THE BLOG

Death at the Hands of Culture, Not Religion

24/11/2014 15:28 GMT | Updated 24/01/2015 10:59 GMT

The first doctor in Egypt to be brought to trial on charges for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was acquitted last week. Dr Raslan Fadl was acquitted of Manslaughter following the death of 12 year old Sohair al Bata'a in June 2013.

Many were hoping this landmark case would instigate a nationwide crackdown on this horrific practice. Despite the fact that FGM was criminalised in Egypt in 2008, this barbaric tradition still continues to plague Egypt and many other countries across the Globe. A different ruling in this case could have led to an international overhaul and possible instigation to end FGM.

Certain critics accredit such atrocious acts to religion, claiming that female circumcision is indeed prescribed by faith, most prominently Islam. However, the tradition of FGM pre dates all major religions, which proves that religion and indeed Islam is not to blame for this barbaric custom.

The first historical documentation of Female circumcision dates back to the writings of Greek geographer Strabo, who visited Egypt around 25 B.C. According to his observations noted in his volumes of Geographica the practice of Female circumcision originated as a form of initiating young women.

This custom soon became heavily engraved in Egyptian culture and became a social convention that eventually spread throughout the African continent and the indeed across the world. The practice became associated with a woman's purity, innocence and the cultural ideals of femininity and modesty. It was later adopted by misguided religious scholars from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. Contrary to popular belief this is not a practice that any religious script prescribes.

Unfortunately Islam is always placed as the greatest culprit despite the fact that 80% of the Muslim world does not practice FGM. Regrettably the voices of extremist minorities wash out the voices of the moderate majority, and often FGM cases that are brought into the media spotlight are instigated by Muslims, Christians etc who have confused cultural practice for religious injunction.

This is because some Islamic scholars still claim that Islam supports female circumcision and often rely upon two sayings that were attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. But most scholars also agree that there is not enough evidence to support the validity of these statements. The strength and historical authenticity of these Ahadith have often been brought to question when the issue of FGM arises.

The wives and daughters of the Prophet Muhammad were never documented promoting or practicing female circumcision. If this was indeed a strict Islamic practice would they not have been the first to set the example? In various well documented Ahadith the Prophet Muhammad has always said: "Do not harm (others) and do not be the cause of Harm."

Taking this all into consideration it is fair to say that a portion of blame falls on certain Religious and Political leaders who continue to fall silent on this matter. If the world took a united stance against this barbaric act then not only would this clear the myths and misconceptions held against Islam and its treatment of women, the number of potential FGM cases would also fall very drastically.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was the first Muslim community to take an active stance against FGM in the UK, an effort that was commended by Rt Hon Justine Greening MP Secretary of State for International Development, and Woman's Rights advocate. During a peace symposium earlier this month held at Baitul Futuh, Western Europe's largest mosque, she commended the Ahmadiyya Community for being one of the first communities to locally address the issue. This year for the first time the Muslim Council of Britain has openly released a statement condemning the practice, only now stating that FGM is indeed un-Islamic. The first UK prosecution for FGM was also established this year which has been a great landmark moment for the UK.

These earnest efforts by the Western world are still struggling to create any sort of impact among the affected communities of Africa who still consider FGM to be an essential cultural practice. In spite of the evidence presented in court the judge in Egypt was willing to drop the charge of manslaughter against Dr Raslan for an out of court settlement of £5,000.

According to the World Health Organisation it is thought that more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East. This number does not account for the countless number of girls who die during the procedure. These young women come from all different religious backgrounds but all need protection from this hideous custom. The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers often without anaesthetic, putting girls at risk of potentially fatal infections- often using scissors, razor blades, broken glass and tin

We can certainly commend all health officials working on the ground level to abolish these cruel rituals in countries such as Egypt but it really is up to the religious leaders of the world to unite with great determination to help abolish this cruel practice; a practice that has no solid historical evidence to suggest that this can be done in the name of the name of God.