In our previous article, we revealed and highlighted female circumcision happening in Muslim minority community. We received mixed response from people commending us to some claiming there’s no such practice in any community. Some even defended the practice and went on justifying the act.
Just a few days had passed and a young lady named Umme Hani, aged 30, approached us and offered us to record her testimonial. She openly accepted the prevalence of practice among the community, however, had different point of view regarding it. She also stated or claimed that although there might be serious complications in few causes but most of the girls do not suffer from any severe effect.
We decided to have a question answer session with her and here it is. Keeping the liberal tradition of Pakistan Speaks alive, we are presenting a counter narrative on female circumcision or FGM.
Q1. Does your Community practice female circumcision, if yes, why?
Yes! Because it’s a Sunnah of Prophet Mohammed. The purpose of female circumcision is done for the religious requirement of taharat (religious purity), in the same way, and for the same reasons male circumcision is done.
Q2. Why do you think no other Islamic sect has adapted this practice?
That is incorrect. Because MANY other Islamic sects have adapted the practice.
Female circumcision is a requirement in all schools of jurisprudence of Islam, but different schools put varying degrees of emphasis on it. Other communities make female circumcision equally obligatory as male circumcision, and so it is universally practiced in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Kurdistan and Egypt where that community predominate. Another community highly recommend it; India is predominantly Hanafi Sunni, in which it is not practiced with strictness and same with Maliki Sunnis.
Q3. Considering there’s no scientific benefit of this practice, what is the reason behind its prevalence?
First of all, I already explained earlier that the reasons for female circumcision are because it is, and only because it is a religious sunnah of the Prophet.
150 year ago, did the lack of knowledge of male circumcision stop anyone from carrying it out? No. Till date, a majority of the people that carry out male circumcision do it solely because their religion mandates it, and not for medical reasons.
Asking that question is like asking if I should stop praying my salaat 5 times a day because there is no scientific benefit of praying it at those fixed times, or it’s like saying you pray 5 times a day only because if it’s scientific benefit – not because it’s an obligation upon a Muslim.
This goes without saying that although there may not be sufficient scientific research on female circumcision, there is no scientific evidence that the practice (Type 1a) is harmful. All the “evidence” you’ll find are actually for procedures other than the Islamic practice, which, in my opinion are mutilation.
However, similar procedures have some research. For example, Clitoral Unhooding (clitoralunhooding.com) is carried out to help achieve faster orgasms. Even the erotic magazine Play Girl once promoted female circumcision!
It is also important to understand that the reason for the lack of information of the scientific benefit is due to a lack of hard evidence research! On the flipside, people are genuinely hesitant of taking the subject up, because of the negative attacks of misinformed readers. I as a doctor am very aware that the environment is not at all conducive to do research – no matter how “neutral” certain institutions may claim to be, it’s a one sided, western ideology dominated affair.
Q4. Why many people from your community still try to deny the prevalence of female circumcision in the community?
As far as I know we acknowledge it exists, for religious reasons, and that’s why we are being attacked, isn’t it?
Recently a site in India was launched to protect our right to practice circumcision account to our religion (www.dbwrf.org), so it’s wrong to say anyone denies it.
Q5. What do you think is the reason behind secrecy around this practice?
The reason behind secrecy of this practice is because the Islamic norms of modesty surrounding women apply to most matters to do with women, particularly when concerned about their sexual organs. It has nothing to do with any belief that there is something wrong with the practice nor is the secrecy there to hide an illegal practice. So throughout the centuries, female circumcision has always been completely hidden from men, and rarely discussed amongst women.
Q6. How would you respond to critics of female circumcision?
FGM, is a misnomer! Regrettably WHO has clumped all forms of female genital alteration under Mutilation. Female genital circumcision/ female genital alteration is a harmless procedure practiced by a small community comprising of peace loving and law abiding citizens, residing mostly in Southeast Asia And spread over Middle East, USA, Africa and Australia.
A small Nick is applied on the prepuce of clitoris in compliance with the shariah of Islam. A practice which is not forced upon anyone but emphasized enough as it is the teachings of Prophet Muhammad PBUH. Two major misconceptions need to be clarified.
1) Female circumcision never touches the clitoris. It is only a nick to the prepuce. Many articles in the media continue to spread this misinformation.
2) Female circumcision has nothing to do with “curbing sexual pleasure in women”. This has no basis in our texts. More so, our texts say that the procedure is done to increase sexual pleasure.
If these two misconceptions can be clarified, that there is hope for a positive dialog.
I would also like to request the critics to first speak to those of us in the community, before passing judgments. Most of their source of information comes from misinformed sources that aren’t a part of the community. Just like you guys have reached out to me, my request is for them to reach out to the community members. I am a doctor a wife and a mother, I have been circumcised – praise be to Allah – I, and hundreds of thousands of women of the community have great physical and emotionally satiated lives.
The women of the community aren’t affected, then what’s the whole fuss about? If all this positive energy is directed towards making alcohol consumption and smoking tobacco or pot illegal, then imagine how many lives can actually be saved. How many women will not be abused by their addict husbands? How many children will not have to see their mothers being beaten up by their fathers under the influence of alcohol? How many lives of teens and young adults can be saved from smoking drugs?
Nothing ISLAM teaches is harmful. The long list of harms does not apply to Islamic female circumcision. Hundreds of thousands of educated women of my community and Indonesian women are a testimony to it. Female circumcision is not harmful and less invasive than male circumcision which no person in his right mind challenges. Over 100 infants and young boys die and thousands are maimed by budged male circumcision in USA alone, but it is conveniently ignored and pushed under the carpet. On the other hand, the Islamic practice of female circumcision is labeled a human rights violation, not because it is, but simply because the West doesn’t practice it.
The campaigners in India are led by a few women all of who belong to the group that has disowned the religion that defines the community. They have almost no connection with the community and have no understanding of why male and female circumcisions, or for that matter any religious right, is performed. They want to forcibly impose their views on the majority mainstream women of the community who are religious. As a result of their media campaign, the easily identifiable mainstream women have had to bear the gaze of the public who look upon them as mutilated or mutilators, and unenlightened in turn.
Q7. Your community is known as a modern, progressive and liberal group. Female genital mutilation does harm these positive tags. What’s your opinion on this?
The community do not practice “Female genital mutilation”; they practice female “circumcision”.
So, the negative tag associated to the community, is a tag that is quite frankly, a total deliberate distortion of the facts.
Yes, the community is modern and progressive as well as religious. That is the beauty of being a part of the community. This modernity and progressive thought is also completely in line with our religious views, and this is what is taught by our religion and our leader – which is – stay true to your religious foundation, and at the same time, reach for the stars. Practicing our religion does not make us less modern or less progressive.
Note by Author:
All the statistics mentioned by our honorable interviewee are not confirmed by us nor do her opinions comply with our values and policies. We presented her interview in order to stay as neutral as possible. We believe in freedom of speech and that everyone’s voice must be heard. This interview is just a depiction of our positive belief.
Written by: Faizan Shahzad (Team PS)