Islam & Female Genital Mutilation?

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There was an article that just came out yesterday from the Detroit Free Press about three female Muslim doctors who were arrested in Detroit, Michigan for mutilating six to nine year old girls. The latest one to be arrested was Dr. Nagarwala. There is an 11 page report from the Department of Justice (here) from April 13, 2017 about the Emergency Room Physician. It was reported that “Dr. Nagarwala’s attorney, Shannon Smith, claimed in her initial court hearing that no cutting of the seven-year-old alleged victims took place and that excess skin was simply scrapped off to be buried in a religious ceremony. The Free Press, however, reports that documents they reviewed show the injuries to the two Minnesota girls’ genitals were “much more severe” than Nagarwala is claiming.”

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It boggles my mind how women in the United States can march about Women’s rights and then blatantly ignore what is happening all around the world. The cases for arrest are especially of notice because they are RIGHT HERE IN THE UNITED STATES, people! This is not just a barbaric ritual done in a dark alley somewhere. This is something that women with their Medical Doctor degrees were doing in clinics here.

Why is this type of thing not looked at? Why is it not reported?

Many Muslims will tell you (including me, when I was a Muslim!) that this is not practiced by all Muslims. This is TRUE. However, this is something that the Hadith (traditions of Mohammad and guidelines for Muslims to use) does not forbid. This is practiced mainly  in Muslim countries in Africa (see map picture) and it is terribly difficult to understand or to research.

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A study done by WADI (a German-Austrian NGO) in 2003 revealed that the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was not just limited to the African continent. After over a year of medical work from all-female teams in Kurdistan began to gain trust with the local women, they found that close to 60% of the women had undergone cutting (see article with citations of study here).  While many Muslims will deny that Islam has a link to FGM, there is no denying the fact that the countries in which it is practiced are indeed Muslim.

The most often mentioned narration reports a debate between Muhammed and Um Habibah (or Um ‘Atiyyah). This woman, known as an exciser of female slaves, was one of a group of women who had immigrated with Muhammed. Having seen her, Muhammad asked her if she kept practicing her profession. She answered affirmatively, adding: “unless it is forbidden, and you order me to stop doing it.” Muhammed replied: “Yes, it is allowed. Come closer so I can teach you: if you cut, do not overdo it, because it brings more radiance to the face, and it is more pleasant for the husband.”[38]

Abu Sahlieh further cited Muhammad as saying, “Circumcision is a sunna (tradition) for the men and makruma (honorable deed) for the women.”[39] So, as you can see, the Quran DOES NOT make mention of it, only Hadith and even in the Hadith, it is not forbidden, but to simply not cut severely.

There are fatwas (Islamic decrees) Fatwa 60314 that address this issue:

We would add here the fatwas of some modern scholars who have responded to this war that has been launched against female circumcision on the grounds that it is harmful to health.

Shaykh Jaad al-Haqq ‘Ali Jaad al-Haqq, the former Shaykh of al-Azhar, said:

Hence the fuqaha’ of all madhhabs are agreed that circumcision for both men and woman is part of the fitrah of Islam and one of the symbols of the faith, and it is something praiseworthy. There is no report from any of the Muslim fuqaha’, according to what we have studied in their books that are available to us, to say that circumcision is forbidden for men or women, or that it is not permissible, or that it is harmful for females, if it is done in the manner that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) taught to Umm Habeebah in the report quoted above.

Then he said: From the above it is clear that the circumcision of girls – which is the topic under discussion here – is part of the fitrah of Islam, and the way it is to be done is the method that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) explained. It is not right to abandon his teachings for the view of anyone else, even if that is a doctor, because medicine is knowledge and knowledge is always developing and changing. End quote.

In the fatwa of Shaykh ‘Atiyah Saqar – the former heard of the Fatwa Committee in al-Azhar – it says:

The calls which urge the banning of female circumcision are call that go against Islam, because there is no clear text in the Qur’aan or Sunnah and there is no opinion of the fuqaha’ that says that female circumcision is haraam. Female circumcision is either obligatory or recommended. Even though there is a fiqhi principle which says that the decree of a ruler may put an end to a dispute regarding controversial matters, the decree of the ruler in this case cannot be but either of two things: that it is either obligatory or recommended, and it is not correct to issue a decree banning it, so as not to go against sharee’ah which is the principal source of legislation in our land, whose constitution states that Islam is the official religion of the country. It is permissible to issue some legislation that provides guidelines for performing this procedure (female circumcision) in the proper manner in such a way that does not contradict the rulings of sharee’ah.

The words of the doctors and others are not definitive. Scientific discoveries are still opening doors every day which change our old perceptions. End quote.

No one wants to talk about this in Islam. Why? Taboo. Shame and honor culture. For a culture that forbids women to interact with men who are not family, it is very difficult to even speak about personal female matters.

When I speak and teach about Islam and how to build a bridge with Muslims, I am inevitably asked about FGM and whether or not I was involved in this practice. I can thankfully say that Pakistan is shown on the map as “rare occurrence.” This is not something Pakistanis would even speak about within their families (my mother was an OB/GYN in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan- I never heard her mention this in my life). The first time I ever heard about this practice was in college and I thought it was ridiculous that such a claim was being made about Islam, since I had no knowledge of it. I was ignorant of what was being practiced in the world.  Seems like I wasn’t the only one who was ignorant. There were many others around the world who were ignorant of this going on… it took the WADI report to bring it to the 21st century. Updates were given in 2010 by the Human Rights Watch that yes, indeed this is not just limited to Africa, but is prevalent in Kurdistan and no one reports it due to “embarrassment.” Another Update was given in 2016 by the New York Times that FGM was not just limited to the African continent, but was also prevalent in Indonesia (another predominantly Muslim nation).

