Only one person refused to sign

Never trust people approaching you in the street with a petition! They could be testing you.

A Londoner who suffered female genital mutilation has warned that political correctness is hampering the fight to stamp it out after asking people to sign a fake petition in its favour.

Leyla Hussein, 32, said many were scared to speak out against FGM because they were worried about criticising another culture.

She decided to conduct an experiment to see “how crazy political correctness has become” but was left in tears by the end.

Approaching shoppers with the petition supporting FGM, she told them she wanted to protect her  “culture, traditions and rights”.

In only 30 minutes 19 people signed it with some saying they believed FGM was wrong but because it was part of Ms Hussein’s culture they would add their names. Only one person refused to sign.

Meh. I don’t know if that’s political correctness so much or just not wanting to disappoint this very pleasant young woman (along with lack of information, not having thought about it much, and the like).

But I have every sympathy with her basic point.

Speaking after the experiment in Northampton, Ms Hussein broke down and said she was scared by people’s reactions.

“I kept using the word ‘it’s just mutilation’. They were like ‘yes, you are right’. How can anyone think that’s okay?”

She added: “FGM is not culture, it is violence. Stop using the culture word. This is happening to children. We are human beings, we can’t watch children being cut, I don’t care what culture you belong to.”

Ms Hussein, who is co-founder of the anti-FGM charity Daughters of Eve, is calling on the Home Office to take responsibility for drawing up an action plan to eliminate FGM in this country.

“Culture” and “community”: two words that are used to protect a multitude of horrible practices.

Although the practice has been outlawed in Britain since 1985, it is still carried out. Victims are typically from families who moved to the UK from countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Senegal and Egypt, where it is widespread. Ms Hussein, who was cut when she was seven in Somalia, said: “Four women held me down and cut my clitoris. I felt every single cut. I was screaming so much I just blacked out.”

The documentary, to be broadcast next week, comes after public health minister Jane Ellison warned that vulnerable girls were being failed because people do not want to be seen as “culturally insensitive”.

In an interview with the Evening Standard she said: “Because of that caution, bizarrely we’ve ended up protecting these vulnerable girls the least.” Ms Ellison condemned FGM as child abuse and said she was determined to end decades of failure to protect women.

The Cruel Cut will be shown on Channel 4 on Wednesday,  November 6 at 10.45pm.

6. Do what you can to make the world better.


  1. says

    This really is a problem. Say anything critical in any way about anything to do with Islam whatsoever, and you are branded an “Islamophobe.” Sure, throwing acid in women’s faces is and and all, but gee, I sure don’t want anyone thinking I’m some kind of racist.

  2. Pen says

    Ms Hussein (…) is calling on the Home Office to take responsibility for drawing up an action plan to eliminate FGM in this country.

    Let’s hope it will be an improvement on the Home Office’s other recent action plans. I’m not quite sure what should be on it. Consider the possibilities for action against FGM. Many of them have nothing to do with the Home Office and several others have a lot more wrong with them than a lack of political correctness. Many of them are unethical and/or likely to be counter productive. Honestly, I would be thrilled if anyone has any real, workable and ethical ideas I haven’t thought of.

    * Genital examination and registration of all women and girls entering the country for the first time already cut (to avoid criminal charges later)
    * Surveillance of families considered to be members of at risk groups as they enter and leave the country for visits – which must surely include genital inspection of girl children to be effective.
    * Clear indication of illegality of FGM provided to people entering the country – this is the only one of these three ideas I really like

    Ideas which have nothing to do with the Home Office

    * Pursuit and arrest of persons performing FGM on British soil. Absoutely.
    * Regular inspection of girls’ genitals to make sure they are intact OR regular inspection of the genitals of girls from minorities deemed at risk.
    * Discussion of FGM in all British primary schools with information about a childrens’ helplines for girls that fee at risk OR the same but only in communities with high minority populations.
    * Public information campaign informing public that girls found to be mutilated will be taken into care and their parents imprisoned.
    * Initiation of criminal proceedings against a woman’s family whenever she is found in the course of medical exams to have been cut.
    * Government health services campaign to the effect that FGM is injurious to women’s health and well being.

    Ideas which have nothing to do with the government at all, but may be the most effective:

    * Cultural actions like the film mentioned in the OP.
    * Promoting the voices of members of affected cultures who are opposed to FGM

  3. Omar Puhleez says

    May I suggest the following simple mantra?

    All people are equal, but all cultures are not.

    Some are definitely better than others. Conversely, some are worse; tapering to the point at which one must be the worst of all.

