By Reyhana Patel
Earlier this week, a federal judge in the United States dismissed charges against two doctors and six others involved in the genital mutilation of nine girls at a suburban Detroit clinic.
While many are disappointed the case had to be dropped because of state-federal complications, what outraged me the most was that the accused in this case claimed female genital mutilation (FGM) was a ‘religious’ act and that it should, therefore, be above the law.
As a young Muslim woman, I am tired of hearing about medieval and regressive social behaviour that supposedly has some kind of religious justification; especially when it concerns my faith of Islam.
Muslim women like me are caught between Islamophobes who condemn Islam and every Muslim for anything that moves – and our own medieval zealots who use Islam to justify practices like FGM, forced marriages and domestic violence.
It should be clear to all that FGM has absolutely no basis in any of the Abrahamic religions – and there is no mention of it in the Quran. In fact, we find quite the opposite: That the Quran strongly condemns ‘mutilating the fair creation of God’ as being something inspired by the Devil himself.
But, despite this clear directive, FGM continues to persist in many countries around the world.
The UN estimates that around three million girls are mutilated every year – with a sizable portion of these being Muslim women and girls (the others being mostly Christian or animist communities).
This is because some communities and individuals prefer to ignore their own revealed book and follow cultural dogmas disguised as religion instead.
These spurious ‘religious’ arguments are also buttressed by dozens of other oppressive reasons, as to why a community will persist with the abomination of FGM – such as poverty, patriarchy and culture. But the supposed religious justifications may, in fact, be the bedrock upon which all the other causes depend.
Debunk that and the other justifications may well fall away.
That’s why in my work with the international NGO, Islamic Relief Canada – we feel it is our duty to counter these cultural and pseudo-religious justifications.
This is done through, for example, our advocacy work to end FGM here in Canada and all around the world with our sister offices and partner organizations.
From our research here in Canada, we know that FGM is carried out in both Muslim and non-Muslim communities, and we have anecdotal evidence that children are being taken abroad and even across the border to the U.S. to be forcibly subjected to FGM procedures.
We also know that there is a lack of resources available to families who have undergone the trauma of FGM and are in need of education and support.
We welcome the Canadian government’s investment and commitment towards ending FGM, both overseas and here in Canada.
But we also recognize that more needs to be done to understand the extent and context of the problem in Canada, so that organizations like ours can work alongside other agencies and communities to build awareness of the extremely harmful effects of this totally anti-Islamic practice.
[Reyhana Patel is the head of Communications at Islamic Relief Canada. She’s a former BBC journalist and former writer for The Huffington Post U.K. and The Independent newspaper in the U.K.]
(Courtesy: Toronto Sun)