Even living in the United States as a Muslim, with the freedoms given here, many Muslim women do not speak up about divorce, about domestic violence and beatings, or about FGM. It’s simply not done. It brings shame upon your household and your family name. You will be looked upon as someone who is out of control and needs to be brought back in line by the family or the community. Talk about embarrassment – maybe someone will find out you are talking about private parts and we simply cannot have that.

Where is the outrage? Where are the parents of the little girls who brought them across state lines to have them be mutilated? Why are we not hearing about this atrocity being committed in the US? Are we truly fighting for women’s rights or is it more about fulfilling other agendas?

May we arise from our sleep and walk in the light of Christ!

Ephesians 5: 13-15~ But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that is illuminated becomes a light itself. 14So it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise upfrom the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise…

 

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LeadHERship

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What’s the deal with women in power? As a young, driven woman who was just starting out her career,  I made many mistakes and let power get to my head. Some mistakes were small and others could have impacted or even curtailed my career, like the error of not following chain of command in a traditional organization like Campbell Soup Company. Fortunately for me, I had a kind and generous mentor named Chuck Hatz who was able to step in and guide me through management pitfalls.

As I look back on that experience, I realize that not many are blessed to have another give them advice on how to maneuver or even advance on the corporate ladder. In fact, I realized slowly that the ones who were the least helpful in my career path were WOMEN. Before I heap accusations on those women who did not mentor me or even lend a kind word of encouragement, I need to look at my own actions as a manager as well.

When I joined the management ranks, I was a supervisor. I worked mainly with two men, so things were good. When the opportunity to rise higher into a manager’s position, however, the battle lines were drawn and I quickly found out that I didn’t have many friends. In fact, most of my competition were women of equal rank. It was cut throat. I found out after I got the position mainly due to my education, that a woman closest to me had said something personal and derogatory about me to the VP. He thought it to be unprofessional (especially in Human Resources), so he did not even consider her for the position. Her desire to hurt me ended up getting her booted out.

This woman was a colleague. She was someone I had lunch with on a regular basis, so it didn’t rest easy with me. It was around this time that I had been looking at Japanese management traditions of Kaizen (collaborative management) and found that before making any big decision or doing problem solving, they went to their peers individually and got input. I thought that to be a huge waste of time! Why do that when I knew what needed to be done and go do it?

This very thing turned out to be the key in why women were not getting the larger promotions and why there seemed to be a general lack of trust among us. No one wanted to consult with another. All of us were very competitive and sabotaging the other’s efforts. In an attempt to be noticed by Executive management (=men), we were setting each other up for failure and being petty. What an eye-opener for me.

As an HR manager, I knew I could personally do something to change this. Using collaboration and not competition as my incentive, I set about asking the other female management their input on ideas and projects. I was immediately met with distrust, criticism and even sarcasm – what, is this job too difficult for you, that you need to ask for help?

Fortunately, not all of my peers were like this. I found a lifelong friend in Christine who was kind and helpful to me. In addition, I had women in my department who were caring and driven to help others. We formed a small but close-knit team. The easy collaboration in HR training began to be evident as we shared leadership roles. There was a desire to help one another and to share our strengths as a team.Other women began to look to this team as an outreach and support within the organization. Several women began to gain promotions and opportunities to excel, including me.

I share all this to make a point. Until women begin to set aside the competitive nature of business and our own prejudices against other women (she’s not career-minded her clothes are not right, etc), we are not going to be looked at as serious contenders for executive level positions. Women do not have to set aside our feminine qualities of being able to talk to one another, to empathize, to nurture relationships in order to get ahead. We don’t have to be so driven that we get a calloused edge that doesn’t take others into account. In a culture that feeds the “me, me, me” ego, climbing the corporate ladder means stepping on other women’s heads in order to see our own star rise.

As a Christian, this is made even more clear to me by Jesus Christ’s teachings, especially when he said “So the last shall be first, and the first last ” Matthew 20:16. That doesn’t leave much room for corporate ambition, does it? What one doesn’t realize right away is the blessing you get from helping others and putting your desires off for a minute or two. Getting promotions was nice (I won’t lie!) but it wasn’t nice to not have a peer to peer network of women you could trust. Getting recognition was nice, but I didn’t realize that it meant that I took it from others and gave no one else credit. When we started sharing and helping one another, we began to celebrate each other’s contributions and victories. Our enthusiasm, relationships and strength multiplied.

Bill Gates said that “As we look ahead to the next century, LEADERS will be those who EMPOWER others.” So what steps can we take today to help those around us? This Forbes article gives a great list of strengths women have that naturally lend themselves to helping others. In addition, I have a few to add that can apply to both men and women:

  1. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Look for opportunities to help fill the gap.

  2. Ask for the worst assignment. Your colleagues will thank you (& think you’re nuts!) and your bosses will appreciate you.

  3. Be willing to help not only at work, but outside work. When you see your co-worker as a mom, wife, daughter, or in a different role, you will gain respect and learn to set aside any prejudice you may have formed against them.

  4. Pray for them and for yourself to be placed in situations where you have to serve others.

We need to build each other up – both men and women. When you break others down, you get torn down right beside them. There is collateral damage. The true hallmark of a leader is when you help to develop others’ skills and strengthen them. Along the way, your own skills will be strengthened, built and sharpened.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17