Calls for the introduction of FGM in the Maldives should worry all of us

It is vitally important the UK uses its influence and clout to lead a global campaign that seeks to rid the world of FGM.

Ghaffar Hussain is head of research at counter-extremism think tank Quilliam

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a gross human rights violation that should not be tolerated anywhere in the world.

Despite FGM being illegal in the UK since 1985, there have been no prosecutions to date and a culture of secrecy within communities in which it occurs, combined with misplaced cultural sensitivities, has allowed this practice to thrive.

However, increased awareness and campaigning around the issue has meant there is now more will to enforce existing laws in much more rigorous way.

In spite of the tide swinging in the right way in the UK, the picture is not so good in other countries. Of particular concern is the Maldives. Dr. Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef, vice president of the influential Fiqh Academy of the Maldives, who is also a candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Adhaalath Party, has issued a fatwa for FGM stating that it is justified on theological grounds.

Due to Dr. Latheef prominent position in Fiqh Academy, which was established by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, there is concern about the influence these calls could have on Maldivian society.

The call for FGM in the Maldives is based on highly literalist and austere interpretations of Islam that have been imported into the country in recent years. These calls are part of a wider lurch towards an archaic form of religious conservatism that is currently taking place and backed by social conservatives in other parts of the world.

My colleague Dr Usama Hasan has challenged the religious justification for FGM, stating:

“FGM has no Islamic sanction – there are just two traditions on the subject, both of which are strongly disputed, with many jurists throughout history discounting them as having nothing to do with the Prophet of Islam, but, like the blasphemy and apostasy laws of medieval Islam, FGM became a theoretical juristic position even though it was rarely practiced. Contemporary Muslim scholars are increasingly opposed to and dismissive of FGM.”

We at Quilliam have welcomed the recent shift towards a tougher approach to the enforcement of existing anti-FGM laws in the UK, and commend the campaign of the young British Somali woman from Bristol, Leyla Hussein, in this regard.

Last Saturday, on International Women’s Day, development minister Lynne Featherstone stated that it was the aim of her department to reduce FGM in Africa by 30 per cent within the next five years. Others, such as Michael Gove, have also made a commitment to stamping out this evil practise.

With this much-welcomed cultural transformation taking place in the UK, it is vitally important that we now use our global influence and clout to lead a global campaign that seeks to rid the world of FGM.

57 Responses to “Calls for the introduction of FGM in the Maldives should worry all of us”

  1. Mark

    I saw a documentary where two women in the mid-east advocated the practice and said it was Islamic. They babbled about something to do with it being useful for when the men are away fighting for jihad. I wonder who indoctrinated these women with that stuff? I’ll take a guess and say it was a bearded bloke. It also sounds like the equivalent of the medieval chastity belt in that regard.
    I would like to see certain Muslim ‘social commentators’ fight against this practice, rather than simply say, “It’s not confined to Islam.” I know, as do many others, it’s a practice also used in African Christian communities, and one which has also been transplanted in the UK to those Christian communities. So rather than look upon the social disgust of the practice as “Islam/Muslim-bashing” they, as well as Christian authorities, ought to put all that aside and get with the fight against it.
    It is strange that certain British feminists only seemed to join the fight once Leyla Hussein had made her documentary and pushed the point publicly. It was almost as if “Ok, a British black woman (Muslim I assume), has said this, so it’s now acceptable for us to join in.” Finally, they could do something worthwhile, other than protesting about no women on banknotes or gender-specific toys.

  2. ThisIsTheEnd

    Fighting FGM/ highlighting the lack of women on banknotes/ gender stereotyping of toys are all worthwhile activities. Never understood the need some men (and it always men) have to say feminists should do X rather then Y.

  3. OrtegaSeason

    I wonder who indoctrinated these women with that stuff? I’ll take a guess and say it was a bearded bloke.
    In muslim countries it’s mostly women advocating and practicing “FGM”. The only men who are strong advocates of it are imams of the Shafi juristic school who consider it obligatory. Imams of other schools don’t necessarily oppose it but they don’t promote it either. There was a study done in Oman recently showing that 55% of women support “FGM”, whereas only 20% of men do. A lot of the men interviewed said they were against it because it makes it more difficult for them to satisfy their wives sexually, which makes them feel inadequate. They don’t feel able to oppose it though because it’s seen as being part of “female culture” and not something men can interfere in.
    So it’s not a question of backward men oppressing women.

  4. Mark

    Excuse me for being male and having a view. It happens to be a view of puzzlement that feminists were not fighting for something a feminist should be gnashing their teeth at. They were, I believe, paralysed by cultural sensitivity.
    They can of course, do the other things, that’s why I said “other than” instead of “rather than”.
    Saying that a man cannot question the motives, or lack of, of feminists is ridiculous.

  5. ThisIsTheEnd

    Feminists do fight against FGM. If you were interested in the subject then you’d know this.

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