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“FGM”: The Latest Attempt to Dehumanise Muslims

Moments after the vitriolic attack by the Daily Mail against Muslim families going to Legoland[1], it seems that the hate industry has swiftly moved on to something else to dehumanise Muslims.  In a seemingly last-ditch attempt, clutching at straws, the latest attempt to demonise Muslims has been in scapegoating local scholar, Dr Haitham al-Haddad for “supporting FGM” (female genital mutilation), by carefully redacted statements of Islam’s Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) and Juristic traditions[2][3][4].  The proximity of the two campaigns could be indicative of (i) a coordinated attack against Muslims, (ii) some opportunistic bloggers trying to make a name for themselves, or (iii) simply gullible Samaritans deluded into thinking they’re fighting villains.  Either way, normally I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt to new bloggers/journalists on the scene, apparently teetering on the edge of Islamophobia; but when they’re sharing notes with the likes of the EDL and the Daily Mail, they must be exposed.

So why is the latest attack against Dr Haitham al-Haddad an attack on Muslims?  Simply put, he’s been lied about, mentioned alongside controversial “bogeymen” to stir up hatred and to top it off, dehumanised for articulating simple, mainstream Islamic beliefs as part of his job as a scholar and a teacher.  Most of the lies against him he has clarified for himself here[5].  However, I wanted to clarify this new FGM curve-ball that came out of the blue.

History behind FGM classification

Before the most recent classification by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the practices of Female Genital Cutting were divided into harmless and harmful.  The harmless version was what was known as the “ritual nick”, or “sunna circumcision” (khitān in Arabic).  This is when a small incision is made in the prepuce, the female equivalent of the male’s foreskin.  Medical experts call this as harmless as ear piercing[6], and generally attach no medical benefit or harm to it.  Ironically this is said to be much lighter than the male circumcision[7].  The harmful type of cutting—which the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) incidentally forbade, as well as the consensus of all Islamic jurists—involves removal of parts of the genitals, and is of varying degrees, which leads to a plethora of medical problems especially since they are not normally done in hygienic environments.

In 1994, a doctor who was collecting data in Sudan suggested that this traditional classification was redundant, since no one in her experience (confined to Sudan and nearby areas) performed the ritual nick[8].  As a result of this and no doubt other factors, eventually the harmless ritual nick became a footnote and was subsumed as a harmless sub-type of a sub-type of FGM.  This, as well as arguably sloppy legislation in many countries, has led to the reality we see today, that the ritual nick, despite being harmless and less extensive than male circumcision, is also considered FGM by some.  Although there are medical experts contesting this in academic and public policy circles[9], it is not something that has ever been encouraged by Dr Haitham al-Haddad or any other western scholar I am aware of in our context, due to its non-obligatory nature Islamically combined with the problems that accompany it being classified as FGM according to most western countries.

Clarity and nuance

As can be seen from the history behind it, it should become clear to any reader who is not blinded by a hatred of Islam and Muslims, that the demonisation of Dr Haitham al-Haddad (or any other Muslim for that matter) on grounds that they “advocate FGM” is nothing less than ludicrous.  This is especially so since in the full video of a fiqh lesson on the rulings pertaining to children[10], a few minutes of which was taken out of context and uploaded separately by an Islamophobe, the sheikh explicitly mentions that actual FGM is completely forbidden according to Islam.  In the whole video it is also clear that the sheikh is not speaking from his own opinions, but quoting the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) verbatim, as well as a host of other classical and contemporary jurists.

Those that are hell-bent on dehumanising Muslims frequently take statements that are carefully redacted from hadiths wildly out of context, and pass them off as statements by Muslim scholars, in an attempt to demonise and vilify them.  Another example of this is the hadith, “A man should not be asked “why” he hit his wife,”[11] which has a particular context (and limit) to it when applied in counselling of marital disputes.  Yet another example is the stating of the well known criminalisation in Islam, of public acts of sodomy (in front of at least four sane, righteous Muslim witnesses) in an Islamic state.  Those who try and stir-up hatred of Muslims try to incite LGBT activists against us, by conveniently translating this as a blanket “criminalisation of homosexuals”!

