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Kenyan Islamic leaders speak out against female genital mutilation

Kenyan Muslim leaders participate in a recent news conference in Nairobi, Kenya, to correct a misconception that Islam supports female genital mutilation. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) — Kenyan Islamic leaders are lending support to a national campaign to end female genital mutilation, a practice many in the country wrongly assume is permitted by Islam, they say.

The Islamic leaders joined together Monday (May 7) with representatives from Kenya’s Anti-FGM Board, which was founded in December 2013 to root out the custom. FGM has been banned in the country since 2011 under a law that also makes it illegal to take a girl or woman outside of Kenya to undergo the procedure.

But FGM is still practiced widely in Africa. In Kenya it remains common in the northeastern part of the country, where Islam predominates. Some mainly Christian groups in western and eastern regions of Kenya have also been slow to give up FGM.

“From the source of Islam … we do not find anything that permits it,” Sheikh Rashid Ali Omar, the country’s deputy chief kadhi — or judge in the Muslim court system — said at the news conference called to broadcast Muslim leaders’ anti-FGM stance.

“FGM contravenes the essence and the objectives of Islamic law, which are to protect the welfare of the family, dignity, wealth, health and mental capability of individuals and the community,” he continued.

Omar and other Muslim scholars and clerics emphasized that FGM is a cultural practice and that the Quran rejects such cutting of women’s bodies, though male circumcision is supported by Islamic law.

While FGM did not come out of Islam, it has been adopted by some Islamic communities, the Muslim leaders said.

“We need to differentiate between cultural and religious practices. … The general public takes it to be an Islamic practice. That’s very wrong,” said Omar Al-Bashir, a professor who works for Greenfields International, a local nongovernmental organization that focuses on public education.

FGM is still widespread in Africa despite many campaigns against it, both national and continental. Worldwide, the United Nations estimates that more than 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM, which leads to lifelong physical and emotional pain and sexual dysfunction. 

At the meeting, Hibo Wardere, an FGM survivor, said many other women who have undergone the practice feel too ashamed to speak out about their suffering.

“It is a sexual abuse. It brings shame and rips women and girls of their dignity. It should be stopped,” said Wardere.

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Fredrick Nzwili

21 Comments

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  • How kind of all those male religious leaders to finally, after all this time, “allow” women to experience sexual pleasure. Which begs the question, what took them so long?

    Sadly, their newfound largesse will not help those women whose bodies have been permanently mutilated so that the men in their lives could make sure “their”women never ever experienced any sexual pleasure for the rest of their lives, which theoretically kept them in line – much like concubines in a harem.

  • I agree, it’s far too late coming. Still, progress is progress and I am happy for this news.

  • Well, at least this is some progress in ending the barbaric FGM ritual that damages women for a lifetime. Practitioners of FGM should be proseccuted and given long prison terms.

  • Sayydah Garrett
    I’m very very happy to read this! I hope the Muslims who practice FGM and say it’s part of their religion have a change of heart. Too many girls and women suffer their entire lifetime from the terrible physical, emotional, and psychological effects of FGM. Please, let’s all work together to end FGM once and for all, and allow our girls and women to lead happy, healthy and productive lives. Thank you! http://www.pastoralistchildfoundation.org

  • Except that, by speaking out against FGM, they are doing something about. They are showing that it has no basis in Islam, so the people still doing it can’t claim it as a religious practice. Except for the Christian groups in the western and eastern regions of Kenya that have been slow to give up FGM… clearly they’re not listening to Muslim leaders anyway.

    So, your claim/question still makes no sense.

  • No they aren’t. They are trying to appear against it to placate they world and have us believe otherwise.

  • Now for some reality:

    o ” “Islam’s Koran and Female Genital Mutilation – Islam’s widespread practice of amputating the clitoris and sometimes part or even all of the vulva from the genitalia of Muslim women, affirmed in a hadith by Mohammed himself, most likely also traces back to the founder’s deliberate abuse of sex to lure pagan males into his cult. The more the male sex drive is purposefully aroused, the more the female sex urge may have to be proportionately suppressed, lest orgiastic hell begin to spread.

    o Consider then what frequently happens when even a modestly clothed young Western woman walks alone in broad daylight down a street in, for example, a non-Westernized area of a city in Pakistan. Muslim men around her can see her face, hair and neck—maybe even her ankles. Some of them perceive that much exposure as intent on her part to arouse them. The fact that she is not accompanied by a male relative confirms their suspicions. Knowing that she, a Western woman, has not been subjected to that cruel amputation which Islam forces upon millions of Muslim women, some males may even imagine that she must feel sexual desire for them. They tend also to perceive themselves as not responsible to exercise decent social restraint. Rather she is responsible not to tempt them! Whatever lewd thing Muslim men around her say, do or feel as a result is regarded as her fault alone. . .

    o . During a major upheaval in Indonesia in the late 1990s, sex-crazed Muslim men gang-raped dozens of Chinese women in shops, homes and even in the streets, shouting in Arabic, “Alahu Akbar!” (God is great!)”- D. Richardson

  • Sheikh Rashid Ali Omar and the other Kenyan Muslim leaders should clearly oppose any form of FGM, including the girl’s Sunna circumcision (khatna, or: khitan al-inath) or the so-called mild Sunna (FGM Type Ia or FGM Type IV).

  • “From the source of Islam … we do not find anything that permits it,” Sheikh Rashid Ali Omar, the country’s deputy chief kadhi — or judge in the Muslim court system — said at the news conference called to broadcast Muslim leaders’ anti-FGM stance.

    “FGM contravenes the essence and the objectives of Islamic law, which are to protect the welfare of the family, dignity, wealth, health and mental capability of individuals and the community,” he continued.

    Omar and other Muslim scholars and clerics emphasized that FGM is a cultural practice and that the Quran rejects such cutting of women’s bodies, though male circumcision is supported by Islamic law.

    Seems fairly cut and dry to me (no pun intended). Where are you finding room for “mild sunna” here?

    Again…

    the Quran rejects such cutting of women’s bodies

  • There are four schools of Sunni Islamic Law. The official position of the Shafi’i School is that khatna (khitan al-inath) is obligatory for a woman.

    Islam is Quran and Sunna.

    Hadith

    [Cut] slightly and do not overdo it

    Hadith

    Cut [slightly] without exaggeration

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