Friday, December 01, 2006

Mail & Guardian Online: Female Circumcision/Genital Mutilation a Cultural and not Islamic Practice

I guess this settles it then?

Some of the choicer quotes:

Eliminating the Violation of Women's Bodies, as the conference was publicised in Arabic, was attended by some of Islam's most senior and influential scholars. Most of them spoke against the common practice. The main message was that "female genital mutilation was never mandated in Islam ".

Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious university, said at the conference that "circumcising girls is just a cultural tradition in some countries that has nothing to do with the teachings of Islam".

"During my studies and research in Islam, I didn't find anything that I can trust as beseeching female circumcision," said the scholar, whose fatwas, religious edicts and words are followed by millions of Muslims around the world for direction in their lives.

The conference was attended by other heavyweights, whose endorsement of the public denunciation of the practice was seen as a landmark. Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Goma'a, considered the most senior judge of Islamic law, was a patron of the conference. Others included Hamdi Mahmoud Zakzouk, Minister of Religious Affairs in Egypt; Sultan Abdelkader Mohamed Humad of Djibouti; and Sultan Ali Mirah Hanfary of Ethiopia.

But while the clerics' call carries much weight, it is not clear if it will be sufficient to discourage parents from the practice. An official ban on circumcision enacted in 1996 remains ineffective in stopping it in this country.

"What will produce change is not just a fatwa or an opinion from clerics. What will change things is an alteration of the economic and social conditions that lead people to believe in the importance of circumcision," said Ahmed Abdallah, a professor of psychology at Zagazig University.

Abdallah appeared to fault the approach by the German human rights group that organised the conference because it assumed that religion was behind the practice.

"Fatwas will help but they will not do the whole thing," he added. "In this case, parents practising circumcision didn't do it because they received a religious edict asking them to do it in the first place. When they stop it they will not do so because of a religious edict either."

Really? One of the most troubling things about religion or religiosity is the apparent willingness to accept that good things flow from religion but not necessarily the bad. For example, to claim that religion plays no role in for example contemporary suicide bombings but it has everything to do with religion making people good through the provision of a moral guide cannot stand as a logically consistent premise.

Either religion is a contingent factor in both or it is not. Thus, either religion works as an excuse for the adoption of behavior, in which case we don't necessarily need religion to form the basis of a moral code or it isn't, in which case, we can lay atrocities at the feet of religion.


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