These my words
A couple of weeks ago, my best friend from my school days, going back 50 years, wrote to me to say, with indignation, anger even, that she was disappointed that I refused to come out and speak up for all these (sanctimonious) women protesting against “fgm” among us Dawoodi Bohras. For all these days since, I have been wondering whether or not I should be egged out of this sweet private world in which we live and enter the muck of this media battle where awfully threatening men want us to come on national television to discuss matters of delicacy - women’s matters, in which the gentle forms of Indian culture are thrown to the wind and women must bare all for entertainment in the public arena. Here we are, veiled women quietly going about our business in Bhendi Bazaar or small Indian towns, dragged out in media, in heinous insult.
So to my sisters, mominaah, our privacy shattered, our silence deemed fear, our beliefs assaulted, our very persona spat upon by self-appointed saviours, with no place to hide from these assaults, I have something to say.
So hear it, these my words.
The Prophet, Mohammed Rasulullah SAW was sent as a blessing for the whole world. There is no practice in his authentic traditions that would in any way, impair or injure a follower. The ways of Islam are beautiful and peaceful, and the practice of Islam for all of us, leads from peace to peace, in our hearts, our homes and our lives.
Colonialism, on the other hand, was founded on different principles. Its aim was to have power over the native people of all the colonies, whether they were in India or Africa, and to subjugate them so that they could better control them. One of the tools they used were schools in which, while receiving an English education we were made to adopt English practices and begin to believe that our own were inferior. Today, you would hope that that isn’t true, but the same work is being done by global bodies, like the United Nations and its subsidiaries who promote the same aim under a different guise, in attempts to make themselves relevant in the world, over those they can terrorise (like us) or patronise (like Africa) in exchange for aid.
We have to consider how this situation came about. Juliet Rogers, an Australian scholar in her paper Making the Crimes [The Australian Feminist Law Journal, 2003, Volume 18] says poignantly, “The mutilated woman is produced through the silencing of the migrant communities that became normative practice….. by the representation of the practices of infibulation, cliteridectomy, circumcision and sunna as monodimensional, mutilatory and criminal.” In other words, there are two parts to this oppression. The first is that the press and the people it supports raise the tone of their ranting to intimidate and silence us, as much by the power of media as by the judiciary, and second, that they refuse to make any distinctions in the various practices that occur.
Yes, there are some very serious practices out there like infibulation that are nothing but acts of brutality; or men advocating labiaplasty in acts of nothing but misogyny. Female circumcision is not one of them. We are told that the FGM lobby doesn’t care to discriminate between these. Well, if one has to deal with human activities and can declare blatantly that I do not wish to make the distinctions that may make us man or beast, then one is not in a position to either legislate, discriminate or define and has declared oneself unfit for the task. You do not become worthy of being either judge or jury or United Nations of World Health Organisation if you are incapable of making distinctions. In law, a hair’s breadth of doubt overturns a judgement and one is trusted when legislating to keep this in mind. In is unbelievable that the law can function without evidence and entire communities be threatened, by law, into silence.
Male circumcision is performed all over the world perhaps because the powerful Jewish lobby practices it. Nobody dares to suggest that that should be banned because who is going to mess with the guys who run the world economy. Here, with a small demographic of Muslim women, everyone has a field day because how is this group going to fight with international righteousness? Discrimination for being Muslim, discrimination for being women, a double whammy.
Because consider this: in the west, they promote, what they call - hoodectomy, charging thousands of dollars for an operation that is made to enhance a woman’s sexuality – which is completely legal and pricey and posh – but if the same procedure is done on a Muslim woman it is called FGM and they are on a witch-hunt to send us to jail for it. On a western woman, yes yes, queue up, but on a Muslim woman, a crime. If you don’t believe me, look it up yourself. One of the sites that I referred to was called www.clitoralunhooding.com but there are several all over the place and if, and only IF you are a western white non-Muslim woman you can pay a couple of thousand dollars for what your grandmother organised for you in your neighbourhood if you were lucky enough to be circumcised.
In several countries the law completely and shamelessly says this. It is okay to have a prepuce clipped if you are white and western and Christian or Jew or any other, but not if you are Muslim. If you are Muslim and request this, you have to be reported to the police. I know you will be incredulous but it is true.
It is easy to be sensationalistic about sex especially in repressed western societies. I would have hoped that the media in India was enlightened enough by their own experiences of colonisation and by virtue of living in an emancipated and progressive country with its history of multiculturalism, to approach the matter with more insight. I’d like to suggest that one of the things we could do is advocate a drive in which every Indian newspaper discusses this with more intelligence and insight so that an example can be set to the watching west, the issue can be debated, and distinctions made. There is a certain kind of cutting that is heinous, I agree. It's called Type 2 and Type 3. But there is another that is the very opposite. Opposites cannot be treated as alike. This seems to me, to be obvious.
We want progressive people all over the world who are not Islamophobes, who believe that in being non-racist, tolerant and inclusive they do themselves a favour because it’s their own minds they stretch and illuminate, to refuse to allow themselves to be part of this ignorance. Muslims live all over the world in the belief that we have a lot to learn from other people, but we have a lot to offer too. And the first thing right now, is the opportunity to hear this voice and consider how you want to deal with, first, your own fear of the “other” and then, next, your ability to understand and discuss sex.