British sources some 2000 Muslim girls are mutilated each year during the long summer break. That is only in Britain. Worldwide it is believed that as many as 140 million women have been the target of FGM.
On the one hand many people are largely ill-informed about FGM even thinking that FGM makes a woman “tall and beautiful” and on the other hand, some popular scholars, even those who are “Western” like Bilal Phillips, don’t want to ban what they call simple “trimming” because somehow they associate it with Islam. Luckily there are also scholars like Mahmid Ashur who call the practice “disgusting” thus showing the varied opinion on the topic.
According to Lukman Hakim, the ‘FGM’ foundation’s chairman, there are three “benefits” to circumcising girls:
- “One, it will stabilize her libido.”
- “Two, it will make a woman look more beautiful in the eyes of her husband.”
- “And three, it will balance her psychology.”
Although Muslim claim is that Islam is positive about sex, in practice we do not allow Muslim women the freedom to enjoy sex. Many Muslim women associate sex and everything that has anything to do with what lies between their legs as dirty, painful, and the domain of the men. When theory is put into practice we want women’s libido to be “stabilized.” On the contrary, we hardly hear how men’s sexual drive is being checked. A man who wants sex is told to get married quickly to start having sex in a halal manner.
For a Muslim girl who is raised to keep her legs crossed, speak in soft tones, and not allow anyone to see her body, the sudden shock of FGM can have serious effects where she is asked to show her private parts to several women and allow them to touch her, tug at her and snip her. This is besides the inevitable pain and the sight of blood that is very troubling for a child.
Most Muslims who practice FGM refer to the ahadith (hadith in Muslim, Malik’s Muwatta) that mention copulation as an act between “two circumcised parts.” Another hadith popularly quoted in favour of FGM is this from Sunan Abu Dawood. It is quite possible that early Muslim women were circumcised and practiced it as part of their culture. It is also possible that the Prophet treated it as a cultural practice and hence neither condoned it nor encouraged it unlike male circumcision which was more prevalent. However, there were several practices of early Muslims that we can’t or won’t follow today. FGM should be one of those practices. I am not arguing against the evidence in ahadith for FGM, rather I am saying that even if FGM is part of the Islamic culture, it is not part of Islam the religion and hence can be not only ignored but also rejected.