Bohra men must speak up to save their daughters from female circumcision

Name: Yusuf
Country: India

The fatwa given during the Zikra majlis by Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin in favor of female genital cutting dug up the wound that exists in my heart which makes me write this post.

Looking at parts from the audio clip leaked from the majlis, at one point, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin says what translates to English as:

“It must be done. If it is a man, it can be done openly and if it is a woman it must be discreet. But the act must be done. Do you understand what I am saying? Let people say what they want.”

The Syedna made no direct mention of the word “khatna” or “khafz”, but asks that the act be done discreetly for girls so that the community does not get tangled in any legal trouble. He cryptically says, “Do you understand what I am saying?” It was a clear reference to female genital mutilation (FGM). It is obvious that this was in response to the raging debate on FGM that has occurred in public after three Bohras were convicted in Australia for practicing khatna on two minor girls. No one from the clergy has come forward to participate in this debate, and the Syedna in his fatwa said, “We are not willing to talk to anyone on this issue”.

The reason this issue dug up a wound in my heart is that a couple of years ago my daughter was made to undergo this barbaric ritual, against my wishes, under pressure from family elders and the ladies in particular.

A year before my daughter turned seven, my wife told me that when our daughter turns seven we have to do her khatna. Unlike most men in the community, I was aware of what khatna or FGM is and I told her that I will not allow this. I told her this practice was started centuries ago by Bohras who wanted to curb the sexual desire of their women, as they frequently travelled for business.

I told her that there is no scientific/medical basis for khatna or FGM. There is no mention of it in the Quran and that other Muslim sects do not practice it. I even told her that it is illegal in the western world and has been declared a violation of human rights by the United Nations.

What I also did was initiate a discussion within my close Bohra friends group. I raised the issue as to why a girl who doesn’t understand what is going on or what’s being done to her has to go through this, especially when the ones taking her for the cut are people she trusts.

One reply I received from a female friend in the group is etched in my memory. She said, “Would you want your daughter to have multiple sex partners and have extra marital affairs?”

I was taken aback by the reply, particularly as this friend is a well-educated person otherwise! It left me in despair on realizing the extent of falsehoods that have been propagated within the community, with people being brainwashed into believing something as barbaric as khatna, which has no scientific basis and is a violation of human rights. Forcibly doing something that is thought to curb sexual desire is in itself a violation of human rights. If educated young women of the community think in this manner, what to say of the elders who still dominate decision making in the majority of Bohra households?

My wife agreed with me and was reluctant to put our daughter through the horror. She told my mom and her mom that I was against the decision. She was told by both that there would be no argument and that this centuries-old practice has to continue just like how they went through it.

I being the only son, live with my parents. My wife was torn between me on one side and my mother and her mother on the other. Talking to my parents did not help and ended with the usual invocation that it’s a “religious obligation”, Moula, tears, emotions etc.

My wife and I left the matter there hoping that when the time came, we could fake it. But, when my daughter turned seven, my mom said she would accompany us to take our daughter to get her khatna. She wouldn’t let us go alone. She made sure the appointment with a Bohra gynecologist (sigh!) was made.

My daughter was put under the blade. The fault is mine. Maybe I wasn’t strong enough or forceful enough then to prevent that atrocity on my daughter. But, now that there is a perfidious attitude where on one hand there is this fatwa in favor of the practice, while on the other hand, jamaats in Western countries have issued letters telling citizens to refrain from the practice, I thought it is time we men from the community spoke out against it. It is time for Bohra men to be informed about this evil practice and come out against it to save their daughters.

As it is well-known that the consequences of openly raising your voice against the Syedna has dire consequences, it is going to be difficult to get rid of this practice by mobilizing support from within the community. Some people may be against it, but they don’t say it openly.

In my opinion, building support in the larger civil society and legal recourse is the best way to end the practice. Maybe a public interest litigation (PIL) in India will get positive result. There is already a raging debate in India over triple talaq after a lady filed a PIL against it, and it has got larger public attention and support.

