Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Female circumcision is against Islam


Cairo, 6 Dec. (AKI) - The head of Cairo's Al Azhar university, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, has spoken out firmly against the practice of infibulation, still widely practised on young women in Egypt. "The practice of female genital mutilation ruins a woman's reproductive organs and is a practice which has nothing to do with Islam" said Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed al-Tantawi. His comments follow similar statements by the Grand Mufti of Egypt, vigorously rejecting the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) as un-Islamic.

Tantawi praised the publication of a pamphlet, "On the problems of reproduction caused by the practice of infibulation", which was presented in Cairo on Tuesday and reiterated the need to eliminate a practice "which as well as causing permanent damage to sexual organs, creates psychological illness and social problems which impact on married life."

Tantawi recalled that infibulation is not prescribed in the Koran and that the Prophet Mohammed did not have his daughters 'circumcised.'

Adressing an international conference on FGM in Cairo last month both the mufti Ali Gomaa and Tantawi reiterated that infibulation did not have religious roots but dates back to tribal traditions of the pre-Islamic area.

According to international organisations, female genital mutilation or infibulation is practised principally in sub Saharan Africa, in Egypt, Yemen, Sudan and Oman.

It is a practice that does not have religious roots even if some imams apparently consider it "positive for the psychological development" of young women. It is a widely held opinion in these countries that cutting the clitoris reduces sexual desire, helping young women to preserve their virginity.

According to the World Health Organisation, thousands of girls around the world each day undergo this practice with severe - sometimes fatal - consequences for their general health, capacity to bear children and their mental wellbeing. The WHO estimates that some 150 million women have undergone the process.

In 1995, an estimated 97 percent of young women in Egypt were 'circumcised'.

In 1996, the Egyptian health ministry issued a decree banning the practice, but leaving doctors discretionary powers to carry out circumcision if they felt it was neccessary.

In Egypt today there are only a handful of villages which are declared "mutilation-free" following information campaigns and monitoring by international agencies and NGOs. According to rights group Amnesty International, some 75 percent of girls in the country still undergo genital mutilation.

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