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Female Genital Mutilation and Islam

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The history of female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM), has been traced back as far as the second century BC, when a geographer, Agatharchides of Cnidus, wrote about female circumcision as it occurred among tribes residing on the western coast of the Red Sea (now modern day Egypt). Based on current geographic locations of FGM, the practices seems to have originated in Egypt and has spread south and west.

Some believe that female circumcision was rooted in the Pharaonic belief in the bisexuality of the gods. According to this belief, mortals reflected this trait of the gods; every individual possessed both a male and a female soul. The feminine soul of the man was located in the prepuce of the penis; the masculine soul of the woman was located in the clitoris. For healthy gender development, the female soul had to be excised from the man and the male soul from the woman. Circumcision was thus essential for boys to become men and girls to become women.
Prior to the rise of Islam, Egyptians once raided territories to the south for slaves, and Sudanic slaves were exported to areas along the Persian Gulf. Reports from the 15th and 16th centuries suggest that female slaves were sold at a higher price if they were ''sewn up" in a way that made them unable to give birth. After the region converted to Islam, this practice was no longer possible because Islam prohibits Muslims from enslaving others of their own religious beliefs.

Is female genital mutilation an Islamic practice?

Sheikh Talib, Dean of the Faculty of Shariah of Al Azhar, March 2005: "All practices of female circumcision and mutilation are crimes and have no relationship with Islam."

Ten of the highest ranked scholars from all over the world met at the Azhar University under the patronage of the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Prof. Dr. Ali Goma'a. After listening to several international physicians, they made the sensational decision to classify the custom of female genital mutilation (FGM) as punishable aggression and a crime against humanity. As a result, the custom can no longer be practiced by Muslims.

So why does the practice of female circumcision linger in so many countries?

It is very difficult to understand why female circumcision remains if it was supposed to fade out of practice once Egypt converted to Islam, but the best explanation is that the practice continues because it is considered a tradition. Few individuals who practice female circumcision are aware of the early mythology, but several do stereotype uncircumcised girls as more masculine.

In all societies where female excision is practiced, male circumcision is also performed. Male circumcision is represented in reliefs of the Egyptian tomb of Ankh-Ma Hor of the sixth Dynasty (2340-2180 B.C.) and in other Egyptian representations of pharaonic times. But whether excision and infibulation had a parallel development is unclear. By the time of the first millennium B.C., however, there is evidence that the custom was certainly practiced in Egypt. The oldest known source that records the custom is the work of Herodotus (484-424 B.C.). He states that excision was practised by the Phoenicians, Hittites, and Ethiopians as well as the Egyptians.

Circa 25 B.C., Strabo, the Greek geographer and historian, reports that the Egyptians circumcised their boys and excised their girls. Evidence is also found in the medical literature. Soramus, a Greek physician who practiced about 138 A.D. in Alexandria and Rome, supplies a detailed description of the operation of excision in Egypt and of the instruments used. Another physician, Aetius (502-575 A.D.), describes the operation in a similar fashion. Both state that the purpose was the reduction of female sexual desire.

Moreover, some archaeologists claim that the well preserved Egyptian mummies attest to the presence of clitoridectomy. It is also generally agreed that excision was practiced mostly by the ruling class. It was a sign of distinction for the females of royal families and the priestly caste of Egypt. Women were thought to be the only possessors of magic, and FGM was an attempt to obtain control over this magic power.

According to some sources, Jews and Arabs aquired the practices of clitoridectomy and infibulation in Egypt. During the Arab conquest of North Africa, the practice was picked up and spread to other parts of the world.

FGM is practiced primarily by Muslims but also by Christians, Animists, atheists, and Jews (only by Fellashas living near Gondar in Ethiopia). The practice is widespread in areas where poverty, illiteracy, and unsanitary conditions predominate, and where the economic and social standing of women is low. It is practiced in more than twenty-six countries of the African continent and in some areas of the Arabian peninsula and Asia.

Some proponents of the practice claim that it is required by the Islamic faith. However, scholars and theologians of Islam state that female circumcision is not prescribed by their religious doctrine, emphasizing that the procedure is almost never performed in many major Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan.

Cultural roots of FGM

Kopelman has summarized four additional reasons proposed to explain the custom of FGM:

1) to preserve group identity;

2) to help maintain cleanliness and health;

3) to preserve virginity and family honor and prevent immorality; and

4) to further marriage goals, including enhancement of sexual pleasure for men.

Preservation of cultural identity has been noted by Toubia to be of particular importance for groups who have previously faced colonialism and for immigrants threatened by a dominant culture. FGM is endemic in poor societies where marriage is essential to the social and economic security for women. FGM becomes a physical sign of a woman's marriageability, with social control exercised over her sexual pleasure by clitorectomy and over reproduction by infibulation."

Importance of education

An educational program about FGM requires, above all, sensitivity to the cultural background of the patient and her parents and an appreciation of the significance of this custom in their tradition. Traditional female genital circumcision, or female genital mutilation, performed upon women in some non-Western cultures has provoked considerable international controversy since the late 1970s. Western feminists, physicians, and ethicists condemn such practice.

Having made moral judgement against female genital mutilation, what is the next step? There is clearly an impasse between cultural relativism on the one hand and universalism on the other. Those at the forefront of the debate on female genital mutilation must learn to work respectfully with, instead of independently of, local resources for cultural self-examination and change.

