It appears to me that those who want to call FGM an accredited Islamic practice can properly make that assertion for some Islamic Communities while those who want to call FMG not-religious but cultural can properly make that assertion for others.
You notice I say – How do I know – not – How do we know?
MY CONCLUSION: FGM occurs in Australia and is practised by recent immigrants on their girls from infancy to the mid teen years. Its practice is associated with Islam, but not wholly with Islam. It is so prevalent that a specialist clinic has been set up in Australia to deal with it.
You must make up your own mind.
The term FGM/C encompasses a wide range
of procedures, which have been grouped into
the following four types by the WHO:
Type I: Partial or total removal of the clitoris
and/ or the prepuce (clitoridectomy)
Type II: Partial or total removal of the clitoris
and labia minora, with or without excision of
the labia majora (excision)
Type III: Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with
the creation of a covering seal by cutting and
appositioning the labia minora and/ or the
labia majora, with or without excision of the
Type IV: All other harmful procedures to the
female genitalia for non-medical purposes,
such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping
and cauterising (WHO 2008).
Extract from the 2014 Victorian Family Planning report. – reference below.
How can we know anything? The epistemological question. The science of knowledge.
As an animal, a great ape, my brain is locked in a skull and fed information from eyes that only detect a small spectrum of light, from my ears that only detect a small section of frequencies and from my other senses, smell, sense and touch, that can be fooled and misled. So how do I know anything.
A good starting point for me is Renee Descarte, the philosopher most famous for “Cogitic ergo sum”. “I think, therefore I am.” In other words: if I ask the question “Do I exist” the response “who wants to know” informs me that my starting point to knowledge is to accept that I exist.
How do I know anything external to me?. Some philosophers say that I don’t and I can’t. Such epistemology is useless for the daily life of a great ape such as Homo sapiens. We do need to make decisions. We make decisions and form opinions with varying degrees of certainty depending upon how important the decision or action is to us
I have been writing about Islam, and Islam in Australia in particular, for a while now. Once I discovered the principle of Taquiya intitially from facebook pages and internet rhetoric, I decided to find out what it was, and what it means. I read anthropological thesis’ on Islamic communities, evidence given to national and international Senate inquiries, and various secondary sources with references to the Koran and the Hadiths (plural) which I verified.
This is not an article about Takkiya or Taquiya. The practice of which was exemplified by the man Mohammed who is infamous for his dishonesty and in particular for entering a ten year peace treaty with his enemies, (a practise usually trusted even in those days) and breaking the treaty after two years when he had sufficient militant strength to surprise and overwhelm those to whom he had promised peace. When people say “have you discussed this (whatever it is ) issue with the Islamic Community?” I wonder what the point is if they practice of Takkiya.
My point is. To find out about the practice of female genital mutilation in Australia it is pointless to ask those who may practise or support it. I prefer to do my own primary research to the level that I feel that I can depend on.
So where to start?
The fact that a specialist female genital mutilation clinic has been set up in Melbourne since 2010.
The fact that it is reported in the mainstream media that parents take their children overseas to Islamic countries for genital mutilation.
The fact that it is reported in the mainstream media that parents get grandmothers to do it here.
The fact that it is reported by feminist observers that the prosecutions , and there are a few, are just the tip of the iceberg.
Are these statements facts? Or are they just propaganda for anti-Islamists. Let’s find out.
Let’s start out with the Australian Federal Governments final report into Female Genital Mutilation of 2013 http://www.ag.gov.au/publications/documents/reviewofaustraliasfemalegenitalmutilationlegalframework/review%20of%20australias%20female%20genital%20mutilation%20legal%20framework.pdf
The existence of the report could be a right wing plot, except that it was a labour government initiative and concluded with a potential Australian Model Criminal Code.
Model Criminal Code Division 9 - Female genital mutilation
5.1.33 Female genital mutilation—definition
In this Division, female genital mutilation means:
(a) a clitoridectomy; or
(b) excision of any other part of the female genital organs; or
(c) infibulation or any similar procedure; or
(d) any other mutilation of the female genital organs.
Of course it is possible that they were wasting their time defining FMG, signing up to an international agreement, and setting out how Australia could combat it. I prefer the view that FMG occurs in Australia and that they were not targeting something that does not happen.
