Why Won’t the Washington Post Tell the Truth About FGM?

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A toddler in Indonesia waits before she will undergo female genital mutilation.
A toddler in Indonesia waits before she will undergo female genital mutilation. (Photo: BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

In light of the current discussion of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the U.S sparked by the arrest of a Michigan doctor and her alleged accomplices in performing the illegal procedure, The Washington Post published an article to give context to the debate.

While the article correctly outlines the negative consequences to a girl or woman without so much as giving lip service to the “cultural” or “religious” justification of the barbaric practice, the article gives blatantly false information when it says that the practice is not linked to Islam.

“In fact, there is no mention of female genital mutilation in the Koran, and the procedure is rare in most Muslim countries,” the Post states. Also, “some practitioners also believe that it serves a religious mandate, although the practice has no root in religious doctrine.”

These false “facts” are necessary to provide evidence to the author’s underlying and repeated claim (seemingly purpose of the article) that the reason FGM has gotten so much attention recently is because, “The issue has been a lightning rod in right-wing political circles for years, with anti-Muslim and anti-immigration activists linking it explicitly to Islam.”

Let’s dissect each of the above claims with the facts:

While it is true that FGM is not mention in the Koran, it is mentioned in many seminal Islamic sources and by many leading Islamic leaders as a praiseworthy practice. A canonical hadith (a sacred saying of the Islamic prophet Mohammed that is accepted as genuine) states:

Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah said: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet said to her: “Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.”

A recognized scholar of Islamic theology, Professor Ahmad Hasan notes the variances in the different schools of Islamic thought on the subject, “Some Shafii scholars hold that circumcision of girls is obligatory, but others think that it is recommended. Ahmad b. Hanbal and some Maliki jurists hold that it is obligatory. Abu Hanifah maintains that it is recommended and not obligatory. Mali holds that it is recommended and not obligatory.”

For The Washington Post to state that FGM has no basis in Islam is clearly disingenuous.

In addition, the Post states that the practice is “rare” in Muslim–majority countries. This is also not true according to statistics provided by the UN:

  • Of the 12 countries where the incidence of FGM is over 66 percent, all but two are Muslim-majority countries.
  • Of the 13 countries where the incidence of FGM is between 8-66 percent, six are Muslim-Majority countries, two have a plurality of Muslims and three are 50/50 (Muslim-Christian).

While it is true that “right-wing blogs” have covered this issue extensively, I would argue that this is more due to the mainstream and left-wing media and blogs avoidance of the subject (at best) – so as not to be called Islamophobes — and justification of it — under the guise of being a non-Western cultural practice (at worst).

One can debate the merits of immigration and the connection of Islamic theology to the current prevalence of global terrorism, but when it comes to the irreversible and forced mutilation of women and girls – mutilation that causes horrific physical consequences as well as emotional trauma — political correctness has no place in the debate.

The Washington Post should be ashamed of itself for publishing willful and factual misrepresentation on this subject.

For more information about female genital mutilation please see Clarion Project’s Factsheet Female Genital Mutilation.

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org 






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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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