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About Sam

  • GerryAllwin

    Many horrific practices have been done under the guise of religion. Cutting hearts out, roasting infants as sacrificea to Moloch (Saturn), burning widows alivenon their husbands’ funeral pyres etc. Who would claim that we should be “

  • muslimah123

    its crazy that some of the sisters think that taking out the clitoris is islamic. No only the clitorol hood so therefore it is similar to male circumcision.It is your right as a Muslim woman to have a satisfactory sexual relationship with your husband which is why the Prophet P.B.U.H tells us not to go extremes and that one should merely trim the clit. When one has a Sunnah circumcision then she will be able to have a clitoral orgasm. The comments of some of the women are downright scary and contrary to Islam as it is haram to take out the clit. Sisters I strongly recommend you look up Circumcision in Islam for women as what you guys are saying is culture so therefore please do not confuse culture with Islam.All the classical scholars make it clear what is to be cut. with this ignorance you are misleading people into thinking that FMG is allowed in islam which is absolutely horrifying. please note FMG is not the same as Sunnah circumcision as ignorantly claimed by some of these women subhannallah. And Allah knows best

  • shaheena

    Islam believes that a woman has the right to a normal sex life and by removing the clitoris it makes it hard to enjoy relationships with the their husband.
    n Madeenah there was a woman who circumcised women and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to her: “Do not go to the extreme in cutting; that is better for the woman and more liked by the husband.” Narrated by Abu Dawood (5271), classed as saheeh by Shaykh al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.
    This hadith clearly tells us as muslims not to take out the clitoris and doing this is haram as i have mentioned before.The type of circumcision mentioned by the revert sisters about taking out the labia and clitoris is FMG and NOT sunnah circumcision so please do not mislead other people into thinking that it is the islamic way rather is merely cultural.

  • shaheena

    in Islam taking out the Clitoris is haram i repeat haram. only the Clitorial hood should be cut not the clitoris and non of the islamic scholars even Shafi who believed that female circumcision is a must said that only the skin on top of the clitoris can be removed. So to the revert sister where did you get the idea that islamic circumcision means taking out the clitoris?

  • Sabina

    Those who see circumcision only as a bad thing are being blinded by their own prejudice. I am circumcised and have a wonderful sexual relationship with my husband. Circumcision changes sexual feelings. It does not remove them. My only wish is that those who want circumcision could have it done in better conditions. Poor standard of circumcision is the real enemy. not the procedure itself.

  • Lois K. M.

    Thanks every one because you have found neither Islam Holy book nor Christians Holy book has Gods command to practice female genital mutilation on women. How ever the only good reason for the practice is based on tradition or culture. This being the case then let us be very calm without biasness and reason together. Who are those people who came up with this idea of cutting women’s bodies? Were they or are they still wiser than God who creates every part of human body and give it freely? Does it mean those parts have no purpose? Can God ever make a mistake? Is God so unwise even today children are born with their full external and internal reproductive organs? Can we convince anyone that if we cut three out of our five God given fingers on our hands, still those hands can fuction 100 per-cent as though the three fingers were not damaged? We may try to justify our answers or not but we will never ever cheat ourselves. We may accept it or not a fact will ever remain a fact. May God help the helpless.

  • Henry Winray

    Obviously Islam does not forbid circumcision of females, and encourages cleanliness in both males and females. The Western insistence on the clitoris as the only source of pleasure in women is absurd, but at the same time the campaign by Western organizations against painful operations done with poor hygiene, even if «traditional», is a good thing. If a woman’s clitoral tip and small lips are to be removed, let it be in conditions of good hygiene and adequate medical environment. If society and family values value the fact for the females to be cut, let it be done before puberty, in good conditions – otherwise they will feel inadequate. There is no doubt in my mind that circumcision of females makes them calmer and removes a source of itching and possible UTI, but the social status is most important: being cut in a society that frowns on it or even makes it illegal will make you pass as a freak, but so will being uncut in a society with different values. As for male circumcision, it should be a family decision first of all.

  • DPM

    I’m an Englishman, married to an Egyptian woman. She is highly educated, a doctor. She was circumcised (removal of clitoris and labia) when she was 12 years old.

    Our sex life is great, my wife enjoys it and so do I. Making love to a circumcised woman is very different because she cannot have a clitoral orgasm. However I find that means she enjoys the actual act of intercourse a lot more, in fact she really desires it whereas British women I’d been with before weren’t really that interested because all they really wanted was clitoral stimulation.

    Having experienced both types of lovemaking I feel sorry for uncircumcised women and their husbands, because I don’t think they know how much better things are once the operation is done.

    I stress that I don’t favour infibulation, I think it can have negative side effects, but without the clitoris and labia making love is very much improved.

  • Muslimah

    I think the issue of regulating desire is an over-rated one, I’m a Muslim convert myself and I’m confused why the two previous converts opted for full removal of the clitoris, this is clearly against Islam as Islam does not promote going to extremes. Cutting just the hood of the clitoris can been seen as similar to Male circumcision, going further than that is against the teachings of Islam and clearly wrong. Most of the disgust expressed by people is caused by people going to extremes. This is a cultural practice.

  • Muslimah

    Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked about whether women should be circumcised or not. He replied:

    Praise be to Allaah. Yes, they should be circumcised, i.e., the top of the piece of skin that looks like a rooster’s comb should be cut. The Messenger of Allaah (S) said to the woman who did circumcisions: “Leave something sticking out and do not go to extremes in cutting. That makes her face look brighter and is more pleasing to her husband.” That is because the purpose of circumcising a man is to make him clean from the impurity that may collect beneath the foreskin. But the purpose of circumcising women is to regulate their desire, because if a woman is not circumcised her desire will be strong. Hence the words “O son of an uncircumcised woman” are used as an insult, because the uncircumcised woman has stronger desire. Hence immoral actions are more common among the women of the Tatars and the Franks, that are not found among the Muslim women. If the circumcision is too severe, the desire is weakened altogether, which is unpleasing for men; but if it is cut without going to extremes in that, the purpose will be achieved, which is moderating desire. And Allaah knows best.

  • Jane

    I’m not Castrated [let’s confront the first lie, shall we, it’s female castration, not circumcision, male circumcision is not a complete removal of the penile organ, just foreskin, removal of clitoris which is a full organ and labia, other castration/penetration torture techniques are just that, castration, to make FEMALE EUNUCHS, so let’s deal with that LIE, and a big one that is].