On page 11 of the report it says:
Although the World Health Organisation suggests that female genital mutilation is mostly carried out on girls aged between infancy and 15 years, it is foreseeable that adult women could also be forcibly removed or coerced from Australia for the purposes of female genital mutilation.
In 2010 An Australian De‐infibulation Clinic was established for women who have been subjected to female genital mutilation (2010). The Women’s Strategic Plan 2011 - 2015 Approved by the Women’s Board June 2011 Page 32 of 36
For the clinical treatment path guidelines go to http://www.fpv.org.au/assets/GUIDEBOOK-FARREP-Service-Coordination-GuideFINALJuly292013.pdf
In 2014, Family planning Victoria updated its report in to FMG in Australia.
There are over 109,980 people living in
Australia who were born in countries known
to practise female genital mutilation/cutting
(FGM/C) (WHO 2008; ABS 2011). Migrants
and refugees from countries with a high
prevalence rate of the more severe forms
of FGM/C have been coming to Australia in
significant numbers since the late 1980s.
Family Planning Victoria contracted RMIT
University to undertake a demographic audit
and literature review in relation to FGM/C. The
findings of this audit and review are presented
as a three part report titled A Tradition in
Transition: Female genital mutilation/cutting -
A literature review, an overview of prevention
programs and demographic data for Victoria,
There are no estimates of the prevalence
of FGM/C in Australia. In considering
which populations may be at risk, we have
extrapolated data about Australian residents
who were born in countries who were born in
countries known to practice FGM/C. (page 14 – same report)
ABC news October 2014 - A group of Brisbane women opposed to genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, is calling for an to end to the brutal practice and a more proactive approach from government agencies. ...In Australia, the practice is a crime which in Queensland carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 14 years, although police have yet to prosecute a single case. Despite that, people working closely with the state's multicultural community said the procedure was a reality and many girls were still at risk.
Mathews, Benjamin P. (2011) Female genital mutilation : Australian law, policy and practical challenges for doctors. Medical Journal of Australia, 194(3), pp. 139-141.
As long ago as 1994, the Family Law Council accepted it was likely that female genital mutilation (FGM) was being conducted in Australia. In 2010, doctors and hospitals reported that it is being conducted and that they are seeing female patients who have experienced FGM. It is impossible to obtain precise data about the extent to which it is performed in Australia, but data indicates that FGM is a relevant issue for Australian medical practitioners. The medical profession has an interest in this topic because its members may be asked to conduct FGM, advise those considering it, or treat female patients with effects from the practice.
This report to the Australian Government again describes the process and its consequences
FGM has no medical or health benefit. FGM procedures are irreversible and their effects last a lifetime, although the health impacts of FGM may be reduced in some cases.
Communities that practice FGM put forward many reasons and beliefs for the practice. Some of the most common beliefs about FGM are that it promotes chastity, prevents promiscuity, and helps to secure a good marriage for one's daughter.
FGM is commonly performed by traditional birth attendants, local women or men, or female family members. Such individuals do not have formal medical training and usually perform FGM without anesthesia or sterilization.
In these Australian reports there is virtually no mention that Islam has anything to do with FMG. They talk about culture and tribal practise and that it is practised in Africa and the middle east, but no more.
I am beginning to wonder if the association of FMG and Islam is a fallacy.
A quick Yahoo search: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Religious views on female genital mutilation (FGM) vary even within the same religious tradition. FGM is found only within and adjacent to Muslim communities.
I never ever rely on wikipedia results so let’s see if Wikipedia has it right.
It's 9.30am on a Sunday, and the mood inside the school building in Bandung, Indonesia, is festive. Mothers in headscarves and bright lipstick chat and eat coconut cakes. Javanese music thumps from an assembly hall. There are 400 people crammed into the primary school's ground floor. It's hot, noisy and chaotic, and almost everyone is smiling.
Twelve-year-old Suminah is not. She looks like she wants to punch somebody. Under her white hijab, which she has yanked down over her brow like a hoodie, her eyes have the livid, bewildered expression of a child who has been wronged by people she trusted. She sits on a plastic chair, swatting away her mother's efforts to placate her with a party cup of milk and a biscuit. Suminah is in severe pain. An hour earlier, her genitals were mutilated with scissors as she lay on a school desk.
