The euphemism is “female circumcision,” but federal law banning it in the USA labels it “Female Genital Mutilation” or FGM, and that would seem to be the more accurate term. That law passed in 1997 but if it hadn’t, I wonder if it would pass in today’s political climate.
The issue is getting controversial and opinion is divided along left/right political lines. Generally, Republicans want to ban it and Democrats resist. There’s also disagreement about whether FGM is a Muslim religious practice or strictly an African cultural ritual. Some say it’s both.
A report in The Middle East Quarterly claims FGM is practiced in many Muslim countries beyond Africa, especially in Kurdistan, but there’s little research beyond that because such discussion is discouraged in the Muslim world. An article on stopfgmmideast.org claims FGM is discussed in a “hadith,” a singular or plural noun for accounts of what Muhammed said, which records a discussion between Muhammed and a woman who performed FGM. Muhammed said, “Yes, it is allowed … if you cut, do not overdo it, because it brings more radiance to the face, and it is more pleasant for the husband.” On the strength of that hadith, today’s Muslims do not prohibit FGM.
So how would one “overdo it”? Carmen Fishwick, writing in the UK Guardian, describes FGM thusly:
“Female genital mutilation involves the removal of the clitoris, inner-and-outer lips of the vagina, and the sewing or stapling together of the two sides of the vulva leaving only a small hole to pass urine and menstruate –- depending on the type. Typically FGM is performed with a razor blade on girls between the ages of four and 12, traditionally without anaesthetic.”
One FGM procedure only removes the clitoris.
No one had been prosecuted in the United States under the federal law until April of this year when two Michigan doctors, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala and Dr. Fakhruddin Attar were arrested for mutilating the genitals of two young Muslim girls from Minnesota. A USA Today article claims there were many more victims and that Dr. Nagarwala regularly performed the practice but tried to cover up her activity. Nagarwala was released under $4.5 million bond two weeks ago while awaiting trial. Her attorney said she would not flee because the wants a trial: “It's a fight about a sacred religious practice,” she added. Nagarwala, a Muslim, clearly believes FGM is a religious practice. Attorney Alan Dershowitz agrees and is consulting with Nagarwala’s defense team.
A bill to criminalize FGM in Maine failed by one vote last summer. Maine State Representative Heather Sirocki of Scarborough had introduced the bill and she told me she expects it to be reintroduced by Governor LePage in January.
The rest is here.