Our campaign will continue: Sahiyo’s statement in response to Syedna’s official stand on khatna

On June 6, 2016, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin officially released a public statement to the press clarifying his stance on the issue of female genital cutting (khatna/khafz) in the Dawoodi Bohra community. Read Times of India’s report on the statement here.

Since February, several Bohra jamaats in countries like Australia, UK, USA and Canada – where female genital cutting is illegal – have issued resolution letters asking Bohras to follow the laws of the land and stop practicing khafz. According to Syedna’s statement, these resolution letters are still valid despite his sermon in Mumbai that seemed to indicate the contrary. (Read Sahiyo’s response to that sermon here.)

However, Syedna’s statement also categorically promotes khafz for Bohras in general:

“Male and female circumcision (called khatna and khafz respectively) are religious rites that have been practiced by Dawoodi Bohras throughout their history. Religious books, written over a thousand years ago, specify the requirements for both males and females as acts of religious purity. This religious obligation finds an echo in many other Muslim communities, particularly those following the Sunni Shafi’i school of thought.”

Here is Sahiyo’s official statement in response to Syedna’s stand on khatna:

“We thank Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin for officially and publicly speaking on the issue of female genital cutting, since there has been so much silence and confusion on this issue for so long. We are pleased to know that the resolutions issued in several cities around the world, asking Bohra residents to stop practicing khafz, still stand as valid. While we are pleased that the resolutions will continue to be issued in countries where female genital cutting is illegal, we are saddened to see that the Syedna’s statement clearly promotes the practice of khafz in countries where such laws are yet to be passed. We are one community, and we are disappointed that Bohra girls in some parts of the world are still expected to be cut. 

We maintain that khafz is a form of gender violence, an unnecessary ritual that has  left many Bohra girls and women with life-long psychological and physical scars. The World Health Organisation defines female genital cutting as ‘all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons’, and khafz clearly falls within that definition. Several conventions of the United Nations, including CEDAW, UNFPA, UNDP and Unicef have declared FGC to be a violation of human and child rights. Countries like India, even though they may not have a specific law against FGC, are signatories to these conventions.

We will continue our campaign to bring an end to this practice of khafz within the community. We urge our leader to engage with Bohra women who have been negatively impacted by this practice and pay heed to our voices.”

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3 thoughts on “Our campaign will continue: Sahiyo’s statement in response to Syedna’s official stand on khatna

  1. S. Dumbray

    FGM practice in Bohra community should be done with. The young girls to be spared the physical and psychological trauma…

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  2. Maryam Currimjee

    Dear Sahiyo,

    In reference to our Syedna’s statement, that “Male and female circumcision (called khatna and khafz respectively) are religious rites that have been practised by Dawoodi Bohras throughout history. Religious books, written over a thousand years ago, specify the requirements for both males and females as acts of religious purity”, how come you have not addressed the fact that khafz is based on religion?
    In fact you state, “We maintain that khafz is a form of gender violence, an unnecessary ritual that has left many Bohra girls and women with life-long psychological and physical scars.”

    Although these are issues that should not be discussed on a public forum, since you openly discuss this, I would like to know if you have asked a Dawoodi Bohra academic or scholar for the details given about khafz in our religious texts as I feel that your argument completely negates religious texts and seems enmeshed in a western imperialistic outlook and is clouded by emotions of rare episodes of trauma ( I do empathise for those who have been traumatised, and stand up for medicalisation of the procedure).
    I also wonder why Jewish and Muslim men are not protesting against male circumcision, as they have a right to bodily integrity too – there cannot be gender bias.

    It seems that you have relied heavily on literature released by international bodies that are highly unaware of our our cultural and religious context.

    Having read the religious books, it is very clear as to what needs to be done for religious purity, and the gentle procedure that is used for the khafz is testimony to the fact that religion can never harm an individual. ( It completely challenges the WHO’s definition of FGC as being akin to FGM . Interestingly, in the case in Australia, there was no injury detected upon gynaecological examination.)

    I urge you to get a citation from our foundational kitaabs (religious texts, which form the basis of our beliefs and practices), or a quote from a Dawoodi Bohra scholar, whereby it becomes clear that khafz is an unneccesaary and violent act.The absence of bringing such a reference will only reinforce the sanctity of khafz, and make your campaign against our community’s practice of it, totally questionable and baseless.

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  3. Daniel Arsi

    Dear Sahiyo Administration and Members,

    As a member of the community following this matter in the media from a casual perspective, I would encourage the folks at Sahiyo to consider the proposition put forth above my Ms. Currimjee – that you approach or enter into a proper discussion with learned persons from within the DB community regarding the Religious position on the issue of “Khafz” (or whatever term you wish to apply).

    I am a secular minded individual and consider myself quite “modern” much like I imagine most of the administration of Sahiyo. Accordingly, much like the administration of Sahiyo, I know that if there is an issue I am passionate about or have concerns, I would seek to formulate my view and substantiate my position by approaching all the sources that can inform it in order to avoid a natural bias. So Ms. Currimjee has stated a very important challenge and opportunity to the folks at Sahiyo – I suggest you take it.

    The other reason I mention the above is that as members of this community (with its wide variety of members from orthodox to liberal, professionals to businesspersons etc.), it is in all of our interest not to tar the reputation of all the good and positive aspects of our community. So let’s try and bridge some of our differences and particularly given the opening presented above – let us go to the core issue – is this a religious or cultural practice? To answer that, you clearly need to engage the clergy and learned folks in the community.

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