During the morning, 248 Indonesian girls undergo the same ordeal. Suminah is the oldest, the youngest is just five months. It is April 2006 and the occasion is a mass ceremony to perform sunat perempuan or "female circumcision" that has been held annually since 1958 by the Bandung-based Yayasan Assalaam, an Islamic foundation that runs a mosque and several schools.
Many Muslims and academics in the West take pains to insist that the practice is not rooted in religion but rather in culture. "When one considers that the practice does not prevail and is much condemned in countries like Saudi Arabia, the center of the Islamic world, it becomes clear that the notion that it is an Islamic practice is a false one," Haseena Lockhat, a child clinical psychologist at North Warwickshire Primary Care Trust, wrote. True, FGM occurs in non-Muslim societies in Africa. And in Arab states such as Egypt, where perhaps 97 percent of girls suffer genital mutilation, both Christian Copts and Muslims are complicit.
But at the village level, those who commit the practice believe it to be religiously mandated. Religion is not only theology but also practice. And the practice is widespread throughout the Middle East. Many diplomats, international organization workers, and Arabists argue that the problem is localized to North Africa or sub-Saharan Africa, but they are wrong. The problem is pervasive throughout the Levant, the Fertile Crescent, and the Arabian Peninsula, and among many immigrants to the West from these countries. Silence on the issue is less reflective of the absence of the problem than insufficient freedom for feminists and independent civil society to raise the issue.
Islamic Scholars on Female Genital Mutilation Islamic scholars disagree on FGM: some say no obligatory rules exist while others refer to the mention of female circumcision in the Hadith. According to Sami A. Aldeeb Abu Sahlieh, a Palestinian-Swiss specialist in Islamic law:
The most often mentioned narration reports a debate between Muhammed and Um Habibah (or Um 'Atiyyah). This woman, known as an exciser of female slaves, was one of a group of women who had immigrated with Muhammed. Having seen her, Muhammad asked her if she kept practicing her profession. She answered affirmatively, adding: "unless it is forbidden, and you order me to stop doing it." Muhammed replied: "Yes, it is allowed. Come closer so I can teach you: if you cut, do not overdo it, because it brings more radiance to the face, and it is more pleasant for the husband."
Abu Sahlieh further cited Muhammad as saying, "Circumcision is a sunna (tradition) for the men and makruma (honorable deed) for the women."
While some clerics say circumcision is not obligatory for women, others say it is. "Islam condones the sunna circumcision …
I am disconcerted by the amount of unreliable reporting and deliberate mis-information on the topic. For instance Mohamed Kandil is often cited by anti-FMG propangists as being a proponent of it. Going to his actual medical report statement http://f1000research.com/articles/1-23/v1 it seems clear to me that he is against FMG and only proposes that if a medical practitioner is asked to perform the surgery it may be better to do a very minor version rather than run the risk of the alternative home botch up job it that otherwise appears on the individual family insistence to be inevitable.
It also seems very unreliable to conclude that ISIS in 2014 called for FMG to be performed on all girls in the newly captured Mosul.
The final article that I cite – together with all of its citations some of which I have checked- It seems to express the situation that I accept as the best evidence. I have left it whole and simply highlighted aspects. It appears to me that those who want to call FMG an accredited Islamic practice can properly make that assertion for some Islamic Communities while those who want to call FMG not-religious but cultural can properly make that assertion for others.
Female Genital Mutilation occurs in non-Muslim societies in Africa and is practiced by Christians, Muslims and Animists alike. In Egypt, where perhaps 97 percent of girls suffer genital mutilation, both Christian Copts and Muslims are complicit. Thus, it has long been concluded to be a cultural practice, not connected to religion.
However, on the village level, those who commit the practice offer a mix of cultural and religious reasons for the practice. Christians and Muslims alike believe that circumcision of girls prevents them from vice and makes them more attractive for future husbands; mothers fear that their daughters can’t get married if they have not been cut.
Sometimes myths have formed to justify FGM. Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, an expert on FGM who spent years in Kenya, Egypt, and Sudan, explains that “it is believed in the Sudan that the clitoris will grow to the length of a goose’s neck until it dangles between the legs, in rivalry with the male’s penis, if it is not cut.”
However, Muslim proponents of FGM also stress the religious necessity. Midwifes and mothers insist that it is “sunnah” – an opinion shared by most Islamic clerics. Yet, sunnah can either mean that a practice is religiously recommended or simply that it was done that way in the times of the prophet Mohammed.
