Author William Hanna agreed to review this book on Female Genital Mutilation not because he is an authority on the subject, but because — having lived and travelled in Africa and the Middle East — he had become vaguely aware of the procedure which can only be described as a barbaric invasion of, and an assault on the most cherished part of a woman’s body with its role and capacity in the production of new life.
We all — men and women — have an inalienable responsibility for what we tolerate and allow to happen in our society and must recognise that FMG is not a harmless circumcision procedure as in the case of men who simply have a foreskin removed, but a violent violation of girls’ and women’s human rights involving either the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or the causing of some other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
FGM poses immediate risks to the health of its victims with severe pain and bleeding, difficulty in passing urine, infections, and even death due to hemorrhagic or neurogenic shock. Other effects include long-term scars, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, HIV infection, cysts, abscesses, genital ulcers, difficulty and pain while having sex, and an increased risk of complications affecting menstrual cycles that could result in infertility. The disturbing extent of this barbarity was made apparent earlier this year by a UNICEF report showing that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone ritual mutilation.
Apart from documenting the obvious consequences of FGM on young girls and women, Milena Rampoldi’s book points out that there are no sacred texts in any religion — including Islam — that actually promulgate FGM so that its practice has evolved over time through misguided beliefs and interpretations whose acceptance became an established tradition that required compliance from from individuals wishing to seen as belonging to their social group. Consequently women who have been unwittingly conditioned by their culture are prone to being led like lambs to the slaughter so as to perpetuate a harmful tradition that lacks any legitimacy — religious or otherwise.
The book contains many interviews with and opinions from a wide range of people including feminist activists, doctors, gynaecologists, victims, and university professors who are all variously versed on the subject even from an Islamic Philosophic point of view. Milena Rampoldi’s passionate desire to bring an end to a procedure that is deviant, abnormal, and unhealthy, is supported by the book’s wealth of overwhelming evidence that FGM has no place in a modern world that is allegedly dedicated to human rights equally for men and women. The embedded notion, for example, that FMG is a prerequisite for finding a husband, must be exposed as a misconception and to this end men have to stand up and be counted as being opposed to such outdated barbarism. The book’s recurring theme is that only through “education” — and implementation of a woman’s right to have control over the sanctity of her own body — can this medieval procedure be gradually eliminated. Reading this book and taking into account Amnesty International’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights for Women could for example form the basis of such education which should most certainly also include us men.
- Make decisions about our own health, body, sexual life and identity without fear of coercion or criminalisation
- Seek and receive information about sexuality and reproduction and access related health services and contraception
- Have access to comprehensive education on human sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, human rights and gender equality
- Decide whether and when to have children, and how many to have
- Access safe abortion services in cases of rape, incest, when the life or health of the pregnant woman is at risk, or when there is severe or fatal foetal impairment
- Choose our intimate partner, whether and when to marry and what type of family to create
- Live free from discrimination, coercion and violence, including rape and other sexual violence, female genital mutilation/cutting, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced sterilisation and forced marriage.
Islam against FGM – the new publication by ProMosaik
by Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik.
In this book, I would like to stress the importance of Muslim feminism and official Islam in the struggle against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Female Genital Mutilation or Female Genital Cutting is a practice still perpetuated in many countries of the Muslim world to control women’s sexual life, oppress them, deprive them of their dignity, and avoid their sexual satisfaction.
Our video about the book:
Opposing this horrible tradition, true Islam guarantees sexual rights to women. Women in Islam have the right to be sexually satisfied. Therefore, as a logical consequence, FGM is anti-Islamic, because anything that opposes women and their dignity is anti-Islamic in its core message.
According to the Quranic message, men and women were created in the best form (Quran 95:4 reads: “We have created the human being in the best form”). Regarding marriage and relationships between women and men as Allah’s creatures, Quran 30:21 reads:
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.”
If Islamic marriage is based on affection and mercy between wife and husband, how can FGM be accepted in an Islamic environment, which supports sexual satisfaction as a means of familiar and social peace and tranquillity?
Many Muslims oppose FGM in the name of Islam, but they are too few, and their voices are not heard. Many prefer to ignore the problem or are afraid of talking about this taboo issue in their communities because the sexual and intimate life of women is a very private affair, not to be discussed in public. However, the fact that the lives of these women is destroyed since their childhood by a horrifying tradition like FGM means that this is not a private matter, but something we have to fight against as a Muslim community, society, and ummah as a whole, women and men.
The paradox of FGM is that women themselves perpetuate this crime. FGM is practised by the older women of a society on small girls to achieve their so-called “purity”; it is a rite of passage to make them “fit for marriage”. It is violence by women against women.
However, in the end FGM destroys the entire society, as women are the pillar of Muslim societies, and according to the Prophet of Islam “Paradise is at the feet of the mother”. The mother has extreme responsibility towards her children and the entire society. Thus, FGM opposes this responsibility because it destroys the life of the following generation of women.
Therefore, my question is: How to struggle against FGM in the name of Islam?
First, we have to prove, using sources from the Quran and Sunna, that Islam is a Creation-oriented faith and belief, which opposes physical mutilation in general because Allah’s creation is perfect.
Secondly, we have to struggle against all traditions opposing the dignity, the rights and the protection granted to women by Islam.
Thirdly, the importance of sexual life in Islam should be highlighted, to remove taboos and to speak out about the violations of female sexual rights in society. Sexual needs are fundamental needs for promoting peace and tranquillity in Muslim families and societies.
Fourthly, men must be involved in the struggle against FGM in Muslim societies. Men must be educated to respect women and to ban their mutilation in the name of Islam. FGM must be fought against to save marital relationships, which are ultimately important in Islam. Moreover, FGM destroys sexual life for both men and women even if it is of course women that suffer more from it on all levels in comparison to men.
Fifthly, women must be educated as regards their self-conscience, their dignity and their self-value. They have to be empowered as women, mothers, daughters, sisters in the name of Islam, because as Zaynab al-Ghazali said:
“If women are the sisters of men as one hadith suggests, then the Islamist occupation with the question of difference and the (secular) feminist claim that Muslim women have a gender-specific concern miss the point”.