    Anyhow, I am not castrated, and I am not aroused at the touch of my genitals, like some obsessed nympho, nor am I not able to Control my sexual urges. I take great delight that my HUSBAND makes love to an ALIVE WOMAN, not a dead body, and I do NOT have to FAKE it, another ‘lie’ to keep up some mirage to fulfill some Stockholm Syndrome lie. I also take great delight in that my body, clitoris, labia, vagina, beautiful in it’s uniqueness, Created by my Lord GOD, who in HIS right, created me, and did not NEED OR INSIST ON ANY MAN, to correct HIS WORK, because only GOD is HOLY, how DARE any man, cleric, preacher or leader insist on HIS better molding of females than GOD HIMSELF, I would hate to be that person on judgment day, the arrogance of Any person, insisting that HE or SHE knows better how to create/mold human body of females, better than GOD ALMIGHTY, ouch,

    but alas, sexuality, what God has shown me, is more than the fulfilling of LUST of men, it is the creation of all life forms. Everywhere, there is sex, from plants that self propagate to ocean life to animals to food, mess with just ONE of these, you break the connection and you have major ecology problems that cause famines, PLAGUES such as grasshoppers, locusts, etc., uh, those dying birds/fish [the fifth day of creation] FALLING OUT OF SKY but HEY,

    man knows better, why man’s entitlement to dry sex, painful sex, rape of females rather than honoring both father and mother, the womb carrying him into life, than GOD’s wisdom,

    so to me, sex is not just about morality, it’s about Respect, of all life forms. Maybe, if we Taught that, rather than obsess over man’s immaturity and demand for his SELFISH PLEASURE AT THE EXPENSE OF MILLIONS OF FEMALES, regardless of how many parrots lie to maintain their slave upper level pyramid status, we could End the

    castration of females.

    But, then again, maybe, these men LIKE the lies of their females, my husband, can know this, by physical proof, I don’t fake, nor will he ever have to worry, about whether or not, I just do it out of obligation, for he knows, HE gives me pleasure, and my body is his, his is mine, equal,

    and a beautiful child was created because of this union. If I had of been castrated, he would never truly know truth, and sadly,

    neither would I, and that’s, truly, the most tragic part of this cruel hating of God’s creative work, ritual,

    the lie, it protects.

  • semira

    i was circumcised when i was 14 because my mother insisted on it, i will never forget that day, i felt alot of pain and alot of blood was there, and the circumciser ifibulated me. as time goes by i got married and had daughters and sons, and all of them are circumcised and my daughters infibulated. i want my children to circumcise their girls when the time comes.

  • fatuma

    i was circumcised 6 months ago willingly and i feel perfect, i was infibulated

  • Tarz

    I googled something and FGM came up instead. We were taught about it in school but i was keen to learn more. It has been a very interesting read. I am open to all religions and cultures and have a couple of Muslim friends. While ive tried to keep an open mind about about this i must say I have a sickness in my stomach that wont go away and tears in my eyes.

    I tend to agree with quite a few points here: We are sexual creatures, it should be celebrated, not suppressed.
    You cant go cutting off parts of your body you were meant to have.
    I have a a normal set of genitals: i dont have sex on the brain, i love my partner very much, i have never cheated on anyone, if i did it would not be because of sexual desire. So thats all just crap.
    You cant compare male and female circumcision, as anyone who has studied anatomy would know, the clitoris and glans of the penis start out as the same thing, so if you were to cut off a clit, you would literally have to cut off the entire head of the male penis to get the same result(what do you think about that fellas?).
    I know pleny of circumcised men who cheat and have sexual desire, the circ doesnt fix that for them why would it fix that for women.
    I still think its a lot about supressing women and their sexuallity, cos you (men) are all scared of what will happen when women discover their true potential in life.

    I agree as a form of surgury, you should have to wait till you are 18 and you can make your own informed choice about it.

    Dont bring that shit to Australia, you moved here for a reason, you know its not part of our culture, if you feel the need to live your life like that its fine, but go back to where you came from to do so.

    All the best to all my girls out their, whatever choice you make, and im so sorry to all of you who didnt have a choice, please know im thinking of you xx.

  • saneesha

    i am also circumised at the age17 by a barber at home with presrntes of my aunts

  • Paxalot

    If you are for cutting children’s genitals you are a child abuser. It is no different than tattooing their faces or slicing scars into their foreheads. It is an adult decision – to be performed by consenting adults only. That means older than 18.

  • Iranian

    FGM is clearly cultural. It was there before Islam or christianity. It originated in the nile valley. That being said to those that claim of how wonderful it is, or how we should do because westerners fight against it, I have this to say: WHAT?!!!
    First off devout Iranian women have been pioneers in science, medicine, and Law and they don’t accept FGM. They enjoy their clits and are some of the most independent and well educated Muslim women in the world.
    DON’T speak on behalf of all muslims please.

  • Dear God

    Some of the comments here are really sick. Why not gouge your eyeballs too if you are into self-mutilation?

  • Western Slut,

    Muslim sister’s post is 3 years old. But, I’m glad you answered her for posterity.

    I like all your points and especially your nickname.

  • Western Slut

    100 years ago Western doctors would subject women to full hysterectomies so they could also feel “a very profound feeling of contentment, calmness and satisfaction”.

    You canNOT make me believe that cutting into or near the clitoris is painless.

    The clitoris in a woman is the same tissue that grows to be the TIP of a man’s penis. Let’s be fair and not just cut of some “extraneous tissue”, but the SEAT and SOURCE of THEIR orgasms, and see just how quickly this practice is stopped!

    If you are an adult, and CHOOSE fully and clearly to do this to yourself, then go ahead. But to be FORCED to undergo this mangling operation before you are even aware of the purpose and your own body’s requirements, and to have it done without benefit of simple anesthetic is BARBARISM of the HIGHEST SORT!