While there is no mention of FGM in the Quran, a Hadith (saying about the life of the prophet) recounts a debate between Muhammed and Um Habibah (or Um ‘Atiyyah). This woman, known as an exciser of female slaves, was one of a group of women who had immigrated with Muhammed. Having seen her, Muhammad asked her if she kept practicing her profession. She answered affirmatively, adding: “unless it is forbidden, and you order me to stop doing it.” Muhammed replied: “Yes, it is allowed. Come closer so I can teach you: if you cut, do not overdo it, because it brings more radiance to the face, and it is more pleasant for the husband.”
Most clerics use this hadith to say circumcision is recommended, but not obligatory for women. But some say it is obligatory. While others who take a position against FGM call this hadith weak in relation to the “do no harm” principle of Islam or interpret the intention of the prophet differently.
An often heard interpretation is: “Islam condones the sunna circumcision … What is forbidden in Islam is the pharaonic circumcision,” like Sheikh Omer from Ethiopia explained in an interview with IRIN. Others, such as the late rector of Al-Azhar University, Sheikh Gad al-Haq, said that since the Prophet did not ban female circumcision, it was permissible and, at the very least, could not be banned.
In Egypt this position has long been overturned by Al-Azhar Sheikhs. Today, the Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomar says: “The practice must be stopped in support of one of the highest values of Islam, namely to do no harm to another – in accordance with the commandment of the Prophet Mohammed “Accept no harm and do no harm to another.” This is echoed by many other Islamic scholars who have released Fatwas against FGM, however, the mainstream opinion still seems to by what the Grand Mufti of Oman Ahmed Al Khalili replied when asked for an opinion by an activist: “Even though its not an operation you must perform on women, we can’t describe it as a crime against women or as a violation of women’s rights.”
Four law schools differ
The data from Iraq and preliminary reports from other parts of the Middle East and Asia point to a relationship between the practice and specific law schools within Sunni Islam. The four main law schools – Shafi’i, Hanbali, Maliki and Hanafi – have been dominant in different areas of the Muslim world. They differ in their interpretations of the teachings and provisions of Islamic law and guidance. Whereas the Hanafis do not regard female circumcision as “sunnah”, the practice is recommended on religious grounds by the Maliki and Hanbali law schools and is considered obligatory by the Shafi’i school. Though not without internal dissent, the Shafi’i position is clearly expressed: “The official position of the Shafi’i School is that it is obligatory for a woman. There is also a weaker opinion that Imam Nawawi relates in Rawdah 10/180 that it is recommended.” In Indonesia and Malaysia for example – where information about the presence of the practice has long been available but by and large ignored or dismissed – this is the dominant law school. Shafi’i is also the dominant school in the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia, in Yemen and Kurdistan and it is followed by many in the Palestinian territories, Jordan and parts of Syria. Surveys on Yemen and Iraqi Kurdistan showed that FGM is widely practiced, but it is almost certain that it is not practiced by Palestinians or the majority of Syrians and Jordanians. There is only anecdotal evidence that FGM is practiced in the South of Saudi Arabia and one news article reports on a village in Jordan.
The picture is even more obscure concerning FGM in the world of Shia’a Islam. The late Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah of Lebanon opposed FGM. He reasoned: “Circumcision of women is not an Islamic rule or permission; rather it was an Arab ritual before Islam. There are many Hadiths that connote the negative attitude of Islam as to this ritual. However, Islam did not forbid it at that time because it was not possible to suddenly forbid a ritual with strong roots in Arabic culture; rather it preferred to gradually express its negative opinions. This is how Islam treated slavery as well.”
Fadlallah, once a close associate of the Lebanese islamist group Hisbollah, became more and more liberal towards the end of his life. Ayatollah’s in Iran take a more careful distance to FGM. According to Grand Ayatollah Khamenei “female genital mutilation is not common among Shiites but the usage narrative show that it does not hurt if it can be done with its conditions, including compliance with health issues. But because the social norms have changed today, this action would not be acceptable like many other topics which their sentences were changed due to circumstances and facts.” Lastest research from Iran found FGM to be practiced by Sunni minorities but not by the majority Shia population.
