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May 10 2013

They rang our fathers anonymously

Campaigning against FGM can be dangerous work, at least in the UK.

The Guardian has spoken to women who have received death threats, been publicly assaulted and who have had to move house after speaking out about FGM, which involves cutting away some or all of a girl’s external genitalia and can include sewing up the vagina. It is mostly carried out on girls some time between infancy and the age of 15.

Nimko Ali, a 29-year-old British-Somalian, was taken to Somalia for the procedure when she was seven. “I never told anyone I had FGM, not even my best friend, because I saw what happened to women in the UK who did speak out and saw it as a warning sign,” said Ali, who has set up a group called Daughters of Eve to campaign against the procedure.

“I only decided to go public very recently after seeing other girls put themselves in danger by speaking out. The weeks afterwards were the most horrifying of my life. I lost friends – one even offered to kill me for £500.”

One wonders why. What is so important about destroying girls’ genitalia that opposing the practice is seen as a capital crime? Because girls and women with intact genitalia=total whoredom everywhere and that’s the worst possible thing?

I don’t  know. It’s all the same shit, isn’t it. Ropes and chains on Semour Avenue, or girls’ genitalia sliced off like so much grapfruit rind.

FGM is not condoned by any religion. It is illegal in the UK to carry out the procedure, take a British citizen abroad to have the operation, or assist in carrying out FGM abroad, whether or not it is against the law in that country.

What does the Guardian think “FGM is not condoned by any religion” means? There are some clerics who say don’t do it, but there are others who say do it. There are some Islamic clerics who say it is mandatory. They’re not the majority, I think, but they certainly exist.

Efua Dorkenoo, a director at Equality Now, regularly receives death threats aimed at stopping her campaigns against FGM. “I’m told my offence in speaking out is greater than that of Salman Rushdie and that I should die,” she said.

That certainly seems to hint that some adherents of one religion not only “condone” FGM but try to enforce it with threats. So what does the Guardian think “FGM is not condoned by any religion” means?

Dorkenoo says the backlash against women who speak out is getting more extreme. “It’s getting worse for young girls because social media means they can be threatened and harassed by people outside of their community, including by family members back in Africa who are told what they’re doing.”

Groan. Social media turn out to be such a useful tool for people who like to threaten and harass.

Muna Hassan, an 18-year-old member of the charity Integrate Bristol, a charity that helps young people from other countries and cultures, has suffered for her outspoken support of the group’s campaign against FGM. “Men harass and intimidate us girls all the time,” she said.

“We made a film about FGM called Silent Scream and they spread rumours that we were being paid to make a pornographic film. They rang our fathers anonymously and said we were humiliating our families in public.

“It horrified our parents and quite a few girls weren’t allowed to do the project any more because of it.

“These are people who promote themselves as community leaders and elders. The scary thing is that these are  the people that councillors and politicians go to when they want to discuss community issues.”

And the BBC – and sometimes the Guardian. This is exactly why they need to stop doing that.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    Argle Bargle

    FGM is not condoned by any religion.

    The Grauniad didn’t do their research. A year ago Mariz Tadros wrote an article in 50.50 Inclusive Democracy entitled“Mutilating bodies: the Muslim Brotherhood’s gift to Egyptian women” :

    In 1981, the late Sheikh Mohammed Khateeb, the Muslim Brotherhood’s former Mufti, issued a fatwa in which he said “When Islam arrived, it approved this operation for males and females.” (italics mine). While el Khattib made reference to a hadith to substantiate the circumcision of males, for females, he also assumed a medical position, “there have been diverse views on circumcision. Some (views) see female circumcision as a religious duty for males and females, some see it as a sunna, and some see it as a requirement for males and not females, and that for females it is a mukarama (preferable, pleasing in the sight of God). [Italics in original]

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    And the MB now in power in Egypt has said it will not ban FGM, because it has much more urgent things to do. One assumes it always will have much more urgent things to do.

  3. 3
    deepak shetty

    That certainly seems to hint that some adherents of one religion not only “condone” FGM but try to enforce it with threats.
    Islamaphobe!

  4. 4
    Southern Cross

    The “Forgotten Malala” campaign

    This is a nice fresh thread, so I will get in early on an off-topic but worthy subject.

    Ophelia publicised this online campain some time ago. The campaign expires in about 48 hours, so readers who wish to contribute should so so promptly. Having a bit of grief with the links but think they will come out OK.

    Regards, SC

    http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-forgotten-malala

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/03/we-have-no-money-to-escape/

  5. 5
    Francisco Bacopa

    Seriously, there needs to be a serious crackdown on FGM. Amnesty for all who run away from it, and total huge charges and conviction under assault and grievous harm charges.

  6. 6
    Francisco Bacopa

    Oh, and if they fly to another country to do this shit, they are never flying back, and no one they are related to is ever flying back.

  7. 7
    Pen

    Have you seen the discussions on whether FGM should be discussed in British primary schools (i.e. to alert girls before they become at risk)? There’s so much to say about that in terms of possible pros or cons that I don’t think it belongs in a comment but it’s interesting to think about. My big concern is that when a culture seen as external and at least partly oppositional, mainstream British culture in this case, mounts a concerted attack on a sub-culture, even the victims it is trying to protect sometimes batten down the hatches and embrace their victimhood in order to preserve their sense of identity (or to avoid becoming traitors, however you want to look at it). It’s far from stupid, it’s a very fair question how the larger mainstream culture receives them if they find themselves excommunicated from their own.

    What your post certainly shows is that the motivation to enforce silence about a crime perpetrated in cold blood against girls by their closest relatives is very strong – there’s really no surprise there. The relatives know they’re flouting British law, they don’t want to see themselves as committing a moral offense, they don’t want their daughters to see them that way either and they don’t want to relinquish control of their cultural beliefs – or their cultural authority as males or elders.

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