    No, I would also fight to not have my sons circumsized. It is unnecessary and reeks of a ritual for a religion I am not part of.

    Muslim sister, you have not given ANY medical proofs for your statements. A majority of women who have undergone these “operations” report a complete lack of sexual pleasure and desire.

    Why would you want to remove a part of your body that your god has created? That implies that you know better than your god, and that you think no one can control their own actions.

    Mature people may feel arousal, but that does not mean they act on these feelings. I do not need an operation to control my modesty. Nor to “make” me clean or holy or pure.

  • Fredco

    Those in favor of female circumcision of the mind that the way God made you is somehow inadequate, and that you know better.

    There’s a word to describe this: Insanity.

  • Shahed

    I am a Bangladeshi man living in Bangladesh, where female circumcision is an extremely uncommon practice. I learned about this practice through my girlfriend who is also my university classmate. She is almost a Bangladeshi woman, living in Bangladesh since she was 14. Her mother is from Egypt but her father is a Bangladeshi.

    Although my girlfriend is almost a Bangladeshi woman, female circumcision was performed on her (just like her Egyptian mother) while she was 13. Her entire clitoris was removed from the base, including labia. According to her, “It was done by a female doctor without anesthesia, and it was extremely painful.”

    The day I learned that she is circumcised, I thought that she might not have any sexual feelings at all. But later, it was proved that I was wrong. The fact is that, she feels sensation differently. Although she has no feelings on her clitoral area, she really enjoys fingering deep inside her vagina while I make love with her. She holds me tight and very conscious about the whole body contact. She enjoys playing with her nipples and it easily turns her on. She quickly reaches orgasm when I move my finger deep inside her vagina. However, she has no sensation on her clitoral area.

    From my personal experience, it is clear to me that sex with a circumcised woman is truly nice. I know that I will never find this kind of intimacy with an uncircumcised woman. She is sexually so nice, and I’m so much addicted to her that, I can’t think of marrying anyone else except her.

  • Spina Spogmai

    I am from Afghanistan. A country where women are not living an ideal life. But hearing the accounts of some women about their circumcision experience makes me shiver. Female genital mutilation is like playing with dignity of a woman. It should under no circumstance be associated with Islam. It is a purely African and pagan Arab tradition. Sexual arousal for female is not a crime in Islam. Islam says that it should be controlled no uprooted altogether. If sexual desire was such a bad thing then why did God gave it to humans in the first place. Using our sexual desires in the right way (with our husband or wife)is what religion teaches us.I have full sympathy with those convert sisters who were wrongly informed by some traditional Muslims and made to perform the practice in the name of Islam. Believe me there is no mention of female circumcision in the Quran or valid (sahih) Ahadith. Everything that Arabs do, cannot be labelled as Islamic. What the Holy Prophet recommended was only male circumcision which has great medical benefits. Female circumcision for that matter has no medical benefits. On the contrary it leaves a woman sexually paralyzed.
    Majority of Muslim women around the world do not practice this circumcision and are still very righteous and good Muslims.
    We should never tarnish the image of Islam by associating such brutal practices with it but should work together to eradicate them.

    Spina Spogmai

  • Saad Noah

    To see a video response to FGM in Islam, please go to youtube channel? fitnafitan5 video clip 31/49, go to the end of the 31/49 clip and continou to video clip 32/49. The Quran is the only Divine Book that forbids FGM and considers it as the deed of the devil. When the Moslims are going to understand the Merciful Quran and live as Moslims?

  • safiya

    to Muslim Sister:

    How come I almost never hear perspectives like yours about this practice?

  • Memmy

    FGM is something that a woman should decide for herself, not something that should be forced upon her.

    Many people try to compare FGM to the cosmetic procedures of breast enlargment or implants. Both are unneccesary medical procedures to make a woman more disireable. I see the difference as this- in order to recieve cosmetic surgery, you have to be of a consenting age and agree to it.

    A parent cannot demand that their 14 year old daugher recieve implants to make her suitable for marraige, so why can they demand she be circumsised? If an family with an American background held down their child and cut pieces of her body off, it would be a crime, but if someone from another background does it, it’s tradition?

    Women can control their sexual urges without being circumsised, if they can’t it’s a problem with their upbringing, not their genitalia.

  • Elizabeth

    I am really saddened by the comments made here by people on both sides of the argument, ignorant people who feel they should make decisions on behalf of others, based on their own beliefs and culture. Every one of us feel inadequate, different, ugly at one time or other in our lives, and yet we are all perfectly unique and beautiful. We all struggle with what is right and wrong, what is sin and what is not, no one person is correct.
    Keep in mind that the human species is the only species on this planet that engages in sex for pleasure, it is what makes us unique, every other species is driven by the need to reproduce, but not us. If you are an adult female of the human species and you are unable to master your sexuality, then by all means take advantage of the options available to you, but leave your little ones out of it. Self discipline has lost it’s appeal in this world and yet it should be our most valued personality trait. I know my husband would prefer to hear that I am faithful to him because i choose to be rather than the fact that i have no physical need for sex. I believe that my God would prefer that I made this sacrifice to Him because I chose to rather than because my parents made the sacrifice on my behalf before I could even know what He was about.
    I respectfully request that you live your life to the best of your ability and do no harm to others, let them learn the lessons of self discipline, self respect and self esteem, and guide them on their path in life knowing it is not the same path you walked, even if it is entangled in your path now. Let your little ones grow up without fear or pain and then guide them to make the right choices for them when they are adults. Please!

  • dlm

    There is some debate as to whether islam allows FGM. This adds an extra complication to free and open discussion of the topic and limits the potential of clear, free thought and deliberation on th issue. We all want to be sensitive to others’ beliefs.

