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Female Circumcision Ban Nullified

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that a court in Cairo, Egypt, overturned a 1996 government ban on health workers carrying out female circumcision. The ruling had been sought by eight Islamic scholars and doctors who argued that the ban was in violation of religious beliefs and interfered with physician's prerogatives to perform medical duties. "For practical purposes, the ban will remain in effect until a final verdict is reached in the higher courts. In addition, most girls undergo the operation at home at the hands of unlicensed midwives or barbers who use razor blades to cut off part or all the labia and clitoris. In some cases, they also sew closed the vaginal opening until the child is old enough to be married," the report said. A recent survey of about 15000 women between 15 and 49 in urban and rural areas revealed that 97% had undergone the operation. Those in favor of circumcision argue that that uncircumcised girls will be considered loose or they believe that circumcision helps cleanliness.

Women's and human rights groups vowed that they would continue their campaign to reverse the ruling and to educate parents against circumcision. "The female circumcision is widespread in North African countries such as Egypt and Sudan, but is viewed with abhorrence in Saudi Arabia, Syria and the Persian Gulf states."

    Dear Editor:

    The ruling by an Egyptian court overturning a government ban on female circumcision is clearly a case of a government using religion for the purposes of maintaining a repugnant practice. The Mubarak administration is sacrificing women to quiet the Muslim opposition in order to appear more religious. As mentioned in the article, the majority of one billion Muslims worldwide do not practice female circumcision. In fact, this custom, which predated Islam, goes against the principles of true Islam, which guarantees a woman's right to sexual satisfaction. Mounir Fawzi's claim that it "helps to keep women's sexual drives to acceptable and reasonable levels" is just a superficial ploy to give legitimacy to medical malpractice, and to pacify the Muslim clerics. What is the result of female circumcision? Only a lifelong sentence of physical and emotional scarring.

    We, in the Muslim Women's League, consider this latest ruling a major defeat in the fight for women's rights all over the world. It seems that we must increase our efforts with which we educate Muslim men and women in the countries that practice female genital mutilation. If we do not, then women will continue to suffer a at the hands of those who will do anything to subjugate women and sustain the status quo. We call on Muslims worldwide to be courageous enough to speak out against this abhorrent practice.

    Laila Al-Marayati, President
    Muslim Women's League, Los Angeles, July 1997

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