[For a more detailed discussion see our pamphlet: Female Genital Mutilation: An Islamic Perspective]


A Summary of Remarks

to the Ethiopian Community Development Commission

by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.

Minaret of Freedom Institute

Islamic law is well-defined through a tradition of jurisprudence. The sources of that law are, in order of importance: the Qur'an which is the Muslim scripture, the practice of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his community (passed on through traditions called hadîth, consensus (which may be census of the scholars or of the entire community--a point of controversy) and ijtihâd or the individual efforts of scholars to attain understanding of the sharî`ah (i.e., the Divine Law) through various tools which I shall not go into here.

Although there is no reference to circumcision at all in the Qur'an, there is a well-established tradition of male circumcision in Islam as a "sunnah" act (i.e., one following the practice of the Prophet and his companions). There is no mandate at all for female circumcision, however. Although female circumcision is not mandated, one tradition of disputed authenticity permits (but does not encourage) the removal of a minuscule segment of skin from the female prepuce, provided no harm is done. Permitting such a ritual constitutes an act of tolerance by Islamic law for pre-Islamic practices, and may be overruled by the Islamic prohibition against harmful acts. Consider, for example, that Islamic law protects a woman's right to sexual enjoyment, as demonstrated by the fact that a woman has the right to divorce on the grounds that her husband does not provide sexual satisfaction. It follows that Islamic law prohibits clitorodectomy (partial or complete) or infibulation, or any genital mutilation which impairs the woman's ability to enjoy sexual relations.

People often confuse traditions rooted in local culture with religious requirements. Ethiopians in the United States stand between the Ethiopian culture of their heritage and the American culture of their environment. They cannot and should not be expected to abandon their religion. I do think, however, that the young amongst them, at least, will be willing to abandon old-world cultural practices at odds with their adopted culture when such practices are unsupported by religion.

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