A statement of concern

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A 2005 UNICEF report claims an overwhelming percent of Egyptian women have undergone genital mutilation. Other sources report 60 percent for both Yemeni and Kurdish Iraqi women. There is strong circumstantial evidence of its practice in Syria and Jordan. Whether religiously prescribed or not, among rural populations most of the perpetrators and victims of female genital mutilation believe it to be religiously mandated. There is also enough authoritative religious voice to validate that view.

Clerical and government opposition to female genital mutilation is growing in the Middle East. Witness the 2006 conference at al-Azhar university sponsored by 20 esteemed clerics with its president, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qardawi, concluding that the practice “must be considered as a criminal aggression against mankind.” Yet Professor Muhammad Shamaa of the university’s Islamic Research Academy said that “it would take a long time before such an ancient custom disappears,” and admitted about the conference: “We simply did not invite those who disagree with us.”

And many Islamic clerics and educators do disagree; among them, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi who stated that “whoever finds it serving the interests of his daughters should do it, and I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world.” Egyptian Sheikh Mustafa al-Azhari believes that the attempt to end the practice is a Western conspiracy. Mufti Sa’id al-Hijawi of Jordan declared female circumcision to be a “noble trait accepted by Islam even though it is not a necessity.” Past rector of Al-Azhar University, Sheikh Gad al-Haq noted that since the Prophet did not ban female circumcision, it was permissible. And Umdat al-Salik, e4.3, a much referred to manual of Shafi’i Islamic law, affirms that female circumcision is obligatory.

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