Islamic Perspectives

FGM: an attempt to tarnish Islam

A leading French daily Le Point has recently condemned the practice of female circumcision (FGM or Female Genital Mutilation) in its editorial and fallaciously called it as yet another glaring example of Islamic barbarism towards women. Entire Europe, especially France, is on a mission to run down Islam these days: by banning hijab first and now calling FGM as a prehistoric Islamic custom. Before condemning FGM as an “Islamic” practice, it’s a necessary to know that Islam simply doesn’t approve of female circumcision. Nowhere in the Qur’an and Hadith (the compilation of Muhammad’s sayings), does one come across even a vague reference to female circumcision, though it’s still practiced in isolated Muslim communities of North African countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. Islam categorically condemns it. No exegete of Islamic theology has ever talked in favour of it. Imam Ghazali, considered to be the greatest ever authority on Qur’an, criticised FGM in no uncertain terms in his eleven treatises. Female genital mutilation predates Islam in North Africa. The African tribes of pre-Islamic North Africa used to practise ‘Geza’ which is an old Swahili word meaning “cutting an unnecessary growth.” To the primitive people of North Africa, a woman’s tiny growth in vagina was a ‘witch’s curse.’ After the advent of Islam, this abominable practice became less widespread. Cultural and ethnic undercurrents are always stronger and deeper than religious influences. So this practice is still sporadically prevalent in that region reverting to Pre-Islamic Jahalia days. And as regards the prevalence of FGM in Egypt, one ought to be aware that there were Coptic Christians in Egypt. Almost all Egyptian Muslims are descendants of Coptic Christians, who suffered from “clitoral envy”. Coptic Christians of third and fourth centuries, ritualistically removed a girl’s clitoris as they believed that removal of it would make women submissive and less demanding in bed. The great blind Muslim scholar, Professor Taha Hussain of Egypt, explained this pre-Islamic phenomenon in his book Perpetuation and percolation of primitive practices. Arab society never approved of this heinous practice. In fact, one of the Seven Odes of ancient Arabia is a laudatory poem on a woman’s capacity to have multiple orgasms, thanks to her uber-sensitive clitoris (translated by Swanton, Aurbery and Sir Hamilton Gibb, 1910). Sir Gibb famously wrote, “No one understood female anatomy better than the early Muslims of Arabia.” It’s indeed a great compliment. Europe conveniently forgets that during medieval ages, it had introduced chastity belts for women and there was a device called infibulation, meant to lock a woman’s genitalia, so that she could not sleep around except for her husband. The key was obviously with the husband! Apropos, there’s a phrase in typical Hindi: Lausa pahnana (metaphorically it means, ‘rendering a woman completely helpless and inert). Lausa was a genital lock like ‘infibulation’, used by the Rajputs of Rajputana till 1900! The embattled Rajput kings, warriors and chieftains would fit the lock in the private parts of their queens and concubines and unlock it after returning from the battlefields. And if the men died, the women would also die with the device. Many women died of infection. Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar had to write a letter to Mansingh to stop this inhuman and demeaning practice. But he failed, because Mansigh himself infibulated his 29 wives and 104 concubines (see Akbar, the great Mughal by Sir Vincent Smith and quoted by Muhammad Mujeeb in his book, Akbar). Colonel James Todd described this phenomenon in his Annals And Antiquities of Rajasthan (original copies available at Bikaner State Library and India House Library, London (now part of the British Library)). In a nutshell, those who live in glass-houses, ought not to throw stones at others.

Dr Sumit S Paul, Poona

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-29 February 2012 on page no. 21

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