Female Circumcision: Alien To Islam

Recently TOI carried a front page news item that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq & Syria), a militant organization now occupying parts of Syria and Iraq, was hellbent on perpetuating the old tradition of female circumcision (FGM: Female Genital Mutilation) among Muslim girls and women. Islam never approved of female circumcision, though male circumcision is integral to Islamic belief system, which is Semitic in nature and practice. Male circumcision was prevalent in Judaism right from its inception and the same was adopted by Islam, the youngest among the three Semitic faiths, viz, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Male circumcision is optional among Christians (Coptic Christians of Egypt underwent circumcision and many of them later embraced Islam). Jesus himself was circumcised as a Jew.

Nowhere in the Qur’an and Hadith (compilation of Muhammad’s sayings and deeds) does one come across any reference to female circumcision, as such it’s completely un-Islamic. It must be mentioned here that this abominable un-Islamic practice is still sporadically prevalent among some North African Muslims of Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, among others. But then, this came from an old African tribal custom that predated Islam. Many non-religious (they follow animism, totemism and primitive magic) aboriginal groups of Africa and also of Australia still practise female circumcision which is said to inhibit female sexual desire. The idea was that women shouldn’t go astray and stay loyal to their men. In female circumcision, clitoris (also known as ‘mock-cock’) is removed, lessening a woman’s ability to enjoy physical intimacy and climaxing. No sect of Islam (except for Dawoodi Bohras, a sub-sect of Shia Islam dating back to the Fatimids of Egypt) approves of female circumcision.

Here I must add that I chanced upon a very old paper in India House, London in 2004. Written in classical Persian (Pahalavi), it belonged to an obscure sect of the fire worshipers (Zoroastrians). In that screed, I found that female circumcision was prevalent among three sects of Zoroastrians till the 4th century. After that and even before the advent of Islam a little over 1400 years ago, Zoroastrians did away with female circumcision.

Simpson and Murray wrote in their treatise “A long journey of religious customs and religions” (Oxford, 1974) that “A few stray rituals of one faith seeped into other contemporary faiths and disappeared with the passage of time.’ If ISIS activists are insisting on female circumcision of all Muslim women and girls, then they’re absolutely ignorant about the faith they claim to be the true votaries of.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 August 2014 on page no. 2

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