Country: United Kingdom
Today is a bittersweet day.
The news of two more arrests linked to the first FGM case in the US has left me torn between elation and sadness; while a part of me feels like justice is being served to those who perform, aid and abet FGM, another part of me is saddened by the effect that these arrests have had on the perception of the community and Islam.
Gone are the days when I would tell people that I belonged to the Dawoodi Bohra community and would receive the response, “Oh, the women who wear the colourful clothes with embroidery?” Now, I hear “Oh, isn’t that the community that practices FGM? I read about them in the paper.”
I scroll down after reading an article online about the current FGM cases and read horrible comment after comment. Heinous things are being said about not only the Dawoodi Bohra community, but also about the wider community of Muslims, the majority of whom condemn FGM. These prosecutions are being used as the fuel to fire Islamophobia, and hurtful attacks are being made on the religion that over a billion people worldwide adhere to.
Other Muslims are distancing themselves from the Dawoodi Bohra community, calling us insular and saying that we stick to ourselves. I feel a further isolation from people who believe in the same God as me and also pray towards Makkah.
While I think of all of the girls and women, including myself, who suffered through this barbaric procedure, I also think of the girls who are now in protective custody, or whose mother is currently behind bars. Those children were and are innocent, and are now suffering due to the criminal actions of their parents.
I question who is at fault here. While the authorities are prosecuting those who are performing, covering up and facilitating FGM, those who endorse and encourage the procedure, both privately and publicly, remain unaffected. There are still articles being posted that defend the Dawoodi Bohra community as being comprised of law-abiding citizens, yet murmurs of FGM fill the walls of masjids throughout the US and other countries where FGM is categorically outlawed. The first step to solving a problem is admitting that a problem exists in the first place, and it seems that there are some in the community who are not prepared to take this step.
I feel a tenseness in the air; I quietly discuss this case among close friends and relatives who share my sentiments, frightened to openly voice my happiness that there is yet another breakthrough in ending this practice. I feel the heavy hand of the community leaders bear down upon me, and feel stifled to openly express my feelings. This is the fear that prevents others to come forward. It is real and it is suffocating.