I commend the members of Sahiyo who are fighting against FGM. This post is my small contribution in support of their effort for a common good.

~ Written by Yusuf, a guilt-ridden and remorseful father belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra community

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20 thoughts on “Bohra men must speak up to save their daughters from female circumcision

  1. mr.muffadal saifuddin just wants to save his ego and the age old practice of the bohra community and that they dnt want to show the world that they were in to a wrong practice and they cant face any arguments for the fear of being proved wrong very easily thats why none of the bohra so called scholars would come forward to debate for the fear that they have a very weak subject to defend and will lose debate in few minutes. In todays time where women are top scientists,doctors, professionals, bohra women are 100 yrs backward, all their community head wants is that they dont have extra marital affairs and maintaing chastity.
    My one question for him would be that do all women who have undergone FGM maintain their chastity and dnt hav any extra marital affairs or are not promiscuous.

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  2. T

    ….being Muslim…. And if the practice is not mentioned in Quran..than it’s not right.Quran mentions everything… Right from practices one must follow from birth to death…no matter what sect you are…being Muslim…follow Quran…which does not mention this practice ! Period….

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  3. Habiba Kudrati

    If you have the balls to cast your view then have the balls to even publish your full name and have the courage to show your face behind the plaque card. Every silence doesn’t depict a crime and every voice made doesn’t justify the crime either. Our ancestors were not idiots to follow this practise unless you believe your parents and then their parents were jerks. Man learn to stand up in dignity not making your religion a public mimicry.

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    1. Neeraj

      Dear Habiba,

      i am not a muslim, and have high regard for true Islam, as well as for all true religions of the world.

      i notice from your choice of words that this poor father’s post has agitated you much, and i also notice that you could think up one strong argument in favor of female khatna, that the earlier bohras were not idiots and jerks to follow this practice.

      Really, is that your strongest argument?
      Did not the early christians believe that the sun revolves around the earth?
      Did not the egyptians nelieve that flies appeared out of rotten carcasses, not eggs?
      Shall i say to you that my ancestors performed buffalo sacrifice to please the rain gods, and they were not idiots amd jerks, so let the deptt of meterology not worry about monsoon, rain or drought, because we have enough buffalos.

      Lady, you have succeeded in demonstrating a sense of extreme dogma, lack of polite expression, abundance of touchiness and the utter lack of reasoning ability.

      i cant say what’s worse – your inability to reason, your lack of manners or your dogma.

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      1. Mr neeraj, you forgot that it was science which said that earth revovles around sun not the bible, even in torah and Qur’an its still written that sun revolves around earth and its was only changed in bible. But still not proved that earth revolves around sun . There are many arguments with one of the scientist even challenging the others to prove that the earth revolves around the sun . and for your kind information its not just the bohra Muslims doing its the global practise and it has its mention in the Qur’an . Go and google it Muslims , christians , Jews / parsis ,/ Zionist all practise it for it has a benefits so I would request you to don’t just read news paper and come to conclusions it shows its in maturity . And nothing in Islam has ever hurted any one be its practise or its religious function or any thing its has just benefited . So get yourself updated before commenting without knowledge