  4. quixote says

    I guess we’ll know something’s really changed when people recoil in horror and say, “What are you? Some kind of woman-hater?”

  5. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    “I kept using the word ‘it’s just mutilation’. They were like ‘yes, you are right’. How can anyone think that’s okay?”

    I really don’t know or understand that either myself. That’s staggering and appalling.

    Cultural sensitivities and respecting others is all well and good up to the point where the culture is actively harmful and oppressive.

    But when cultural practices such as FGM are so terribly wrong and cause so much needless pain and misery I think we really do absolutely need to speak out, step in and stop them happening.

    Some “cultural traditions” need to be ended and some cultures that have such a large number of misogynist “traditions” need to take a long hard look at themselves and deserve every bit of the criticism and precious little of the “respect” they get.

    Not all cultures are equally good because some cultures actively harm and disempower and cause suffering. Cultures that cause such harm and involve such oppression are worse than cultures that do the opposite and instead empower women and minorities and remove oppression.

    This reality seems obvious and axiomatic to me and I’m surprised by how few people seem to really get it. (Incl. many of the commenters and even a few of the bloggers right here on FTB.)

  6. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @3. Omar Puhleez : Great mantra there, seconded by me.

  7. Tony! The Immorally Inferior Queer Shoop! says

    This just in!
    “Do you have a computer?
    Do you have 30-60 seconds?
    Do you tire of being called a bigot by people who have read the bigoted things you have said for years?
    Well now you can stop worrying. End the stress. Overcome the bigotry that holds you back from your potential.
    All you need can be found here
    Ta daaaaa
    G O O G L E
    With this revolutionary new search engine, all you need is a willingness to accept that your irrational dislike which borders on hatred of all things Muslim can finally be eliminated.
    A new you is just minutes away.
    In fact, as many, many Pharyngulites have done countless times over the years, here is yet another link that could start you on your road to recovery”–>

    Is FGC part of a religion?

    Although many people believe that FGC is associated with Islam, it is not. FGC is not supported by any religion and is condemned by many religious leaders. The practice crosses religious barriers. Muslims, Christians, and Jews have been known to support FGC on their girls.

    No religious text requires or even supports cutting female genitals. In fact, Islamic Shari’a protects children and protects their rights. From a Christian perspective, FGC has no religious grounds either. In fact, research shows that the relationship between religion and FGC is inconsistent at best.

    However, even though religious texts don’t support FGC, some people still think the two are linked and claim religious teachings support FGC.

    In six of the countries where FGC is practiced — Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Senegal, Benin, and Ghana — Muslim population groups are more likely to practice FGC than Christian groups. In Nigeria, Tanzania, and Niger, though, the prevalence is greater among Christian groups.

    As can be seen by the information above, FGM (referred to as FGC in the link) is a barbaric practice that is performed by ::gasp:: NON MUSLIMS as well as Muslims.

    “Wait!” You say.
    …taps foot…”been waiting since the days of blaming genocidal comments on a drunken stupor, but ok…”
    “If FGM is not practiced solely by Muslims, and is also performed in predominately Christian regions as well, doesn’t that mean that FGM is a horrific procedure that should not be held up as an example of what is wrong with Muslims? If so, then ::gulp:: I really was displaying a horrible prejudice against Muslims. I wonder how deep my problem goes? Perhaps some time to reflect on my bigotry would be in order.”

    -disclaimer: the above scenario is very possibly, and almost certainly not going to occur in RL.

  8. John Kruger says

    While I would not go so far as to say the results have no meaning at all, I still have to twitch my skeptic eyebrow a little bit. People and petitions are pretty notorious. Penn and Teller got a bunch of people to sign a petition against water, and The Man Show got people to sign one to end women’s suffrage. Admittedly, the purpose in those examples was deception for humor, but I suspect there is a significant pressure on people when confronted by another human being earnestly asking them for help, particularly when all they have to do to comply is take a few seconds to mark up a paper. It would be good to try and get people to sign a petition for something known to be publicly unpopular, just to get a baseline to compare to.

  9. Omar Puhleez says

    Tony: FGM, commonly practiced by Muslims, and particularly those from N Africa, is a ‘cultural’ practice that pedates Judaism, Christianity and Islam in Africa and elsewhere. Certain Christian groups favour it, as do certain Islamic groups. But it is not universal in either Christianity or Islam.

    However, it appears to be more common in Islamic ‘cultures’ than anywhere else. As do certain other barbaric practices, like stoning of women found guilty of ‘adultery’, (however defined). NB: but not ‘adulterous’ men. Contrary to your smartypants comment, it can be held up as something wrong with ANY of those religious communities which practice it. But it is commonly and predominantly .associated with mainstream North African Islam.

