Religion Is Key In Combating Female Genital Mutilation According To Activists

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Female circumcision is not mentioned in any of the holy books of the three Abrahamic faiths. But one disputed hadith, or story about Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, seems to condone, or at least not object to, a cutting of the clitoris. That hadith is cited by Hatem al-Haj of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America, a conservative organization, in a 2010 opinion that condoned a type of FGM that involves the cutting or nicking of the clitoral hood. (…)

Many Muslim scholars, however, say the authenticity of this hadith is suspect, and say it should be rejected. A growing number of Islamic scholars have condemned the practice. In Egypt, where both Muslim and Coptic Christian communities perform FGM, the country’s highest Muslim leaders issued fatwas against the practice in 2007 and 2010.

According to a 2011 United Nations report, 61 Islamic scholars from 10 African countries also issued a fatwa against FGM. The same report said more than 4,100 religious leaders have taught followers that FGM is not sanctioned by Islam, while nearly 1,000 religious edicts called on Muslims to abandon the practice.

“The role of religious leaders is extremely important,” said Eyega, who was born in southern Sudan. “It’s important to get them involved.”

Imam Mohamed Magid, the president of the Islamic Society of North America, agreed.

“Having the imam on board to address this issue is very crucial,” Magid told a State Department audience last February to mark an International Day of Zero Tolerance for the practice. “We would like to have an imam coalition, Imams Against FGC, and it will be a movement across the Muslim world to have the imams say we will not accept this practice.”

The first step in stopping FGM is understanding why it’s done in the first place, which can vary from society to society. For example, the idea of enforcing the cultural value of female sexual purity by removing the clitoris has been interpreted by some Muslims as consistent with Islamic law. If women suffer health consequences as a result, those are often attributed to God’s will.

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