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  4. Zarina Yusufali Patel

    It is clear that khafz = clitoral unhooding =hoodectomy procedurally are the same albeit one is done on an adult and one on a child .If one is said to be harmfully medically than the fact the the adult equivalent is even allowed to happen raises questions .The medical fraternity acknowledges that there are advantages in the procedure if not then by now even hoodectomy /clitoral unhooding even if done on adults would have been legally banned in many countries.
    There has been a lot of talk on the issue of consent in this matter.In many instances in a minors life parents make decisions without consenting the child .Parents feel that this procedure is a requirement and are not doing it because of any obvious advantages or even disadvantages but that there is an intrinsic value (tawil) in the procedure these parents cannot be said to be ignorant .This cuts across geography ,educational levels and wealth.
    Khafz has been tainted and banned because of ignorance the Somali and certain West African communities damage the female genetalia by removing the clitoris ,labia and sewing the vaginal opening rightly alarming the medical community that this has to be banned this type of damage has never been mandated by any Islamic teaching and is truly barbaric .
    Any article you read on FGM puts Khafz on the same level as excision etc and the disdavantages associated with these methods.These methods are all not the same.To put them all at par adds to the overall ignorance .
    A lot has also been said that khafz is done by ladies who know nothing about medicine and without any anaesthetic. These ladies know what they re doing having done the procedure hundreds of times or even in some cases in more populated mohallas thousands of times and know the anatomy well and what to cut .A the most this is is a few millimetres of the clitoral hood (prepuce) there is no need of any anaesthetic 99.5 out of 100 times they get it right and it heals quickly the procedure is so minor that even in the case of a genital medical examination later on the doctor would be none the wiser .Most women don’t even remember the procedure later on in life.
    If some parents are not comfortable with this procedure then they should not do it on their daughters there is no compulsion we live in a free world .I believe the majority will carry on as not to do it will be a guilty conscience that they are not doing the right thing as there is a basis for this.Many are hesitant but end up doing it anyway because of this.
    Some have said that other islamic sects are not doing this so why should we ?There are many islamic sects at present and all differ in sone way or the other from each other this is not a matter of one size fits all.eg you go to a sunni /shia mosque on a Friday and see how many spaces they gave for women talk about equality .We don’t have any glass ceiling in our community women are encouraged to climb to the highest echelon in their respective chosen careers.
    This forum is about the pros and cons of Khafz and not to pile abuse as some commentators have started doing .Goodwill generated by Sahiyo will evaporate quickly if this turns into a hate campaign against our relegion.
    In conclusion I ask this final question who do you believe is right media reports or correct Islamic guidance of 1400 years ? you decide ….

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    1. Dear Zarina Patel, we are certainly not equating khatna in the Bohra community (which technically qualifies as Type 1 FGC according WHO) with the kind of severe genital cutting pervasive in many African communities (which are Type 2, 3 or 4). We understand that there is a difference. But we also urge you to read up more about unhooding before assuming it is an equivalent to khafz.
      The medical fraternity does not claim that unhooding is an advantageous procedure for ALL women. It is an advantage only for those women who happen to have excessive prepuce tissue that completely covers up the clitoral glans and thus interferes with their ability to achieve orgasm.
      So, unhooding is something that such women can opt for, on medical advise. And women can know this only if they are sexually active.
      Khafz, on the other hand, is expected to be done on ALL minor Bohra girls, whether or not their prepuce tissue is normal, or excessive, or too little. You must understand that the prepuce is not a redundant, useless part of the body that can just be discarded. It serves the specific purpose of protecting the clitoral glans from abrasions and over-stimulation. So yes, consent is a HUGE issue. Parents certainly make lots of decisions for their children, but this should not include cutting off a part of the body that serves a protective purpose.
      And the many mohalla ladies who have experience cutting hundreds of girls – no, they do NOT get it right 99.5% of the time. We have spent the past several years talking many, many Bohra women, and many of them talk of physical, psychological and sexual traumas that affect them even in their adult lives. If you have not heard these stories, it is because there has always been tremendous silence around this issue and women have been afraid to talk of it.
      And in response to your final question: media reports do often sensationalise and generalise all issues, but that does not mean one blindly follows religious tradition. It is well-documented that the practice of khatna already existed at the time Islam was born, and just because certain Hadiths of those times mention khatna, it doesn’t mean we need to continue those obsolete rituals today.

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      1. Saifuddin Merchant

        Would like to make a point to the sahiyo group. Khatna can be performed on females only and only after they have reached the age of 7 years.
        Nowhere is it mentioned that it has to be carried at the age of 7.

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  5. Dear Habiba Kudrati,

    I am not a muslim, and have high regard for true Islam and all true religions of the world.

    I notice from your choice of words that this poor father’s post has agitated you much, and i also notice that you could think up one strong argument in favor of female khatna – “earlier bohras were not idiots and jerks to follow this practice”.

