Why A “Ritual Nick” Is a Smoke Screen for Female Genital Mutilation
Published by The AHA Foundation at
At the AHA Foundation we emphasize the need for a zero tolerance approach to ending FGM. There is global agreement that the only way to end FGM is to have zero tolerance of the practice, meaning that any and every type of FGM is a violation of girls’ human rights. But, some misguided commentators suggest that a “ritual nick” in a girl’s clitoris would allow the customary nature of FGM to take place while reducing the harms associated with the practice. These voices are unfortunately strong and a serious threat to the movement against FGM and the progress made against this abuse over the past decade in the U.S. and abroad.
We sat down with advocates and experts working to raise awareness about the need for a Zero Tolerance approach and have asked them why, from their point of view, they believe that FGM must be eradicated in all its forms.
Dr Arsiwala, President, Michigan Urgent Care
Some religious groups of sects in sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Asia, the USA, and India still practice this heinous act, where the act causes significant physical and psychological trauma to a female child. This practice has to end in all its forms.
The ways we can end the practice is by outreach and education. Medical and psychological help to the survivors of this practice is of paramount importance. The only way forward is a zero tolerance approach to end and eradicate FGM by offering culturally sensitive training and education, counseling for the parents and survivors, and creating meaningful legislation in countries.
Ekhlas, FGM Survivor & Activist
Millions of girls live the horror of female genital mutilation every year.
Some victims die from the complications and those who survive this tragedy carry on with the burden of shame and humiliation. I must admit as a survivor that although the physical pain may in some cases end in a few months, the psychological trauma and agony persists forever.
“All forms of genital cutting are considered a violation of human rights and should not be accepted under any condition.”
It is very difficult for victims to abandon their fears and resist passing down this savage ritual to the next generations. Therefore, educating and empowering the victims is the only key to break this cycle of FGM.
All forms of genital cutting are considered a violation of human rights and should not be accepted under any condition. What is called a “ritual prick” can never be a “safer” substitute for other aggressive types of FGM, regardless of how noble the intentions behind the concept are.
The proposal of this practice by some health professionals is a complete validation of this barbaric act, especially in the mind of perpetrators. The attempts to introduce the “ritual prick” will create a state of confusion among the public about the legitimacy of female genital mutilation and will not prevent the parents from pursuing more extreme forms of genital cutting.
The real purpose of FGM is eliminating any sexual arousal spots for the women, sealing the labia to secure the hymen, and providing a more pleasurable sexual experience for the future husbands.
Therefore, those parents will not be satisfied by the clitoral prick because the aim of FGM is far away from being only a blood ceremony as many health professionals think. Furthermore, many families who abandoned this practice will be encouraged to reconsider exposing their daughters to the newly proposed procedure.Nevertheless, long term consequences such as PTSD, low self-esteem, and vaginismus would still happen with any form of genital mutilation including the ritual prick.
Joanna Vergoth, Psychotherapist who specializes in working with FGM survivors
The clitoris is the only organ in the human body that has evolved for the sole purpose of providing pleasure. It is difficult to avoid damaging the clitoris when performing an incision, especially in underdeveloped genitalia. This amazing organ contains thousands of nerve endings and even if only minimally or accidentally injured, scar tissue can develop and affect the ability of the woman to experience pleasure normally.
“Since all women’s genitalia vary in shape, size, and thickness, who is to say what constitutes a nick? When does a nick become a snip, become a slice?”
As a result, women who have undergone FGM may be affected by chronic pain with an associated risk of depressed mood, reduced social functioning, as well as a pervasive sense of worthlessness, guilt, and shame. In addition to PTSD, many develop psychological conditions which make them withdrawn and distrustful. In fact, it has been reported that the psychological trauma that women experience through FGM ‘often stays with them for the rest of their lives’ (Equality Now and City University London, 2014, p.8
Since all women’s genitalia vary in shape, size, and thickness, who is to say what constitutes a nick? When does a nick become a snip, become a slice? A large number of FGM-affected women in my psychotherapy practice have been cut twice because it was deemed– by their family and community—that not enough of the “contaminated tissue” had been sufficiently removed.