    However, if I may step back a little from the precise ‘islam’ label, I would like to make a more general point – directed at no particular religious group:

    If you believe in (a) god and that all-powerful superior being blesses you with a beautiful child (and I mean they are all beautiful)… then why would you presume to cut away part of that god-given child as if you know better than your god?

    It seems illogical to me. Not to mention insane, inhumane, barbaric and downright painful.

  • muslim

    i’m a soon to be doctor insha Allah, and I wanted to know exactly what type of female circumcision is allowed in Islam. The hadith discussing this is very broad.

  • Eric

    Let people leave their life there is nothing wrong with cirmusised women and their sexual demeanour has nothing to envy to this so called “uncircumcised bombs”

  • Eric

    Am a male from an europeen country not muslim aand i am leaving in west africa.

    The first time i made love to a somali woman i realised she was completely circumcised, i felt very sorry for her because Of our culture where we are told that woman circumcised cannot have orgasm anymore and so on and so on…

    Fortunately, i soon realised that the feeling And the pleasure was there non undiminished at all although different in some kind of subtle way, well to “cut” a long story short it was nice! Far much better than what i had experienced so far. since that time i became more and more interrested in that practice and i have been talking to a lot of girl who were circumcised actually, to the contrary off all we can read on the net or see on tv about the evilness of this practice most of them where quite happy to have done it the most important problem was about the way “modern peoples” were looking at them i think they just hate to be looked at as victims to be regarded as frigid woman they are not far from that!

    I can understand people being for or against a practice but that should be done in respect of our different cultures and not in a way of retaliation as usual western countries bring along their on believes for the greatest good of all! women ,if you dont want to be circumcised… so be it! But please please stop pointing the finger at the ones who want it! They have no need for your pity or your self rigteous indignation. and your crooked statistics!

  • Sabina

    I was circumcised at 14 and have no regrets at all. Whilst I can understand that the procedure can be a problem if it is not performed properly, modern medical techniques minimise any risks. If performed correctly, circumcision should allow sexual intimacy to take place without it being undermined by lustful thoughts or carnal feelings. Sexual satisfaction is revered in so much of the western world, yet for so many women, it brings nothing but frustration. Circumcision brings contentment and calm to a woman, and contrary to much reporting, does not automatically mean difficulties during childbirth. The ideal circumcision should include the removal of the clitoris and the labia minor, flush to the vaginal wall. This ensures there are no ridges to trap fluids. Circumcision leaves a vagina slightly drier than normal, and almost free of odour. The removed material ensures the vagina can fully open to ease childbirth. There are many who may say that I will never have an orgasm, so I don’t know what I am missing – but when I look at what ‘sexual liberation’ has achieved for the west, I think that my parents made the right choice. Regarding age, the debate regarding the correct age for the procedure is complex. Whilst many would say my parents were wrong to have me circumcised (as it should have been my decision) it is also right to claim that parents have a duty to ensure there children are brought up in an appropriate manner. My circumcision was done ‘for me’ not ‘to me’, and was done at what they considered the correct age.

  • Sara

    This is a comment to the contribution of Abeer and Saima : I agree with you. As long as this tradition is done under medical control and enought hygiene and safety measure, including aenesthetics, what is the real problem ? I think that most of the problem come from bad hygiene conditions, not from the act it self. I have a very good friend from Mali, who is circumcised, and she doesn’t complain, et she says she a wonderfull life her husband, including love making, she has pleasure too. So, if these people want to keep their traditions, why should we ban them ?

  • Sam


    Could you answer three questions for me?

    1. Does a sahih hadith show accuracy of statements or accuracy of chain of speakers?

    2. Is there a mention of female circumcision that is not written down 200-400 years after the Prophets death?

    3. Is there a mention of female circumcision in the Quran?


  • Australian muslim girl

    I like female circumcision

    am from Australia and married to a Muslim. I had always wanted to be circumcised but was too afraid. I was cirumcised (amputation of cliroris and labia) a few months before the wedding at his family’s insistence. I am glad that I had it done, even though it was very painful. It was done by a medical doctor from Egypt who specialises in female circumcision and who visits Australia to do circumcisions twice a year.

    I attended counselling at the muslim womens clinic (where the circumcision took place) and I was given information about the circumcision that would be performed. I spoke to other converts who like me who were going through conversion and circumcisions. I found most women preferred complete amputation of the clitoris and labia for hygiene, happiness and comfort.

    I was taken to the clinic by my mother in law and was given several injections in the clitoral and labia area before the operation which only dulled the pain a little. The doctor then cut the hood away in two parts and then removed the rest of the clitoris and cut the labia away in two parts. I then had 4 sutures and there was quite a bit of bleeding, but it was a beautiful experience.

    I fully understand why circumcision has survived in muslim culture and why so many young muslim girls are proud to be circumcised. I think if it had been my decision I would never have done it and so I am grateful to my mother in law for arranging it and insisting that it be done before the wedding.

    In muslim culture female circumcision is viewed in a very positive way and every young cirumcised girl that I have spoken to is always so pleased they have had the operation, it is really something that they look forward to. I would gladly do it again in a moment.

    I am involved with other converts (from a western background like me) who are comtemplating circumcision and I do readily encourage it, the only thing I do not actively encourage is infibulation although I would never discourage a women from that choice either. I work with women from east african backgrounds and they seem to have many health problems, although it must be said that women who are infibulated by proper medical staff in proper medical conditions don’t seem to have too many problems.

    However, women in Australia need to travel to muslim countries overseas for infibulation as it usually involves a stay in hospital. I know of two western converts who have been infibulated and they have no regrets at all, although childbirth was not easy for them.

    My husband is very insistent that should we have daughters then they will be circumcised between the ages of 8 -14. He is worried that it be done before puberty. I see many girls at this age having the operation and as I have said it is such a postive and proud event in their lives.

    I would be interested in hearing other womens experiences on this subject.