A sad result of all this desperate shooting from the hip in throwing allegations of homophobia, sexism or racism left, right and centre, is that mud sticks.  No matter how many times lies and misinformation is clarified – you still get people trying to push these tired, out-dated allegations.  It’s no surprise to see the Islamophobia world’s finest players turning up in an article or two in the most vile papers[12].  People like Raheem Kassam of the Henry Jackson Society project “Student Rights”[13], who is probably mad that their own anti-Muslim hate preachers are banned from entering the country[14].  Or maybe they’re just bored after student unions across the country have uniformly condemned and shunned them, and supported counter campaigns against them by real students[15].

Unfortunately, nuance seems to be nearly extinct in our 150-character-or-fewer, 30-second-or-less sound bite culture.  My main message is about these Islamophobes.  If they have no shame, then they may lie, misrepresent and incite hatred against us as they will.  As for the neutral readers – now you know the real story, I hope.  Just take a look at some of the threatening comments in the articles demonising Dr Haitham al-Haddad, or the death threats underneath the YouTube video embedded in it, and ask yourself who the real hate preachers are.

[1] https://www.islam21c.com/politics/action-alert-incitement-of-religious-hatred-by-daily-mails-littlejohn/

[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2563170/Anger-extremist-cleric-given-podium-preach-London-university-despite-history-hate-speech-against-women-gays.html?login#readerCommentsCommand-message-field

[3] http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/anger-as-preacher-who-supports-fgm-speaks-at-soas-campus-debate-9137997.html?origin=internalSearch

[4] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/02/19/haitham-al-haddad-supports-fgm-soas-university_n_4814166.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

[5] https://www.islam21c.com/politics/reply-from-dr-haitham-al-haddad-to-allegations-made-in-the-daily-mail-sunday-times-newspaper/

[6] http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=oM2LaREKKpsC&lpg=PA63&ots=wxJ_On009r&dq=%22Immigrants%20bring%20the%20practice%20of%20female%20circumcision%20to%20the%20U.S%22&lr&pg=PA63#v=onepage&q=%22Immigrants%20bring%20the%20practice%20of%20female%20circumcision%20to%20the%20U.S%22&f=false

[7] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/5/1088.full.pdf+html

[8] http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199409153311106

[9] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/5/1088.full.pdf+html

[10] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msOmkAaytYM

[11] Reported by b. Majah

[12] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2563170/Anger-extremist-cleric-given-podium-preach-London-university-despite-history-hate-speech-against-women-gays.html?login#readerCommentsCommand-message-field

[13] https://www.islam21c.com/politics/stop-the-witch-hunt-of-muslim-students-palestine-activists/

[14] http://www.loonwatch.com/2013/12/exposed-quilliam-leadership-directly-involved-with-neocon-douglas-murrays-henry-jackson-society/

[15] http://realstudentrights.wordpress.com/

 

About Dr Salman Butt

Salman studied Biochemistry at Imperial College London followed by a PhD in Chemical Biology, carrying out research into photosynthesis. During his years at university he became involved in Islamic society da'wah and activism, and general Muslim community projects. He is the Chief Editor and a regular contributor at Islam21c, and also has a blog on the Huffington Post.

18 comments

  1. How often do I see this? Anyone who actually highlights the truth about Islamic issues is labelled a “LIAR”. Over and over again. Do you actually understand the cognitive dissonance in this? Or do you have a different definition of “liar”? Do you actually mean a “defamer” or “opponent”? Is that what liar means to you? What hope for Islam until it faces the truth?
    Erm, none…

    • Who are you talking to?
      If you are referring to the article, care to share any coherent criticisms aside from the dramatic outbursts?

  2. Go ahead and ignore the victims who have suffered their entire lives from these barbaric practices. This article simply plays down the pain and torture which has been inflicted by this procedure.

    When an extremist religion is involved, there is no limit to cruelty, nor stupidity.

    • Emily, talking about something else does not mean we are ignoring FGM and the women that suffer from it. You cannot cover every type of injustice in one article, there is another article on this site about actual FGM – this article is about something completely different and harmless.

      “When an extremist religion is involved, there is no limit to cruelty, nor stupidity.”
      ^ Are you referring to Christianity? Since UNICEF mentions predominantly Christian countries in Africa having some of the highest levels of actual FGM. I hope you would not put your personal biases and hatred for some people before the rational treatment of the problem of ACTUAL FGM…

  3. The proper form of female circumcision aka hoodectomy where only the prepuce of
    the clitoris is removed can benefit countless women, both in terms of hygiene and sexual pleasure.

