FGM is not a Muslim practice

Female genital mutilation is sometimes wrongly considered a “Muslim practice”, including by the general public in non-practicing communities. Nevertheless, FGM, although practised by some Muslim communities, is also common in Christian or animist communities.

  • In Eritrea, 98% of Muslim women have undergone FGM, but 88% of Catholic women have also undergone it, as have 84% of women belonging to other religious communities.
  • Similarly, in Mali, 89% of Muslim women, 84% of Christian women and 86% of animist women have undergone the practice. (UNICEF, 2013)
  • In Niger, Tanzania and Nigeria, FGM is more widespread in Christian communities than in any other religious group. 
  • In Niger, more than 50% of the girls and women who have undergone the practice are Christian and Muslim women account for only a few percent (UNICEF, 2013).
  • In Burkina Faso, religion is not used to justify the practice of FGM, which is practiced within all religious communities. Some religious leaders are members of the National Committee to Combat FGM, through which they have expressed their support for the abandonment of FGM.

What do the members think?

It should be noted that the information comes from members who sometimes disagree on certain points (for example, differences in the way male circumcision is perceived and its link to FGM in scripts).

Proponents of FGM use the same hadith to justify the practice in the name of religion, according to which circumcision is a “Sunna” (optional practice) for men and a “Makrumah” (an act of value/honour) for women. The authenticity of this hadith has been contested, and therefore it cannot be used to justify the practice in the name of Islam. Moreover, the meaning of this hadith is not what the proponents of female circumcision give it. The meaning is not to cut women but rather that circumcision is an optional practice for men and that it is an honor for women to be married to a circumcised man.

If female circumcision had the same value as male circumcision, the Prophet would have had his daughters, wives and granddaughters circumcised just as he had his boys circumcised. However, there is no evidence of women being cut in the Prophet’s household. Therefore, the two acts do not have the same value. Moreover, even male circumcision is not obligatory in Islam, it is a sunna.

We must be wary of the hadiths cited by some people to justify female circumcision: 

  • Those coming from men born hundreds of years after the death of the Prophet and having no legitimacy 
  • The lack of evidence of these conversations and the importance of these people in their time 
  • Translations from Arabic into other languages may result in a loss of meaning and misunderstanding.

Islam prohibits any act that could harm a person’s physical integrity. This practice has been shown to be harmful. It must therefore be abandoned.

« The Community of Practice on Female Genital Mutilation » is part of the « Building Bridges between Africa and Europe to tackle FGM » project, supported by the « UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of FGM ».
The project is coordinated by AIDOS in partnership with GAMS Belgium.

The views expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UNFPA, UNICEF or any other agency or organization.

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