  • saima

    Medical benefits of female circumcision

    Could you explain me what is the medical benefit of girl’s circumcision?.

    Praise be to Allaah.
    Just as Allaah has created mankind, He has also guided them that which is best suited to their interests in this world and in the Hereafter, so He sent them Messengers and revealed Books to guide mankind to what is good and urge them to follow it, and to teach them what is evil and warn them against it.
    Islam may enjoin or forbid something and the people – or most of them – may not be able to see the wisdom behind this command or prohibition. In that case we are obliged to obey the command or heed the prohibition and to have certain faith that the laws of Allaah are all good, even if we cannot see the wisdom behind them.
    Circumcision is one of the Sunnahs of the fitrah, as is indicated by the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “The fitrah is five things – or five things are part of the fitrah – circumcision, shaving the pubes, plucking the armpit hairs, cutting the nails, and trimming the moustache.” narrated by al-Bukhaari (5889) and Muslim (257).
    Undoubtedly with regard to the Sunnahs of the fitrah, some of the wisdom behind them is obvious, and that includes circumcision. There are clear benefits to it which we should pay attention to and understand the wisdom behind it.
    In the answer to question no. 9412 we have discussed circumcision, how it is to be done and the ruling on it. In the answer to question no. 7073 we have explained the health and shar’i benefits of circumcision for males.
    Circumcision is prescribed for both males and females. The correct view is that circumcision is obligatory for males and that it is one of the symbols of Islam, and that circumcision of women is mustahabb but not obligatory.
    There are reports in the Sunnah which indicate that circumcision for women is prescribed in Islam. In Madeenah there was a woman who circumcised women and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to her: “Do not go to the extreme in cutting; that is better for the woman and more liked by the husband.” Narrated by Abu Dawood (5271), classed as saheeh by Shaykh al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.
    Female circumcision has not been prescribed for no reason, rather there is wisdom behind it and it brings many benefits.
    Mentioning some of these benefits, Dr. Haamid al-Ghawaabi says:
    The secretions of the labia minora accumulate in uncircumcised women and turn rancid, so they develop an unpleasant odour which may lead to infections of the vagina or urethra. I have seen many cases of sickness caused by the lack of circumcision.
    Circumcision reduces excessive sensitivity of the clitoris which may cause it to increase in size to 3 centimeters when aroused, which is very annoying to the husband, especially at the time of intercourse.
    Another benefit of circumcision is that it prevents stimulation of the clitoris which makes it grow large in such a manner that it causes pain.
    Circumcision prevents spasms of the clitoris which are a kind of inflammation.
    Circumcision reduces excessive sexual desire.
    Then Dr al-Ghawaabi refutes those who claim that female circumcision leads to frigidity by noting:
    Frigidity has many causes, and this claim is not based on any sound statistics comparing circumcised women with uncircumcised women, except in the case of Pharaonic circumcision which is where the clitoris is excised completely. This does in fact lead to frigidity but it is contrary to the kind of circumcision enjoined by the Prophet of mercy (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) when he said: “Do not destroy” i.e., do not uproot or excise. This alone is evidence that speaks for itself, because medicine at that time knew very little about this sensitive organ (the clitoris) and its nerves.
    From Liwa’ al-Islam magazine, issue 8 and 10; article entitled Khitaan al-Banaat (circumcision of girls).
    The female gynaecologist Sitt al-Banaat Khaalid says in an article entitled Khitaan al-Banaat Ru’yah Sihhiyyah (Female circumcision from a health point of view):
    For us in the Muslim world female circumcision is, above all else, obedience to Islam, which means acting in accordance with the fitrah and following the Sunnah which encourages it. We all know the dimensions of Islam, and that everything in it must be good in all aspects, including health aspects. If the benefits are not apparent now, they will become known in the future, as has happened with regard to male circumcision – the world now knows its benefits and it has become widespread among all nations despite the opposition of some groups.
    Then she mentioned some of the health benefits of female circumcision and said:
    It takes away excessive libido from women
    It prevents unpleasant odours which result from foul secretions beneath the prepuce.
    It reduces the incidence of urinary tract infections
    It reduces the incidence of infections of the reproductive system.
    In the book on Traditions that affect the health of women and children, which was published by the World Health Organization in 1979 it says:
    With regard to the type of female circumcision which involves removal of the prepuce of the clitoris, which is similar to male circumcision, no harmful health effects have been noted

  • Aber,

    I read your comment and fundamentally agree.


  • The INFO Project has a website, called End Violence Against Women, that has a page dedicated to FGM/C. This website is a great resource because it contains the latest research, program reports, and multimedia materials on a variety of topics under issues of violence against women. Currently, there are over 1,000 materials on Female Genital Cutting and over 200 on FGC and Human Rights.


  • Aber Sabeel

    I have studied Islam at a university whose curriculum was mostly taken from Al Azhar. I am also teaching Islamic studies at some Western Catholic universities.

    First of all, I must explain I agree with the point that female circumcision is not obligatory in Islam, and that it is actually a pre-Islamic practice that is not only practiced in some Muslim countries, but also by many non-Muslim African nations. It is for this reason that it would be almost impossible to eradicate this practice altogether.

    Second, in reality, not all Al Azhar scholars are against the female circumcision. There was an answer to the “official declaration” by many members of the Al Azhar scholars, and they proved that one cannot say that it is totally prohibited in Islam.

    Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, told a woman who used to circumcise girls: “If you are going to do it, then do not do it excessively.”. What can be derived from this is:
    – The practice existed before Islam and was common among Arabs.
    – The wording of what the Prophet said in this Hadith means that he neither favored it nor rejected it. I think he was faced with the same situation that governments face today: It’s deeply rooted in the culture and you cannot eliminated just by issuing a law.
    – Still the wording means that the Prophet asked that this practice not deprive women from enjoying marital relations totally.
    – The same Hadith is a proof that the Prophet was aware of the practice but did not prohibit it altogether. so nobody can come later and prohibit it in the name of Islam.