    See:

    http://www.sailanmuslim.com/news/female-circumcision-the-hidden-truth-by-asiff-hussein

  4. Here’s an interesting link that covers the subject of female circumcision in detail. This guy has done his research. He shows why it’s obligatory for Muslim women, what has to be done and its benefits in terms of both hygiene and sexual wellbeing. It seems that it is his writings in a book posted in a now obsolete website that is the source of some of the information on the subject circulating in the web:

    http://www.sailanmuslim.com/news/female-circumcision-the-hidden-truth-by-asiff-hussein/

  5. Thanks, great article!

    There are many sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) to show the important place, circumcision, whether of males or females, occupies in Islam. Among these traditions is the one where the Prophet is reported to have declared circumcision (khitan) to be sunnat for men and ennobling for women (Baihaqi).

    He is also known to have declared that the bath (following sexual intercourse without which no prayer is valid) becomes obligatory when both the circumcised parts meet (Tirmidhi). The fact that the Prophet defined sexual intercourse as the meeting of the male and female circumcised parts (khitanul khitan or khitanain) when stressing on the need for the obligatory post-coital bath could be taken as pre-supposing or indicative of the obligatory nature of circumcision in the case of both males and females.

    Stronger still is his statement classing circumcision (khitan) as one of the acts characteristic of the fitra or God-given nature (Or in other words, Divinely-inspired natural inclinations of humans) such as the shaving of pubic hair, removing the hair of the armpits and the paring of nails (Bukhari) which again shows its strongly emphasized if not obligatory character in the case of both males and females. Muslim scholars are of the view that acts constituting fitra which the Prophet expected Muslims to follow are to be included in the category of wajib or obligatory.

    That the early Muslims regarded female circumcision as obligatory even for those Muslims who embraced Islam later in life is suggested by a tradition occurring in the Adab al Mufrad of Bukhari where Umm Al Muhajir is reported to have said: “I was captured with some girls from Byzantium. (Caliph) Uthman offered us Islam, but only myself and one other girl accepted Islam. Uthman said: ‘Go and circumcise them and purify them.’”

    More recently, we had Sheikh Jadul Haqq, the distinguished head of Al Azhar declaring both male and female circumcision to be obligatory religious duties (Khitan Al Banat in Fatawa Al-Islamiyyah. 1983). The fatwa by his successor Tantawi who opposed the practice cannot be taken seriously as we all know that he has pronounced a number of unislamic fatwas such as declaring bank interest halal and questioning the obligation of women wearing headscarves.

    At the same time, however, what is required in Islam, is the removal of only the prepuce of the clitoris, and not the clitoris itself as is widely believed. The Prophet told Umm Atiyyah, a lady who circumcised girls in Medina: “When you circumcise, cut plainly and do not cut severely, for it is beauty for the face and desirable for the husband” (idha khafadti fa ashimmi wa la tanhaki fa innahu ashraq li’l wajh wa ahza ind al zawj) (Abu Dawud, Al Awsat of Tabarani and Tarikh Baghdad of Al Baghdadi).

    This hadith clearly explains the procedure to be followed in the circumcision of girls. The words: “Cut plainly and do not cut severely” (ashimmi wa la tanhaki) is to be understood in the sense of removing the skin covering the clitoris, and not the clitoris. The expression “It is beauty (more properly brightness or radiance) for the face” (ashraq li’l wajh) is further proof of this as it simply means the joyous countenance of a woman, arising out of her being sexually satisfied by her husband. The idea here is that it is only with the removal of the clitoral prepuce that real sexual satisfaction could be realized. The procedure enhances sexual feeling in women during the sex act since a circumcised clitoris is much more likely to be stimulated as a result of direct oral, penile or tactile contact than the uncircumcised organ whose prepuce serves as an obstacle to direct stimulation.

    A number of religious works by the classical scholars such as Fath Al Bari by Ibn Hajar Asqalani and Sharhul Muhadhdhab of Imam Nawawi have stressed on the necessity of removing only the prepuce of the clitoris and not any part of the organ itself. It is recorded in the Majmu Al Fatawa that when Ibn Taymiyyah was asked whether the woman is circumcised, he replied: “Yes we circumcise. Her circumcision is to cut the uppermost skin (jilda) like the cock’s comb.” More recently Sheikh Jadul Haqq declared that the circumcision of females consists of the removal of the clitoral prepuce (Khitan Al Banat in Fatawa Al Islamiyya. 1983).

