Headlines
Published On:02 January 2021
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Why Female Genital Mutilation Endangers and Circumcision Protects

By Rabbi Allen Maller


When Mariya Taher moved to Massachusetts five years ago, she was shocked to find out the state had no legislation in place against female genital mutilation and cutting. Taher launched a petition, which got more than 400,000 signatures, urging the state to ban the practice.

On August 7, 2020 the the petition was victorious. After seven years of advocacy by survivors and activists in the state, Massachusetts is now one of 39 states in the U.S. that has criminalized female genital mutilation and cutting.

“It’s giving us validation that this is not something that can be sanctioned by culture or religion, that it is a human rights violation,” said Taher, who co-founded Sahiyo, a non-profit focused on ending the practice globally, particularly among the small Indian Muslim Dawoodi Bohra sect in which she and many other girls were cut at 7 years old.

Bradley Jones, Jr., who sponsored the legislation in the state House of Representatives, hailed the Governor’s signing of the law as “a great victory protecting some of our most vulnerable residents.”


Female genital mutilation or cutting, also known as FGM refers to the removal of the external female genitalia, in part or in total, as well as any other deliberate injury to genitalia for non-medical reasons.

FGM, although wide spread in limited geographic areas, is opposed by the majority of Muslim scholars (ulema). Of the four schools of Sha'aria only the Shafii school of law, declares FGM wajib, or obligatory. In contrast, the other three Sunni schools, plus the Shia schools, consider FGM sunnah- recommended but not required.

World Health Organization says female genital cutting, unlike male circumcision, has no health benefits for girls or women. The procedure can cause severe bleeding, problems urinating and infections, while increasing the risk of complications in childbirth and newborn deaths.

Thus, FGM is not circumcision: it is female genital mutilation, and calling it circumcision is a slander of both Islam and Judaism. It is important that Muslims and Jews make this distinction clear to the general public.

Christianity, Islam and Judaism all teach that circumcision was practiced by Prophet Abraham, who is revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims to this day. Christians do not believe circumcision is still a required observance.

But, even during Medieval times, Christian governments never prohibited ritual circumcision for Jews and Muslims living under their rule. Equally, Jews and Muslims never tried to force Christians to circumcise their children.

Only pagan governments like the Greeks and the Romans, or anti-religious secular governments like Communist Russia, have forbidden ritual circumcision of males. These governments are led by people who believe that their own humanistic, rational philosophy is on a much higher level than what has been taught by traditional religions, which they do not believe in.

Many European secularists regard circumcision of minors by Muslims and Jews, as a cruel violation of children’s rights. A similar debate is occurring across northern Europe about the issue of ritual slaughter of animals, which devout Jews and Muslims require be performed on conscious animals.

This is part of a larger dilemma facing left-wing parties in Europe, which often struggle to balance their stated commitment to minority rights, with a pushy, self-righteous, secularist agenda that is perceived as intolerant by most members of religious groups.

It is totally false to compare the custom of female genital mutilation to the religious practice of male circumcision.

First, while there are great medical benefits from removal of the foreskin of a male, especially in reducing the spread of HIV; there is no medical benefit to a female from the removal of her clitoris and labia.

In Africa, Jewish and Muslim men have much lower rates of AIDS than uncircumcised Christian men.

Second, there is no evidence that female genital mutilation promotes chastity and preserves a woman's virtue. Having a considerate, loving and faithful husband does much more to promote a woman's virtue than female genital mutilation.


Third, male circumcision is a religious requirement; female genital mutilation is only a tribal custom, originating in sub Sahara Africa; which is now being spread by Muslim religious extremists to Asia and the West as part of a reaction against the rising rate of girls going to high school and woman going to work outside the home.

Evidence that female genital mutilation is a only a custom comes from the fact that in rural Egypt even Coptic Christians mutilate their daughters genitals..

Finally, and most important, male circumcision is derived from the God inspired practice of Prophet Abraham and Prophet Muhammad. “Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet said to her: ‘Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.’” (Abu Dawud 41:5251)

And God said to Prophet Abraham (Genesis 17:7): “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you...

(8-12) “And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God. And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

“You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old,” (Genesis 17: 7-12a)

And Allah ordered Prophet Muhammad to follow the religion of Abraham/Ibrahim saying (Qur'an 16:123): "Then We inspired you: 'Follow the religion of Ibrahim, the upright in Faith'." And part of the religion of Ibrahim is, as is evident from the verses cited above, to practice circumcision.

Prophet Abraham was an old man when he circumcised himself, thus becoming a good example that one is never to old to do God's will. As a Hadith says: Prophet Muhammad said: "Prophet Ibrahim circumcised himself when he was eighty years old and he circumcised himself with an axe." (Related by Bukhari, Muslim & Ahmad.)

Abraham's first born son Ishmael, was a young boy when he was circumcised, so Muslims do not have to circumcise their son's on an exact date. A Hadith states: When Ibn Abbas was asked "How old were you when the Prophet Muhammad died?" He replied, "At that time I had been circumcised. At that time people did not circumcise boys till they attained the age of puberty (Baligh)." (Bukhari)

Prophet Muhammad himself selected the 7th day after birth to circumcise his own grandsons: Abdullah Ibn Jabir and Aisha both said: "The Prophet performed the Aqiqah of al-Hasan and al-Hussein (the prophets grandsons) circumcising them on the 7th. Day." (Related in al-Bayhaq & Tabarani)

Thus, for Jews circumcision is a sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham and his sons Ishmael and Isaac and their descendants for all future generations.

For Muslims it is a sign of their close connection to Abraham which is also celebrated each year at the annual Hajj ceremonies.

For both Muslims and Jews circumcision is a sign that one who submits to God's commandments and covenant cannot expect a life without some pain and suffering. But when endured for the right reasons pain and suffering always lead eventually to great spiritual benefits. Female genital mutilation is the exact opposite of circumcision both medically and religiously.

[Allen S. Maller is an ordained Reform Rabbi who retired in 2006 after 39 years as the Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California. See his website www.rabbimaller.com to know more. Rabbi Maller blogs in the Times of Israel. His book ‘Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms: A Reform Rabbi's Reflections on the Profound Connectedness of Islam and Judaism’ (31 articles previously published by Islamic websites) is for sale ($15) on Amazon. He can be contacted at malleraj@aol.com]

About the Author

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on January 02, 2021. 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 January 02, 2021. Filed under , , , , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

0 comments for "Why Female Genital Mutilation Endangers and Circumcision Protects"

Leave a reply

Donate to Sustain IMO

IMO Search

IMO Visitors

    Archive