Sunday, November 26, 2006

Azhar Outlaws Female Circumcision

Eteraz reported The Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar, the oldest and most highly respected institution in Sunni Islam; and the Grand Mufti of Egypt have released an official fatwa declaring the practice of female circumcision (also called female genital mutilation or female genital cutting) un-Islamic. The decision was made at a conference hosted in Egypt and attended by Muslim clergy from around the world.

This is progress, but will they pay any attention to him?
The custom of female circumcision is concentrated in the Nile Valley and practiced by Muslim, Christian and animist groups. However, incidences of female circumcision have been documented as far afield as Tanzania and India. The ruling follows repeated efforts by the Egyptian government to ban female circumcision during the 20th century. Those opposed to the multiple bans claimed that prohibiting female circumcision limited religious freedom.
Religious freedom means the you can worship as you see fit, not that every brutal thing that you can find an obscure religious or cultural reference to is to be tolerated.
This is the highest eschelon of Islamic authority the issue has ever reached; Tantawi and Gomaa are two of the most influential clerics in modern Sunni Islam. This is also the most strongly-worded fatwa that has ever been released against female circumcision by a mainstream Sunni organization; previous fatwas have deemed the practice "not obligatory" and "not recommended".

Glenn Reynolds blogged Sadly, this counts as progress. But, you know, it does count as progress.

TigerHawk blogged I'm not willing to go quite that far. Yes, if a fatwa can reduce cases of clitoridectomy among the abominable bastards who perform it (and Christians and animists also do it in particularly primitive corners of the world), we should rejoice in that. I'm just not certain that this indicates a trend. The legal and actual circumstances of women in the Islamic world seem to have degraded significantly in the last 30-40 years, at least by reference to press accounts and as measured by Western standards. One random fatwa which denounces a tradition that is in any case a long way from the center of Islam is not necessarily evidence of progressive energy within the religion. Maybe I'm wrong, but this fatwa strikes me as "good," rather than progress, much like a winless football team finally winning a game over another easy team late in the season. The fans will at that point cheer any victory, but does it really mean the team will be better next year?

Jan Haugland blogged It is a sad fact that this barbaric practice, despite being outlawed practically everywhere, does not seem to decline. Hopefully this fatwa can be a welcome move in the right direction.

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