Heather Hastie on female genital mutilation: Is it Islamic?

October 13, 2014 • 6:57 am

While I’ve been in New York City, I’ve been running around having fun (a post-book treat for me), and yet readers have been sending me pieces about Reza Aslan, who apparently is on a media blitz to whitewash Islam after the sharp criticisms leveled by Bill Maher and Sam Harris. (One unctuous example can be found here.)

I am SO tired of Aslan’s apologetics about the faith, which never stand up to the merest scrutiny, and I’m equally tired of his self-promotion.  I’ve said enough about him for the time being, but reader Heather Hastie, who has her own website, decided to write a piece dissecting Aslan’s claim that female genital mutilation (FGM) is “not an Islamic practice.” (I believe Aslan originally touted it as an “African practice”.) And indeed, there are non-Muslim Africans who practice this barbaric mutilation, but it’s been largely coopted by Islam as a religiously-mandated mutilation. (See Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book Infidel for how it was practiced on her.)

But I’ll let you read Heather’s analysis over at her website Heather’s Homilies. Her post, which well repays a read, is called “Reza Aslan: Lying for Islam on FGM.” Please leave comments on Heather’s website rather than here, as it’s her post. One brief excerpt:

In Sunni Islam, there are four schools of jurisprudence that express and opinion on the matter. Two of them, the Hanbali and Shafi’i schools, consider FGM obligatory, while the other two, the Hanafi and Maliki schools, recommend it. In addition, there have been several fatwas issued regarding FGM over the years, the majority of which favour it. (Fatwas are not compulsory, but devout Muslims consider them morally imperative.) For example, Fatwa 60314 includes statements that express the importance of FGM within Islam and dismiss the opinions of doctors.

There’s a copy of Fatwa 60314 to see at her post.


16 thoughts on “Heather Hastie on female genital mutilation: Is it Islamic?

  1. Reza Aslan is just another common con man for Islam. His ignorance/lying on women’s issues and Islam show he is not even a religious scholar or any kind of intellectual. He is an angry little man that wants to get in good with his imaginary friend at any cost- even at the cost of the suffering of women and children.

    1. I question whether Reza even believes in an imaginary friend. His definition of religion is very Karen Armstrong-like. He’s an apologist and public intellectual wanna-be. Sadly, he gets a lot of attention. It is ridiculous when he is referred to as a “scholar” or a “highly respected scholar”.

  2. “African practice” ?? Now there is a piece of generalizing , with a shade of bigotry !

    Someone growing up a Muslim in Egypt has almost nothing in common with a person growing up speaking German & Lutheran in Namibia.

    Aslan should take a look at who practices FGM in Africa. Tribes with Bronze Age philosopheys and Muslims. That’s probably about it.

  3. Thanks for the link to Heather Hastie’s analysis.

    As per your request, I’ll post my comments on her web page.

  4. I’ve heard that FGM was carried out against non-Muslim girls in Scandinavia, but I have no source so far for that.

    But yeah, that Fatwa is bullshit. One, scientific knowledge trumps primitive desert superstition and customs, and two, even if a central religious figure and his deity were to prescribe something, we shouldn’t have to listen on our own reasoning. To rely on a suspicious book for everything on how to live life is just being overly dependent and throwing out one’s one innate ability to think and reason.

    1. FWIW, Sweden has had legislation prohibiting FGM since 1982, when in 1979 it became known that a few swedish doctors had participated to the degree of “regular labia alterations also performed on Swedish women who desired such genital changes.” [ http://lup.lub.lu.se/luur/download?func=downloadFile&recordOId=528291&fileOId=624310 ; http://eige.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/Current%20situation%20and%20trends%20of%20female%20genital%20mutilation%20in%20Sweden_EN.pdf ]

      What I know of it has been very successful, with two cases known since -06, one involving a mother with psychological problems and one a custody case. [ http://www.uv.es/cefd/17/Johnsdotter.pdf ] The problem seems to be that there is little reliability and much hearsay, and that this makes for enforced genital examinations without consent. On the other hand, the cases seen “… present a picture of a system which is quite alert, and of professionals willing to deal with suspected cases.” [From the various refs.]

      1. Just having a browse of those links, I notice that Sweden has about 1000 people (according to the table in the first link) from “the Ebola belt” of countries (Liberia, Guniea, Sierra Leone), which makes it a near certainty that Sweden is going to have Ebola cases arriving in the near future. I hope that your isolation hospitals are gearing up and carrying out drills. [And the UK 5pm radio news is just reporting that the West Africa Ebola outbreak mortality has risen to over 70%. Lovely!)
        The law is, as I expected, significantly flawed and is open to at least one challenge.

        Section 1 : … Operations on the external female genital organs which are designed to mutilate them or produce other permanent changes in them (genital mutilation) must not take place, regardless of whether consent to this operation has or has not been given.

        It may not be the most popular of bodily modifications, but I know people who have multiple tattoos, multiple piercings (including genital ones), and are thinking of getting into branding. I was talking to some a few days ago – a couple with a varied collection of rubber goods. Some of them would look at a law like this and see it as a restriction on their personal liberty. If they want to have their genitals mutilated, then that is their choice ; but this law bans it.
        Obviously this end case wasn’t considered when the law was drafted ; but such people do exist, and at some point a law like this is going to come into conflict with them, and is likely to be struck off when it does.
        This isn’t an argument against the obvious intent of the law ; I’m pointing out that it covers matters of personal choice (bizarre though such choices may seem to non-participants ; I don’t even have a tattoo, though I do have several (closed) ear piercings and one finger with a noticeable callous and groove where my wedding ring fits, which is at the other end of the spectrum of body modifications). Someone, somewhere in the Govt. needs to get the legislation modified before it gets struck down.
        (They could also challenge the law on the basis that one woman’s mutilation is another woman’s beautification. That’s why the lass in question has clitoral piercings and labial chains. It’s just a badly-phrased law.)

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