By Rabbi Allen S. Maller
Female genital excision has been banned in Egypt since 2008. Now, for the first time, a doctor is about to stand trial for carrying out the procedure, with a court date set for April 24, 2014 in Aga.
Human rights organizations fought for prosecution in this case, believing that the death of a thirteen year old girl last June offered the chance for a precedent-setting verdict against an ingrained custom, which supporters generally refer to as female circumcision.
In Africa many tribes cut off the clitoris of young girls in order to diminish their enjoyment of sexual intercourse and their temptation to commit adultery.
This activity, although wide spread in limited geographic areas, is opposed by the overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars (ulema). It is not circumcision: it is genital multination, and calling it circumcision is a slander of both Islam and Judaism. A government may legitimately forbid this custom.
It is totally false to compare the custom of female genital mutilation to the religious practice of male circumcision.
First, while there are great medical benefits from removal of the foreskin of a male, especially in reducing the spread of HIV; there is no medical benefit to a female from the removal of her clitoris and labia.
Second, there is no evidence that female genital mutilation promotes chastity and preserves a woman’s virtue. Having a considerate, loving and faithful husband does much more to promote a woman’s virtue than female genital mutilation.
Third, male circumcision is a religious requirement; female genital mutilation is only a tribal custom, originating in sub Sahara Africa; which is now being spread by Muslim religious extremists to Asia and the West as part of a reaction against the rising rate of girls going to high school and woman going to work outside the home.
Evidence that female genital mutilation is a only a custom comes from the fact that in rural Egypt even Coptic Christians mutilate their daughters genitals.
Also female genital mutilation had been denounced by all the major Islamic scholars in the Muslim world.
Finally, male circumcision is derived from the God inspired practice of Abraham and Muhammad.
God said to Abraham (Genesis 17:7): â€œI will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you…
(8-12) “And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God. And God said to Abraham, As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.”
“You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old,”
And Allah ordered Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to follow the religion of Ibrahim (peace be upon him). When Allah said (Qur’an 16:123)
“Then We inspired you: ‘Follow the religion of Ibrahim, the upright in Faith’.” And part of the religion of Ibrahim is, as is evident from the verses cited above, to practice circumcision.
Abraham was an old man when he circumcised himself, thus becoming a good example that one is never to old to do God’s will. As a Hadith says: Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: ” Prophet Ibrahim circumcised himself when he was eighty years old and he circumcised himself with an axe.” (Related by Bukhari, Muslim)
[Rabbi Allen S. Maller is a Reform Rabbi. His works can be seen on his website www.rabbimaller.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org]