    Anti-FGM Muslim clerics keep a low profile: possibly because they would rather not be bombed.

  10. says

    I am always reminded of Charles Napier’s reply to those who defended Sati (the custom of widow-burning):

    “Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”

  11. Rob Grigjanis says

    Omar @10:

    Anti-FGM Muslim clerics keep a low profile: possibly because they would rather not be bombed.

    You’re just making things up as you go along, aren’t you?

    Muslim leaders in countries like Egypt and Kenya are saying female genital mutilation is a cultural tradition that is unrelated to the teachings of Islam, and are campaigning for its abandonment.

    “Its prohibited, prohibited, prohibited,” Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said on the privately owned al-Mahwar network.

  12. John Horstman says

    @Tony! The Immorally Inferior Queer Shoop! #8: Indeed, cliterodectomies preformed on non-consenting infants and juveniles were once big in the USA. The practice became big at the same time as removal of the penile prepuce (aka male circumcision) for the same reason – it was part of a Victorian-era anti-masturbation crusade (which also gave us straightjackets, chastity belts, the sanatorium, and breakfast cereals). It had little to do with religion – scientific (bad science in this case) rationalism was very much en vogue: it was the result of a medical pathologization of masturbation (the ‘great minds’ of the time thought masturbation led to both psychological illness and physical maladies). For a host of intersecting reasons, we kept the practice of cutting the genitals of male infants but stopped cutting the genitals of female infants here. In Africa, female genital cutting is most closely associated with localized tribal cultures/religions (for example, it’s a traditional Maasai ritual performed near the onset of puberty to mark the passage to adulthood – male genital cutting is similarly ritualized), not Islam. We did a three week unit on female genital cutting/mutilation in my International Feminisms survey course and covered the history of the practice in the USA in my Sociology of Sexuality (in the USA) course.

    At any rate, the article is problematic becasue it doesn’t describe the framing or specific text of the petition Hussein was using. I would be categorically opposed to banning genital cutting to which adults (and perhaps adolescents) consent, on the basis of their right to assert bodily autonomy, while I would support a ban on cutting infants’ genitals on the same basis, as they are unable to consent. If Hussein wasn’t specifying/differentiating between infant mutilation and voluntary adult surgery or especially if the petition was framed as supporting the right to voluntary genital cutting, I might well have agreed to sign her petition (I would have asked for clarification, of course).

  13. Anoia says

    FGC is not supported by any religion

    Well, except:

    Abu Dawud, Book 41, Number 5251:
    Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah:
    A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.

    The difference between Islam and other religions is that Islam actively spread FGM. Through Islam FGM spread to i.e. Kurdistan, India and even Indonesia (there only in the last few decades iirc).

  14. haitied says

    Cool story Tony, I didn’t catch the word Islam or Muslim in the OP but that’s cool. It’s almost as if, though the words didn’t appear in a text that people can embrace an idea regardless.

  15. thascius says

    @13-the equivalent procedure to clitoridectomy on a male would be a penectomy, not circumcision. The equivalent for the major version of FGM on a man would be complete removal of the external genitalia, on a man there would essentially be nothing left. Male circumcision is not at all comparable to FGM.
    And I have heard before that Victorian era doctors thought circumcision would prevent men from masturbating-were they really that stupid? Or did they just never talk to any men who actually were circumcised?

  16. says

    @ haitied #15

    I didn’t catch the word Islam or Muslim in the OP

    As Daz noted, Martin Wagner brought this up.


    FTB is not meant to be a platform for malcontents to spew their toxic bigotry, nor (as in StevoR’s case) their consequent bloodlust too. Tony has done an excellent job at calling out such people wherever he sees them. And it has worked. Much of the right wing vitriol has been toned down to the level of mere dog whistles.

    Hiding behind Chagossian stick-insect camouflage will only fool those new to their game. This had been played out for years now, they need not bring up the words “Islam or Muslim”. It gives them deniability. (At least on the blogs that they have not been ban-hammered from.)

  17. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    “I kept using the word ‘it’s just mutilation’. They were like ‘yes, you are right’. How can anyone think that’s okay?”

    Approaching shoppers with the petition supporting FGM, she told them she wanted to protect her “culture, traditions and rights”.
    In only 30 minutes 19 people signed it with some saying they believed FGM was wrong but because it was part of Ms Hussein’s culture they would add their names. Only one person refused to sign.

    People wonder how the holocaust could have happened without a special and near-universal malice among 30’s Germans.

    Thank you, UK for showing us exactly how it could have happened.

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