    Besides being a religious duty, the procedure is believed to facilitate good hygiene since the removal of the prepuce of the clitoris serves to prevent the accumulation of smegma, a foul-smelling, germ-containing cheese- like substance that collects underneath the prepuces of uncircumcised women (See Al Hidaayah. August 1997).

    A recent study by Sitt Al Banat Khalid ‘Khitan Al-Banat Ru’ yah Sihhiyyah’ (2003) has shown that female circumcision, like male circumcision, offers considerable health benefits, such as prevention of urinary tract infections and other diseases such as cystitis affecting the female reproductive organs.
    The latest is the study Orgasmic Dysfunction Among Women at a Primary Care Setting in Malaysia. Hatta Sidi, and Marhani Midin, and Sharifah Ezat Wan Puteh, and Norni Abdullah, (2008) Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health, 20 (4) accessible http://myais.fsktm.um.edu.my/4480/ which shows that being Non-Malay is a higher risk factor for Orgasmic Sexual Dysfunction in women, implying that Malay women experience less problems in achieving orgasm than non-Malay women. As you know almost all Malay women in Malaysia are circumcised (undergo hoodectomy) in contrast to non-Malay women who are not. This would suggest that hoodectomy does in fact contribute to an improved sex life in women rather than diminishing it as some argue.

    Another good reason why women need a hoodectomy (Islamic female circumcision). It can prevent cancer arising from oral sex. Here’s an interesting news item:
    US scientists said Sunday there is strong evidence linking oral sex to cancer, and urged more study of how human papillomaviruses may be to blame for a rise in oral cancer among white men. In the United States, oral cancer due to HPV infection is now more common than oral cancer from tobacco use, which remains the leading cause of such cancers in the rest of the world.
    Researchers have found a 225-percent increase in oral cancer cases in the United States from 1974 to 2007, mainly among white men, said Maura Gillison of Ohio State University. “The rise in oral cancer in the US is predominantly among young white males and we do not know the answer as to why.”
    It is obvious that the only way men can acquire the HPV virus is through the oral stimulation of one’s partner’s clitoris which allows the virus to enter the mouth. The virus no doubt is harboured in the prepuce of the clitoris just as it has been found that HPV also resides in the foreskins of males, through the transmission of which cervical cancer occurs in females. Thus a hoodectomy could, by removing the part that harbours the virus, significantly reduce or eliminate the risk of women transmitting the virus to their male partners.

    For more benefits of Islamic female circumcision also known as hoodectomy see http://www.umatia.org/2011/Safe Female circumcision.doc

  6. Is there a hadith which states female “sunna circumcision” must be performed?Perhaps a scholar can clarify this matter. But I very much doubt it.

    Just because something has an Arabic word, doesn’t make it Islamic. If there is no Islamic law calling for it, then calling something “sunna circumcision” is misleading and dangerous in a world dominated by media.

  7. 80% of Muslims around the world do not practice FGM.

    Islam advocates women’s rights to sexual pleasure.

    The prophet Mohamed did not have his daughters undergo FGM.

    FGM is practiced within all religions. To be more specific, it’s practiced by Christians, Muslims, Jews, animists and non-believers.

    FGM precedes all major religions as it was a practice that first started in Pharaonic Egypt.

    FGM depends on the traditions practiced by communities, rather than on the religion of a community group – for example, in the Niger 55% of Christians are affected by FGM, compared to 2% of Muslims.

    Despite all of the above, there are certain patriarchal religious figures who advocate FGM for the purpose of controlling women.
    IA
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

    • Ok this is the type of post that needs to be seen. Although I think that the above article is great, I also think that it is far too intellectual and assumes that the reader will have some knowledge of the topic. But in the nasty comments sections of papers and on the FB sites, we have seen that a lot of people just aren’t getting it. Please could the writer of the article also write a very straightforward piece, even if it means being very straightforward with some very sensitive issues that he/she may feel shy to point out, as well as the facts and statistics, thank you, salaams.

  8. Brilliant piece. Female circumcision is a delicate issue with strong emotions due to genuine problems in this area, but to extrapolate those problems to a procedure which is properly done and which medical evidence suggests is the same as male circumcision in reference to the effects of it, is disingenuous.

    It really does seem like the case that there is an attempt to garner support from a diaspora of activists to pick at the Muslim Minority and their beliefs. May Allah protect this Ummah. Ameen

  9. AsSalamu alaykoum

    May Allah bless you and keep this website up as it represents one of the best ones that intellectually strives to fight liars and oppressors in our country

    Keep up the good work

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