Published On:07 December 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

IMO IMPACT: Indian Muslim Observer Story on Female Genital Mutilation among Bohra Muslims triggers healthy discussion

By Pervez Bari

The IndianMuslimObserver.com story on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) among the Bohra community of India and Pakistan by Danish Ahmad Khan, the Founder-Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com, New Delhi, on November 15, 2001 has been picked up and prominently highlighted by a number of other publications. The publications which have lifted the story highlighting FGM are: The Yin, Wounded in OUTLOOK magazine, December 5, 2011; International NGO – No Peace Without Justice; FGC in India and Pakistan in Orchid Project; Female Genital Mutilation among Bohra Muslims - A report in US-based World Muslim Congress and in The Ghouse Diary.

The impact of the IMO story on FGM has been such that it has triggered a healthy discussion on Online forums across the globe on this unhealthy practice mostly prevalent in the Bohra community. Appalled at this horrendous practice many have called out for a ban overriding the head of the Bohra community Syedna Burhanuddin Sahib’s dictate, others have said to educate the people from the community among whom it has been handed down by tradition, while some say persuasion and not protest to overcome this primitive rite for Bohra women.

Mike Ghouse, a US-based speaker, thinker, writer, optimist, educator and an activist of Pluralism, Justice, Islam, Peace and Civil Societies, has applauded the courage of Danish Ahmed Khan for writing on the FMG issue.

In his November 27, 2011 blog “The Ghouse Dairy” Mr. Ghouse wrote:“I applaud the courage of Mr. Danish Ahmed for reporting this issue head on in his magazine Indian Muslim Observer. There is a lot that goes on in our societies, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, and Sikh or otherwise, in this instance a large number of Bohra Muslim Women are being genitally mutilated in secrecy, as it is an illegal practice within several cultures.

“Even if one woman, Muslim or otherwise, is deprived of her God given pleasures of life, it must be stopped. Standing up against oppression is one big aspect of being a Muslim. Injustice to anyone and particularly women will eat away the morality of the society from within. Oppression cannot go on for long. Every religion has been a medium to restore righteousness in the society, the guidance is universal including Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) who said, the least thing you can do against injustice is to speak up. Speaking up is the right thing to do.”

Continuing further, he wrote: “Tasleem (the Bohra Muslim sect lady who has started campaign against FGM on Face-book) deserves the applauding, even though she has endured pain and suffering, she has decided to put an end to this. We need to join her efforts in putting an end to this misery. Certainly, a few men will ridicule it, but she will have her rewards from Allah and the Prophet for the doing the right thing, bringing justice to generations of women. May God bless her.

This is a horrendous practice that all of us must stop. I can hear a few Muslims, just a handful of Muslims in each Muslim gathering asking this to the Danish Ahmed.

1. Why did he not talk with the community first?

2. Why did he have to feed the right wingers with more to belittle Muslims?

3. Is there an empirical data to claim 90% of Bohra community practices this?

“It is quite possible that His Highness Syedna Burhanuddin, the spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslims may not be aware of this practice happening right under his nose, just as CIA did not see Mubarak's exit or the seedlings for the protests in the Middle East, ISI and Pakistani Military did not know Osama Bin Laden was hiding right in their own backyard and Mossad has been wrong about Iran and other pronouncements.

Obviously the issue is simmering for a long time, but no one may have dared the establishment, and even possible that the protests were put down. As Muslims we need to give full support to this movement that is what makes us Muslims; to speak up and do everything possible to bring justice to every human in the society.

If we don’t fulfill our responsibility, the suffering will go on further, but it will affect us all of us. This is not a Bohra issue, nor the Muslim issue; it is the human rights issue. It’s not them, it is us, we are all in this together to create a better society for each one of us and it reflects and affects us all”.

“I do hope the Syedna will make a quick call to end this practice, if he has not already done,” he concluded.

The IndianMuslimObserver.com here brings forth some of the other views and opinions shared in the discussions which are as follows:-

Dr. Zaheer Ahmed Sayeed wrote: “If the Bhora women come out in protest they would be rendered apostate by the concerned Bohra authorities, despite the mutilation does not carry validity and sanction in the Quran and to my knowledge in the Hadees. I suspect a single individual’s plight should be picked up, highlighted with the Human Rights and Women's Commission requested to echo the barbarism and support the cause against this barbaric act”.

Ghiasuddin Akbar's opinion: “Well, the system of FMG (female genital mutilation ) among the Syedana Bohra community as existed for decades . This is an open secret, the head of the community enforces this practice vigorously .The community holds the Syedana as god incarnate , will man made rules override the Syedana dictate ? The members believe they should practice it, so who will enact a law against willful compliance?”

Bangalore-based well known senior journalist Maqbool Ahmed Siraj thinks that social practices cannot be abolished. He wrote: “We must educate the people from the community among whom it has been handed down by tradition. However, since Bohra community has a central leadership of Syedna Burhanuddin sahib, they should move the proposal and get a ruling from him. Islam does not sanction female circumcision. Even the male circumcision has come from Abrahamic traditions. Prophet Abraham underwent circumcision at the age of 87, it is reported”.

