Thursday, October 23, 2008

COMMENT: Social Cohesion's misleading report on FGM ...

Allegedly conservative UK Thinktank Civitas has produced a report entitled Crimes of the Community. The report deals with various forms of violent crime typically perpetrated against women.

I cannot comment on the entire contents of the 169 page report. However, I have read a section on what Islam says about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

A large number of Muslimphobic and jaundiced pundits have made it their business to claim that Islam endorses any and all forms of FGM. There is no doubt that FGM of various kinds is practised in certain parts of the Muslim world, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and other parts of Africa. It is also true that some Muslim religious authorities have justified this practice, as have religious authorities of other faiths in places where FGM is common.

The Social Cohesion report cites the views of a Shafei jurist (Ahmed ibn Naqib al-Masri) contained in his Umdat as-Salik, which has been translated and edited by Shaykh Nuh Keller). The report then speculates as to why Shaykh Nuh Keller would include the section on FGM whilst leaving out sections of ibn Naqib's book dealing with slavery.

The clear imputation is that Shaykh Nuh wishes to promote ibn Naqib's viewpoint. Perhaps the report's authors are even trying to suggest that Shaykh Nuh endorses FGM. No other evidence is provided to support these imputations.

The report then cites an opinion of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is described as "the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood". No evidence is provided from any MB source to confirm this claim.

The report then provides a reference to page 24 of Anne Sofie Raold's book Women in Islam: The Western Experience as source for the claim that:

The Hanafi and Maliki schools traditionally also regarded FGM as ‘noble’.
Roald's book is freely available on GoogleBooks. Nowhere on page 24 is FGM mentioned even once. Either this is a misprint or a complete fabrication.

What isn't mentioned is the attitude of Hanafi scholars in the Indian sub-Continent or Turkey to FGM. The report does acknowledge that the practice is rare in South Asian Muslim communities, who make up around 25% of the entire Muslim world. No South Asian religious texts or South Asian scholars are cited at all. No authorities from the Barelwi or Deobandi schools of thought are mentioned.

Further, no mention is made of what Shia religious authorities have said on the subject. This despite the fact that Shia Muslims represent at least 10% of the Muslim world and are increasing in number in Western countries.

All in all, the report attempts to show that the dominant position in Muslim communities and amongst religious authorities is that FGM is condoned. The enormous number of religious scholars and authorities who have actively campaigned against the practice is conveniently ignored.

The report ignored an international conference held in Cairo in November 2006 which condemned the practice. The report does mention Shaykh Tantawi, but doesn't mention Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa whose views were reported by the BBC as follows ...

Ali Gomaa, Egypt's top official Islamic scholar, or grand mufti, told the gathering no examples of the practice could be found in the Prophet Muhammad's life.

The authors of the report journalists and include one Arabic speaker named Salam Hafez. Both are ex-employees of al-Jazeera. The only article of Salam Hafez I could find on the al-Jazeera site was about Dutch bikies. Further, as an Arabic speaker, one wonders whether Hafez would have been capable of reading influential books on Hanafi law written in Urdu or Turkish.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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IftikharA said...

Muslim youths are angry, frustrated and extremist because they have been mis-educated and de-educated by the British schooling. Muslim children are confused because they are being educated in a wrong place at a wrong time in state schools with non-Muslim monolingual teachers. They face lots of problems of growing up in two distinctive cultural traditions and value systems, which may come into conflict over issues such as the role of women in the society, and adherence to religious and cultural traditions. The conflicting demands made by home and schools on behaviour, loyalties and obligations can be a source of psychological conflict and tension in Muslim youngsters. There are also the issues of racial prejudice and discrimination to deal with, in education and employment. They have been victim of racism and bullying in all walks of life. According to DCSF, 56% of Pakistanis and 54% of Bangladeshi children has been victims of bullies. The first wave of Muslim migrants were happy to send their children to state schools, thinking their children would get a much better education. Than little by little, the overt and covert discrimination in the system turned them off. There are fifteen areas where Muslim parents find themselves offended by state schools.

The right to education in one’s own comfort zone is a fundamental and inalienable human right that should be available to all people irrespective of their ethnicity or religious background. Schools do not belong to state, they belong to parents. It is the parents’ choice to have faith schools for their children. Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim teacher or a child in a Muslim school. There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools. An ICM Poll of British Muslims showed that nearly half wanted their children to attend Muslim schools. There are only 143 Muslim schools. A state funded Muslim school in Birmingham has 220 pupils and more than 1000 applicants chasing just 60.

Majority of anti-Muslim stories are not about terrorism but about Muslim
culture--the hijab, Muslim schools, family life and religiosity. Muslims in the west ought to be recognised as a western community, not as an alien culture.
Iftikhar Ahmad

Yusuf Smith said...

As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

Reports on Muslim attitudes to FGM often seem to hinge on English-language scholarly material, which is a fraction of what there is of Islamic scholarly material, and not really on what Muslims actually do. Even in places like Somalia, FGM seems to be on the decline, and the increase in communication with other Muslims, most of whom do not circumcise girls (let alone to the extent that is, or was, common in Somalia) and the spread of better Islamic knowledge (even on the back of "salafism") are probable causes. In large parts of the Muslim world, like most of the Arab world including north Africa, Turkey, Iran and the Indian subcontinent, female circumcision or FGM is simply unknown.