However, it is known that FGM is practised by Zaydis in Yemen, Ibhadis in Oman and at least by parts of the Ismailis (the Daudi Bohras) in India, all three being branches of the Shia (the Ibhadis less directly connected). A survey by WADI found that in the region of Kirkuk in Iraq 23 percent of Shia girls and women had undergone FGM.
Fatwas not enough
To be sure, the dominance of a law school alone does not account for the existence or rates of FGM. It is not a single and encompassing predictor, only a tool for preliminary assessment. There are cultural habits, traditions, social backgrounds. Yet, religious teachings do play a role – whether they come from High Councils or from a local sheikh.
Therefore, official statements from prominent religious leaders – e.g. fatwas condemning FGM and declaring it “unislamic“ – are an essential part of the struggle against the practice. But it is not enough and it will not work alone.
The cultural aspect can’t be neglected. As interviews show, FGM is considered essential for proper marriage and family honor. Where it is practiced, it is inflicted on nearly all girls within the group. Mothers find themselves in the dilemma of either having to harm their daughters or not being able to get them married later on. Religious considerations aside, “an individual in an intramarrying group that practices FGM can’t give it up unless enough other people do too”, writes political science professor Gerry Mackie. Only if a relevant proportion of this group decides to stop mutilating girls, it can be done. They have to take this decision at the same time and follow it through. Mackie draws a comparison with the antifootbindung societies in China. Besides education campaigns the antifootbinding reformers initiated natural-foot societies, “whose members publicly pledged not to bind their daughters’ feet nor to let their sons marry women with bound feet.”
The same approach is taken today in the struggle against FGM by FGM-free village programms in Africa and Iraq. After discussing questions of health and religion with the women of the village, they are asked if they are willing to stop the practice as a community. The pledge must be signed like a contract and the decision is celebrated.
Culture and Religion are both contributing to the prevalance of FGM. Thus, they must be adressed both at the same time.
 Hanny Lightfoot-Klein. “Prisoners of Ritual: Some Contemporary Developments in the History of Female Genital Mutilation,” presented at the Second International Symposium on Circumcision in San Francisco, Apr. 30-May 3, 1991.
 Sami A. Aldeeb Abu Sahlieh, “To Mutilate in the Name of Jehovah or Allah: Legitimization of Male and Female Circumcision,” Medicine and Law, July 1994, pp. 575-622.
Fatwas against FGM
Oliver M. Piecha: Stop FGM – also in the Middle East, 5.2.2013
Thomas von der Osten-Sacken and Thomas Uwer: Is Female Genital Mutilation an Islamic Problem?, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2007, pp. 29-36
Sami A. Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh: To Mutilate in the Name of Jehovah or Allah – Legitimization of Male and Female Circumcision, 1994
Islamopedia: Grand Ayatollah Fadlalllah’s remarks on the circumcision of women: Fatwa, posted 4.22.2010
Sadaf Modak: Circumcision battle on web, The Telegraph, Calcutta, 18.12.2011
Irfan Al-Alawi: Female Genital Mutilation “An Obligation” According to Iraqi Muslim Cleric, Gatestone Institute, 18.8.2011:
Does female circumcision have its place in Islam, MuftiSays.com, 22.5.2006
Muhammad Munir: Islamizing Custom or Customizing Islam: The Case of Female Genital Mutilation or Female Circumcision, Department of Law, International Islamic University, Pakistan, June 25, 2013
Answer by Shaykh Yaqub Abdurrahman, shafiifiqh.com/Shafi’i Institute, May 2015.
Razor’s Edge: The Controversy of Female Genital Mutilation, IRIN, Mar. 2005; Sheikh Omer, interview, IRINnews.org, U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Mar. 8, 2005.
Jordan Times: Female Circumcision still haunts Jorndanian Tribe in Southern Jordan, 1999
Is Female Circumcision Required?” Jannah.org, accessed Aug. 11, 2005.
Gerry Mackie: A Way to end Female Genital Cutting, 2003
It appears to me that those who want to call FMG an accredited Islamic practice can properly make that assertion for some Islamic Communities while those who want to call FMG not-religious but cultural can properly make that assertion for others.
You notice I say – How do I know – not – How do we know?
MY CONCLUSION: FMG occurs in Australia and is practised by recent immigrants on their girls from infancy to the mid teen years. Its practice is associated with Islam, but not wholly with Islam. It is so prevalent that a specialist clinic has been set up to deal with it.
John Bolton 31st May 2015.