    I am personally against this practice and would wonder why would someone consider it part of the “ritual” of converting to islam, with due respect of course. However, aside from being against it, as a Muslim academic I cannot accept the claim that it can be prohibited on the basis of Islamic teachings. I think that as a cultural practice that exists in hot-climate countries one cannot force people to stop this practice, but rather have it under control and allow it to be only done under medical attention. Otherwise, people will continue to practice it in clandestine places, and this would create a lot of damage. An important step can be also promoting awareness campaigns that could change the culture gradually.

    Another point, I’ve seen someone’s comment about prohibiting male circumcision and call it wrong. For your information this has protected both males and females from many diseases because it allows better hygiene. Statistics prove that it’s more difficult to spread sexually-transmitted diseases when the men are circumcised.


  • ostrova

    Well, some peeps must be scared out of their little old minds about what’s going on between women’s legs, huh?

    Oh yeah. I have to throw up now.

  • It is also a well known fact that removing people’s brains will eradicate stupidity, so let’s force everyone to have their brains removed in order to reduce the incidence of utter foolishness and belief in superstition, which are clearly major health and social hazards.

  • Sam

    According to an Egyptian I met, to them it is on par with a woman with unshaved underarms.


    Three months ago, 22 year old medical student Najwa Khasmera Abdullah decided to have herself circumcised.

    Female circumcision was banned in Egypt in 1998. As a result, many young women of Najwa’s age did not recieve circumcision at the age they were normally have it, around 15 or so.

    However, in the past few years, the ban started to lose its grip, due to pressure from religious leaders. ” Uncircumcised women have strong lust and often commit adultery, just like western women. The government made a mistake by banning it. We Egyptians should not be pressured by the western countries. We need to keep our women chaste” a religious leader stated.

    ” A lot of my friends are getting it done. My sister and cousins too. We didn’t get circumcised when younger because it was banned, but now I’m glad I’m finally circumcised” Najwa said.

    Her claims were confirmed by Dr. Yasmina Shamir, who runs a circumcision clinic and also performed Najwa’s circumcicion. ” I circumcise more adult patients lately, sometimes 10 young women a day. Mostly of Najwa’s age. “They didn’t get circumcised when younger because of the ban. But when they want to get married, usually the men demands that the women must be circumcised before marriage.”

    Being a medical student, Najwa is completely aware of the female anatomy and the function of the clitoris, which is removed during circumcision ” I think circumcision is good for women. I know the clitoris can bring pleasure, but it is also a great temptation for women. It’s best to remove it. Women don’t need their clitoris for marriage and having children anyway.” She said

    “I don’t agree with girls being circumcised by untrained village midwife with unsterile razor. That’s why I chose to have my circumcision done by a doctor” Najwa said while showing her preserved clitoris in a jar.

    “Female circumcision is a very minor and safe surgery under modern medical supervision. The wound is even smaller than that of male circumcision” Dr. Shamir stated. She also stated that female circumcision procedure done by trained doctors has become increasingly affordable even by poor families. Some Islamic Foundation or Mosque even routinely provide free circumcision for the poor, both males and females.

    Well, old habit die hard, people say. Looks like Egyptian women are not going to let themselves go wild like their western sisters.

  • Sam

    muslim sister:

    Thank you for your very detailed explanation.

    If you are from Egypt, you must know the importance of the al Azhar University, the premier Islamic institution in the world. As stated in my post, Dr Talib of Al- Azhar has himself stated that FGM is no longer permitted in Islam.

    That said, I sympathise with your beliefs. Figures show that over 90% of Egyptian women practice circumcision, which would indicate that it is deeply rooted in the culture and overrides other more recent concerns.


    I was circumcised when I was 11 years old at home by a barber. It was terribly painful and was crying loudly and radio was put on full blast to avoid my screams being heard.

    I was a shy smart girl and was not in favour of circumcision. In our family we all brothers and sisters were allowed to watch each others circumsision. I had watched my elder sisters circumcision as she wanted me by her side she was 14 years – was shaved first and two of our close relatives held her legs and hands and first her ineer lips were cut by the barber she cried loudly but when cutting the clit she strugled to stop it but was done after restraining her. Hence, i told my mother I do not wish to undergo this ritual and I will run away to my uncle in Cairo. One day when I was 11 years old my mother told me that we will go out to relatives house in the evening hence all shuld have bath I was the last one to bath and when I went to the room to dress from there I was brought for circumcision without any clothes on I was just growing breast and small hairs on my pubic and was laid on the table a piece of wood and pillow was laid under my buttock and I was very angry. Then the barber was getting ready and asked me to raise my legs and open my thighs – I would not do this and every one started telling it is purification and I must undergo it. I told them they cut my inner lips not clit. Finally two of my relatives forcibly raised my legs my thighs wide open which pained me very much. I was crying at the same time looking at the barber he first cut my inner lips and then grabed my clit with his thumb and finger at this time I shouted at the top of my voice not to cut it and struggled to get free but was overcome and clit was cut at tis time at the base it was very painful moment and passed out. It took a month to heal. Also, my brothers were ritually circumcised and all the shaft skin was removed and when healed the whole shaft was pink. During this time the music was on and I received presents from relatives and they enjoyed the party and I was in pain.

  • Muslim sister

    I am a 30 year old British born nurse. I met and married an Egyptian doctor several years ago, lived in Egypt for several years and converted to Islam and underwent female circumcision. I have no regrets.

    Firstly I want to dispel any myths about what it is. It is NOT infibulation – that’s something which occurs only in Sub-Saharan Africa and is strictly forbidden by Islam.

