Circumcise Women for a nominal fee, Muslim Brotherhood’s gift!
In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood have offered to circumcise women for a nominal fee as part of their community services, a move that threatens to reverse decades of local struggle against the harmful practice argues Mariz Tadros
Voting in the Egyptian presidential election is underway and what better way to win over votes of the poor than through offering badly needed low cost services and free goods. The Muslim Brotherhood, who have a track record in community outreach through services and goods, have added a new service for Egyptians: circumcising girls for a nominal fee.
FGM, although practiced for thousands of years, has been on the decline in the past decade thanks to a socially sensitive and nationwide campaign to show that FGM is neither religiously prescribed, nor linked to a woman’s moral behaviour. Thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis, the progress made in eliciting positive social change on curbing the practice now risks being reversed.
I have obtained the flyer that the Freedom and Justice party posted on the streets in the village of Abou Aziz. While the Freedom and Justice party denied that female circumcision was ever offered by the clinic, the information on the flyers suggests otherwise. The flyer which has the party’s logo on it says “The Freedom and Justice party in Abou Aziz is honoured to organize the yearly health clinic which covers all specialisations for a nominal fee of LE 5 for a check up on Friday the 20/4/2012 at the Islamic Institute after Friday prayers”. This was followed by a list of specialists including surgery, gynaecology and obstetrics, dentistry, dermatology etc. At the bottom of the list is a note saying “We receive cases for circumcision for males and females for LE30 a case”.
What is significant about this flyer is the reference to male and female circumcision as if the practices were similar, and the fact that these are treated as medical cases, “operations” to be performed by members of a medical team.
The Brotherhood’s strategy to undermine the national campaign to end FGM is three-pronged. Firstly, they contest the notion that the practice is not religiously prescribed. Many of the Brothers (and Salafis) argue that while it is not mandatory, it is nevertheless mukarama (preferable, pleasing in the eyes of God). They also quote hadith (saying attributed to the Prophet) which stipulates that FGM should involve “cutting, but only lightly”. Renowned Egyptian Islamist scholars such as Mohammed Emara and Mohammed Selim el Awa (the latter a presidential hopeful) have written and publicly endorsed the position that FGM is not an Islamic practice, and that there is nothing in Islamic jurisprudence to endorse it - most Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, do not practice
The second strategy of the Brothers to contest the undesirability of FGM is to present it as a medical operation or procedure. By doing so, they encourage people to go to doctors - rather than midwives - who will perform the “operation” under anaesthesia and in accordance with proper surgical procedures. The fact that FGM does not exist in any medical textbook as a procedure, and that conversely, medical research has shown its negative medical implications is, of course, kept out of the debate. One of the most effective resistance strategies to undermine efforts to stop the practice has been to medicalize it. Some people talk about taking their daughters to the doctor to check whether “they need it or not”, as if there is a physiological condition that would justify mutilating a woman’s reproductive organs. In many instances, the Brothers have combined the medical with the religious argument to make the case for female circumcision.
On the ground, development practitioners interviewed in Fayoum and Minya argue that after more than15 years of awareness raising and sustained local grassroots efforts, there is now a new generation of girls who have grown up without being circumcised and have got married. This is significant in that it proves that women do not need to be circumcised to be chaste, and that their non-circumcision will not undermine their prospects of marrying and gaining social acceptance.
Sympathizers in Egypt and the west have long argued that once the Muslim Brotherhood assume power, they will play politics differently, and their positions on matters such as gender will become more “moderate” as their governance agenda shifts to addressing the economic and political crises. However, the evidence from the village of Abou Azziz tells a different story. http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz ... tian-women