Eminent Saudi Cleric: Female Genital Mutilation a ‘Noble Act’

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Sheikh Mohamad Alarefe is a popular Saudi Arabian Islamic theologian and a professor at the King Saud University. A recent “tweet” to his almost 8 million followers on his Twitter account stated: “Circumcision [FGM] is a noble act to do to women. There’s nothing wrong with doing it. Some religious scholars have issued fatwas that it’s not allowed because many that perform the circumcision cut too much and they cause damage to the woman.”

An initial response fired back. One woman said succinctly: “God will take you, scums … It is a duty to cut off your organs so we can get rid of your stupidity.”

Yet, a careful search by the Clarion Project showed almost no other replies from his many millions of followers. Whereas Arefe’s last 10 tweets garnered between 616 and 2009 “retweets,” this particular tweet praising FGM was only retweeted 11 times.

An even more careful search by the Clarion team showed that Alarefe had, in fact, deleted the tweet.

Alarefe’s tweet precedes the 10th anniversary of International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation to be marked this week on Thursday, February 6. According to data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 120 to 140 million women have been subject to this horrific and harmful practice. FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights.

FGM is a brutal procedure involves the cutting out of all or part of the external female genitalia, oftentimes used as a rite of passage or a precursor to marriage. The practice is normally carried out on young girls just before or after the onset of puberty, but is also performed on newborn babies and older girls. Most cutting is done by a village lay person with improvised equipment and unsterile conditions.

The procedure serves no medical purpose and is known to cause complications such as severe bleeding, problems urinating, cysts, infections (including HIV/AIDS), pain and difficulty during sexual relations, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.  

The UN passed a resolution calling for the elimination of FGM in December 2012 and the practice is outlawed in many countries. Still, the practice continues – save for pockets of change around the world (see Clarion Project’s featured videos Handful of Ash: The Film That Changed FGM in Kurdistan and Kenyan Girls Fight Back: "I Will Never Be Cut').

The UN estimates that every year, three million girls are at risk of being cut. Translated into real time, that means that every five minutes – perhaps the amount of time taken to read this article – 30 girls have been mutilated somewhere in the world.

Read, print or download Clarion Project’s Fact Sheet on FGM

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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