Delhi-based Sanjjeev Nehraa, a Professional Manager with Quest Development, is of the view that banning is No answer-- it works as a patch work. Bans are an extreme measure. He says: “These times people are conscious and a little persuasion works if they are made to understand it’s for their own good.. It is not 'Protest' that can help- Its ONLY 'persuasion' that can work. Protest is a negative way...while Persuasion is an organic method”.

“Bohras are educated but they are lacking in wisdom..! Best is to educate the women/men about the hazards of FGM. We must provide the reason to the community leader/women/men to change their views. The only way is education and awareness and community based teaching and spread awareness through women. Educating through the help of community women/men will also add to the magic change backed by presentation/s on the perils of FGM”, Nehraa said.

He said: “We must support them for protection of them/their rights by helping the community to understand the demerits. Women/men of community can better tackle the issue instead of hard talks! A tradition followed for times need time to be shunned or improved”.

Mr. Imran says that nothing will change unless women from inside the Bohra community protest female circumcision. Currently there are few voices. If they persist the voices will grow and lead to change. The desire for change has to come from inside the community.

Ghulam Mohiyuddin’s, who is based in Qatar, stand on FGM issue is that it should not be a question of either/or. It has to be both; a legal ban AND raising community awareness. A law banning FGM should be passed. Such laws already exist in many countries. Even after the passage of the law, it takes many years for the practice to eventually abate. He says that female genital mutation is a terrible procedure, has no religious basis, and must be made illegal.

Male circumcision, or excision of the foreskin, is a minor procedure and has some possible health benefits. Contrary to what most Muslims believe however, circumcision is not mentioned in the Quran. It is in the Hadiths and is carried over from the Talmud, the Jewish Bible. Instead of making it a religious rite, it should be a matter of choice based on medical knowledge at a given time.

Clitoridectomy, or female circumcision, on the other hand, is a more risky procedure, and can have long term sequel, including impairment of sexual functioning. It must be banned. Legal banning and the work of social reformers together were effective in abolishing Sati. FGM's comparison to Sati may appear to be overreaching, but both entail expendability of women through taking life or a bodily organ necessary for full sexual fulfillment. Abolishing such practices takes a long time, but imprisoning some doctors who perform these procedures may hasten the process, Mohiyuddin opines.

The stand of Er. A. Faizur Rahman, who is an engineer by profession, a social activist and Moderator of the-moderates@googlegroups.com Forum based at Chennai, on FGM issue is that female circumcision has no place in Islam. It must be banned. The first step would be to encourage the women to come out in protest and call for a ban from the self-appointed religious authorities. “I know that this may amount to recognising these authorities, but for the moment this is the only way out”, he says.

Ms Subhashini Ali, an Indian politician and a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), who is the President of the All India Democratic Women's Association, says Bohra is the most highly educated community. However, she is perplexed over as how can the ban on FGM be ensured? She acknowledges that some very brave Bohra women who are speaking out but the control over birth, marriage, death by the religious head in the community is absolute. Basically it is a community governed by non-constitutional methods...

“As far as FGM is concerned, I'm very sorry to say that it is hugely increasing in South India – Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala”, she reveals.

Ms Rohini Hensman, an independent scholar, writer and activist based in Mumbai, says FGM certainly should be banned - and anyone can call for such a ban, not just Muslim women.

Meanwhile, seeing the resentment against the practice of FGM and the anger brewing against it following the publication of Mr. Danish Ahmad Khan’s report it is earnestly hoped that the Bohra community leadership will rise to the occasion and take note of it and act accordingly before it is too late. The inner circle of the advisers and aides of the HH Syedana Burhanuddin Sahab who advice him in crucial matters and on whom the Bohra Head has full faith and relies on them should prevail over him to issue an edict against the age-old practice of FGM so that womenfolk of the community could live in peace with their dignity and honour remaining intact. HH Syedana Burhanuddin Sahab should not make it a prestige issue with halo of egoism preventing him from taking the right step.

[Pervez Bari is a senior Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Madhya Pradesh). He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

About the Author

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on December 07, 2011. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on December 07, 2011. Filed under , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

1 comments for "IMO IMPACT: Indian Muslim Observer Story on Female Genital Mutilation among Bohra Muslims triggers healthy discussion"

  1. We are thankful to Idian Muslim observer for bringing this serious issue to public domain. thanks again. Syed Khurram Ilahi Rizvi

Leave a reply

Editor's Pick

SPECIAL REPORT: Indian religious leaders strongly protest against South Korean government hounding of Shincheonji Church despite cooperation to contain COVID-19 spread

By Danish Ahmad Khan The government of South Korea is pursuing a discriminatory policy towards Shincheonji Church while accusing it of COVI...

IMO Search Finder

Subscribe IMO