Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Dawoodi Bohras and FGM

Dawoodi Bohras unequivocally condemn mutilation.

Based on our Islamic ethos we are completely against any practice or act that physically or psychologically harms humans, fauna, flora, or the environment. 

Yet we have now found ourselves in a unique position with respect to female circumcision. Accusations of practicing acts of mutilation have been hurled at us without any evidence. In complete disdain of the principles of the American justice system, we are now guilty until proven innocent.

So for a moment, I am asking you to consider this:

A newborn baby is taken away from its mother kicking and screaming. A dispassionate practitioner disrobes the baby and with an unceremonious snip completely removes an inch or more of foreskin that covers the infant’s genitals. Thousands of delicate nerve endings being severed all at once, the baby screams out in pain. There is blood. Ointment and gauze are applied on the excision. The baby wails helplessly.  It will take another 7 to 10 days for the wound to heal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 77% of all infant boys in the United States are made to undergo this procedure every year.  Male circumcision, according to one study, is prevalent because American fathers want their sons to look just like them.[1]  Judeo-Christian tradition thrives while issues of consent and potential sexual and psychological repercussions for the baby boy are, well, non-issues. 
Evangelizing the practice, the World Health Organization (WHO) has created detailed guides together with step-by-step photographs of male circumcision to ensure the practice flourishes.[2]  According to WHO there is scientific evidence to show there are benefits to be had.

Opponents, however, cite studies that show sexual and psychological harm.[3]  Adding issues of child consent (or lack thereof) to their criticism, they refer to male circumcision as male genital mutilation.

Unfortunately for the opponents, there are no laws in the United States or elsewhere that outlaw male circumcision.  In 2013 when the courts tried to criminalize the practice in Germany, Jews and political leaders cried foul across Germany, Israel, and the United States, and imageries of a second holocaust were quickly invoked.[4]

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in the United States called the German act of criminalization
a thinly disguised attack on one of the most fundamental rites of Judaism…the attacks on circumcision are obvious and insulting…[and] are leading Europe in a horrific direction toward the forced exclusion of Jewish citizens of Europe and violations of their religious freedom.[5]
The German circumcision ban was abolished within 3 months.

Now consider this:

A mother or grandmother takes a seven-year old child to a female practitioner.  The practitioner makes an extremely small excision the size of a grain of rice (1/16th of an inch) to minimally reduce the foreskin. The child feels the fleeting sting of an insect bite. The mother or grandmother gently soothes the child. The sting goes away in a few minutes, the child returns home with some candy or toys, and life continues as usual.

If you’ve ever had a child vaccinated, you will know how it goes.

This practice, a religious tradition among Dawoodi Bohras, is called khafz, or female circumcision.  The idea, in fact, is quite simple.  A ritual purification of the Abrahamic kind, khafz is the moral equivalent of male circumcision although certainly not its physical equivalent because khafz (which means to reduce the foreskin) is not even a tenth as invasive as male circumcision and is carried out after the child has turned seven.  

As with male circumcision, khafz has its opponents who seek an end to this practice.  Which is fine; we live in a country that prides itself on freedom of expression.

However, the opponents have conflated all different practices of female circumcision (there are many) to create a picture that is incorrect.  They have purposefully woven a false narrative on khafz that conjures up the extreme horrors of the public imagination shaped by descriptions of brutal tribal rituals forced upon adolescent girls.

But clipping your fingernails is not the same as dismembering your arm. 

And so trimming the foreskin is not the same as severing the sexual organ.  

In fact, physical examinations—including those sanctioned by government agencies across the world—have consistently shown no signs of genital modification or physical or psychological harm from khafz among Dawoodi Bohra women.

And there is no evidence of harm only because, as I said earlier, Dawoodi Bohras unequivocally condemn mutilation let alone practice it.

Unfortunately for the Dawoodi Bohras in the west, the mistrust of their practice arises from the fact that khafz is unfamiliar to the Judeo-Christian tradition.  What little information there is about it has been colored by WHO’s remarkably unscientific (and neo-colonialist) decision to sweep all forms of female circumcision under the genital mutilation umbrella while providing no evidence for harm associated with khafz.

The irony of our situation should not be lost on the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Anti-Defamation League and other organizations that aim to protect civil rights and religious liberties across the board.  And while we may not have the size and influence of the Jewish community, could we, in fact, implore them to join us in declaring that the criminalization of khafz without any evidence of harm from the government is
leading the United States in a horrific direction toward the forced exclusion of American citizens of the Bohra faith and violations of their religious freedom.

Source: mzs2cents.blogspot.com

[1] Brown MS, Brown CA. Circumcision decision: prominence of social concerns. Pediatrics. 1987;60(2):215–9. PMID 3615091.
[4] Three months after circumcision ban, German government to legalize rite (Times of Israel) http://goo.gl/GEHgw1
German ruling against circumcising boys draws criticism (The New York Times) https://nyti.ms/2tZyHcD
German circumcision ban: Is it a parent's right to choose? (BBC)  http://goo.gl/NF96xb
[5] ADL: Circumcision Resolution “Targets Europe’s Jewish Citizens” (Anti-Defamation League) https://goo.gl/1EfjwR