    Really, is that your strongest argument?
    Did not the early christians believe that the sun revolves around the earth?
    Did not the egyptians nelieve that flies appeared out of rotten carcasses, not eggs?
    Shall i say to you that my ancestors performed buffalo sacrifice to please the rain gods, and they were not idiots and jerks, so let the deptt of meterology not worry about monsoon, rain or drought, since we have enough Buffalos !!

    Lady, you have succeeded in demonstrating a sense of extreme dogma, lack of polite expression, abundance of touchiness and utter lack of reasoning.

    I cant say what’s worse – your inability to reason, your lack of manners or your dogma.

    Like

  6. Shabbir

    I am unable to understand why a practise which is considered acceptable for men is deemed unacceptable for woman. I am not sure if the remorseful father’s remorse is because the practise has not been prescribed in the Quran and therefore unfounded in religious theology or because the practise is a violation of human rights. I have a simple question – for argument sake if it is established that FGM is mandatory in islam then would this practise be non controversial just like male circumcision? If not then we should ban male circumcision aswell because that is also non consensual, barbaric (by whichever standard) and may have some affect on the sexual pleasure felt by men (I am sure man men could vouch this). On the other hand if the argument is that this practise should be banned on grounds of human rights violations regardless of its position in islam then we have a broader debate on religion and human rights include hijab, same sex marriage, halal and haram and so forth. Since the remorseful father otherwise seems to be a follower of religion perhaps he should consider seeking clarifications from the community on this act and it’s roots rather than naively assuming that there is no fundamental basis for such an act other than curbing sexual desire for women

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    1. Zen

      That sure makes a lot of sense! This shows that Islam does its best to give equal rights to men and women. And from what I hear, male circumcision is worse! And done at a far earlier age too. No crying for their human rights being violated! Sahiyos urging men to speak out for their daughters…and what about their sons?

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  7. Munira

    Lol!!! What a stupid reply by the woman who asked you do you want your daughter to have multiple sex partners!!!
    Is she trying to say other muslim women and other women are immoral? Beacuse only dawoodi bohra women undergo FGM. No other muslims or Hindus for that matter.

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  8. B

    Always be wary of those who believe and tell you they own the truth.
    Always be wary of those who seek to control you by maintaining they own the truth.
    Think for yourselves do not follow anyone or anything through blind belief.
    Think about this belief in female circumcision (no resemblance to male version – look it up on a medical website) If God did not want women to have pleasure from sex why did he create our bodies the way he did. If everything God created is perfect, why do you do this.
    This practice has existed for thousands of years. It dates back to a time when women and girls existed only for male pleasure and tending to male need, however that manifested itself and for producing babies. In some parts of the world little has changed. Women were property , chatle barely considered human. As property men wanted to ensure that only they had access to their property and so the practice started and developed into tradition. Once established as a tradition questioning it became a taboo especially when it became sanctioned by religion, which incidently is also controlled by men.
    Women need to wake up and realise the real reasons why this is being done to them. It is all about control and nothing to to with God’s will.
    Certainly not a loving God’s will.
    B

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    1. Shabbir

      With that logic we shouldn’t follow teachings of the prophet either? There is a difference between following blindly and having faith. Seeking answers is part of the faith but once you make your faith conditional on these answers then you and your faith becomes vulnerable.

      Its a free world guys. If you dont belive in a particular practise of faith then dont follow. But please dont undermine a teaching just because in your limited knowledge it doesn’t make sense. That’s the whole fundamental basis for faith right? Faith is only relevant where you are required to believe in truth. Otherwise its pure science and we wudnt need faith at all. You have faih in so many things which doeant logivally make too much sense? The pilgrimage of haj, maatam of moula hussain, the ritual of marriage, the prohibition on riba/interest and the form of praying i front of god…we do this because we have faith that what we have been preached is right and needs to be followed in letter and spirit.

      I feel these forums increasingly become avenues to discredit religion and God under the guise of the issue in question.

      Like

  9. Pingback: I am not Traumatized or Damaged, but I Still Want Khatna to Stop - Brown Girl Magazine

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