Reimagining a World Without FGM
By: MPAC Policy Intern Shaezmina Khan
Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a statement on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), calling for an end to the cruel practice. This day functions as opportunity to amplify the existing efforts on the elimination of FGM, recognize the many women and girls who have suffered as victims of this practice, and to call on the global community to reimagine a world where women have total autonomy over their own lives. In keeping with MPAC’s values, eliminating FGM also requires renewing our collective commitment to the health, wellbeing, and economic advancement of all women and girls around the world — both near and far.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a harmful traditional practice that involves the partial or total removal of external female genitialia — or other injury to the female genital organs — for no medical reason. FGM is regarded as a human rights violation, gender prejudice, and a form of child abuse. In the United States, it is a felony under federal law and outlawed in 39 states. Although the exact origins of FGM are obscure, scholars have traced Ancient Egypt (present-day Sudan and Egypt) as the place of origin, citing circumcized mummies from 5th century BC. FGM is practiced in many regions around the world, including parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.
A common misconception is that FGM is part of the Islamic faith and tradition. Though FGM holds cultural significance in some Muslim-majority countries, it is not an Islamic act; it is a practice that is upheld through various cultural justifications and is unsupported by Islamic jurisprudence. The circumcision of girls predates Islam by many centuries, further elucidating that FGM should only be regarded as a cultural practice rather than a religious one. The Muslim Women’s League’s 1999 statement on FGM delinks the practice from Islam and notes: “Islam is a religion that guarantees the integrity of the human being… Female genital cutting violates that integrity, insulting Allah the Creator Whose creation needs no improvement.”
On January 5th, 2021, Congress passed the STOP FGM Act of 2020. This act strengthens current laws and establishes new federal crimes related to FGM, expands the scope of punishable offenses related to this practice, and expands the maximum imprisonment sentence for FGM offenses from five to ten years.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) commends Congress for passage of the STOP FGM Act and strongly condemns and opposes all practices of FGM around the world. This is a heinous practice that constitutes violence against women and violates the most sacred tenets of our Islamic faith. It has absolutely no place in our religion. We reiterate our steadfast support for all actions directed towards upholding the rights of girls and women and eliminating female genital mutilation.