    Where female circumcision is practiced (and that is in Muslim countries from North Africa, through the Middle East to the Far East) female circumcision can be described as either of two forms – partial circumcision, where part or all of the clitoris and inner
    labia are removed or full circumcision where the labia majora are also removed.

    The only stitches put in are to surture the cuts made during the circumcision – and definitely NOT for the purpose of narrowing the vaginal opening.

    Secondly, under Islam, all operations (including circumcisions!) must be carried out under medical conditions by qualified personel and using an anaesthetic where appropriate.

    There is no more reason for somebody in Egypt to go to a “back-street”
    circumciser than somebody in the West has cause to go to a “back-street” abortionist.

    Neither is there anything barbaric about female circumcision. The authorities in the West know perfectly well that STRICTLY SPEAKING IN MEDICAL TERMS, partial female circumcision is a more minor procedure than male circumcision. Where the cuts are made, there are fewer nerves or blood vessels cut than in male circumcision. Complications
    are almost non-existent. Even in the case of full circumcision complications are hardly greater than in male circumcision. This information is widely known in countries that practice female circumcision, but it is deliberately supressed by the West – whether
    you want to call it cultural imperialism, political correctness or just plain old bigotry against those of different beliefs or religion is up to you.

    Thirdly, the reasons for female circumcision are also deliberately misrepresented by the West. Female circumcision IS permitted under Islam and since the West has banned it, this is an attack on our religion. In the past female circumcision was considered optional, but many (both ordinary people and religious scholars) now think that it
    should be mandatory because of the West’s anti-Islamic predjudice.

    The West also deliberately supresses the medical information relating to the benefits of female circumcision. Particularly in the case of Egypt where due to Western pressure its practice was banned for many years – but then permitted again some years ago – substantial
    comparative data has been gathered. [While female circumcision was banned it nevertheless continued to be practiced, although admittedly under less than perfect conditions – and this was one of the reasons why the Egyptian government lifted the ban].

    Within a few years of the ban being lifted, female circumcison rates shot up from 90% in the countryside and 50% in the cities to 97% throughout the country. It could be clearly seen from the data that, in the case of full female circumcision, genito-urinary tract
    infections were reduced to about 10% of their level in previously uncircumcised women. Even when only partial circumcisions were performed, there was still some preventative benefit.

    Also, and very importantly, births amongst circumcised women were found to be easier. This is exactly the opposite of what the Western “Feminist” and “Human Rights” groups would have you believe. With external genital tissue already removed, there was far less need for
    episiotomies. Caesarain births were reduced. Labour is generally shorter and easier in circumcised women and healing of the birth canal and the surrounding region much easier.

    Fourthly, another of the great myths put about by Western anti-female
    circumcision groups is that it stops a woman from enjoying sex. Nothing could be further from the truth. Female circumcision does remove unwanted and unintentional arousal, there is no doubt about
    that, but until you have undergone female circumcision you can’t be aware of just how much involuntary (and completely unneeded) arousal occurs because of previously unnoticed rubbing or pressure on your genitals.

    Many women in Egypt who have been initially partially circumcised have opted for full circumcision because in day-to-day life it brings about
    a very profound feeling of contentment, calmness and satisfaction. You are completely freed from sexual thoughts, you can have no idea how liberating that feels. It is like removing an itch that you cannot scratch. There is no feeling of loss – specifically because the very thing that caused you to desire sex all the time has been removed. Do not believe the myth that sexual arousal is all in the mind.

    So if arousal is removed, doesn’t that mean sex is less enjoyable? It is exactly the opposite! Intercourse is far more pleasurable because the whole of the sexual act is made spiritual in nature and focuses entirely on intercourse with your husband. Do circumcised women still enjoy orgasms? OF COURSE THEY DO! With no external genital tissue in the way, penetration is deeper and more satisfying and with all
    sensation coming only from penetration, the resulting vaginal orgasim is deeply intense in a way that an uncircumcised woman could not understand.

    Fifthly, there is also a great deal of hypocrisy from the West, particularly in regard to plastic surgery. How can it be OK for Western women to have breast surgery, nose jobs or (dangerous) lipo-suction – all in the name of aesthetics, but it’s not OK for a Muslim woman to change her body?

    Sixth, it is well known in countries as far afield as Indonesia and Malasyia to Egypt, that girls who have been circumcised do better in school and university. How can it be that the West claims to champion women’s rights but tries to deny Muslim girls the right to a better education, something that is closely correlated with the practice of
    female circumcision in Muslim countries?

    And finally what of the myth that female circumcision is dying out. Well the West can stick its head in the sand if it likes. It certianly suits us. Of course, if the various “feminist”, “human rights” and anti-female circumcision groups in the West were forced to confront the actual figures, then it might help expose the rest of their lies about female circumcision to their deceived populations.

    Even the Western estimates acknowledge that as many as 200 million Muslim women have been circumcised world wide. They know that the number is growing both as the Muslim population grows and as access to better medical facilities allows it to be carried out by a greater proportion of the Muslim population. In some countries like Egypt,
    Malasia and Indonesia female circumcision is almost 100%. [Just think, if any of you go on holiday to Egypt all the women you pass (including any female doctors and nurses) have undergone either partial or full female circumcision. How is it that they can be happy with their lifes and seek to continue the practice in what is obviously an open, friendly and civilised country if they weren’t happy with being circumcised?]

    Its practice is now also spreading to other Muslims from
    countries like Pakistan, Northern India and Bangladesh – often it is now being found amongst Muslims who have settled in the West. I ask you this question, if a religious practice of yours was banned, do you think you would be more or less likely to continue with its practice?

    It is only because of Muslims natural reluctance to talk openly about sex and because of the deliberate suppression of information from Muslim countries – including interviews with medical staff and Muslim women and who have been circumcised who argue strongly for

  • Flight

    The first step is to set a good example, and not force males into circumcision. Then a consistent message can be sent: mutilating -any- child’s genitals is wrong.