“Zero tolerance is the only option; any endorsement of a ‘mild’ version promotes the message that FGC is acceptable and thus legitimizes the practice.”
FGM is a harmful tradition that violates the right of infants and children to good health and well-being, part of a universal standard of basic human rights. Zero tolerance is the only option; any endorsement of a “mild” version promotes the message that FGC is acceptable and thus legitimizes the practice.
Zudhi Jasser, MD, President & Founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and Internal Medicine Physician*
Any cutting or prick upon a female’s genitalia that is not actually, absolutely medically necessary, but rather demanded by twisted interpretation of religion and misogynistic manifestations of culture, is abuse.
A “nick or cut” to the clitoral hood is not as benign as apologists who falsely wrap themselves in religious freedom would have you believe. The clitoral hood protects the glans of the clitoris, covers its shaft, and forms part of the structure of the labia minora.
Even if, one were to submit that the medical part of the procedure could possibly be done with no physical trauma (and that is a big fictitious ‘if’), the whole intent of the procedure is ceremonially to desexualize women and place their bodies under patriarchal control.
The clitoral hood serves protective, immunological, and erogenous purposes. Cutting of the clitoral hood on infants, children, and many women would necessarily lead to the cutting and damaging of the clitoral shaft and the clitoris itself, as well as the labia. Of course, there is also the risk of infection and excessive bleeding and the certainty of trauma.
If such “procedures” were ever permitted, there would be no ability actually to review whether the microscopic area of the clitoral hood of an infant or small girl were not actually scarred, setting aside the lifetime of associated psychological oppression carried with the ritual. Scar tissue from “nicking,” particularly on women prone to keloid scarring (as many women of color are) and difficult healing, can inhibit erogenous response and cause discomfort.
No! It is not just a “prick” or a “cut.” At the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, we call it what it is — mutilation.
*Dr. Jasser’s contribution comes from excerpts from his full article at the Gatestone Institute that can be read here.
To find out more about the need for zero tolerance, check out the AHA Foundation’s new report here.
The opinions stated above are those of the experts themselves and do not necessarily represent the views of the AHA Foundation.
by Steven Emerson
May 1, 2018
Some non-Muslim white folks seem to feel comfortable and well qualified to smear advocates for reform in Islam as “anti-Muslim.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center smeared former radical Maajid Nawaz as an “anti-Muslim extremist” in a 2016 report. After several shifting justifications, the group had to eat the report last month, taking it off its website.
Now, a United States senator has called a devout Muslim and reform advocate “anti-Muslim” in remarks on the Senate floor. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., was explaining his decision to oppose CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination to serve as secretary of state last week. One reason, Murphy said, is Pompeo’s “deeply intertwined” relationships with anti-Muslim groups including the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD).
The charge is as baseless as the SPLC’s.
The AIFD has demanded an apology from Murphy for calling the group “anti-Muslim.”
According to its website, “AIFD envisions a future wherein Muslims never feel a conflict between their personal faith and their commitment to individual liberty and freedom. Rather, we work to empower Muslims to be primary advocates for liberty and freedom.”
Can’t you feel the hate?
If you want to know what AIFD founder and President Zuhdi Jasser thinks about Muslims and Islam, it makes sense to read the Muslim Reform Movement’s declaration of principles. Jasser helped create the group and craft this statement.
For the sensitive of heart, brace yourselves for some flaming-hot Muslim hatred:
1. We are for secular governance, democracy [and], liberty. We are against political movements in the name of religion. We separate mosque and state. We are loyal to the nations in which we live. We reject the idea of the Islamic state. There is no need for an Islamic caliphate. We oppose institutionalized sharia. Sharia is manmade.
Better than half the words in this excerpt are applications of the First Amendment. The rest does nothing to restrict anyone’s right to worship, to practice Islam, in any way. If ever realized, nothing in the entire declaration inhibits a Muslim’s rights in any way. There is zero hostility or enmity.
That doesn’t mean Jasser isn’t critical of political groups which claim to act in the name of Muslims. But if doing that is tantamount to telling “Americans that all Muslims are out to get them and that we are better off if we just shelter ourselves from people of the Muslim faith,” then critics of the Catholic Church must also be guilty of anti-Catholic bigotry.
Murphy’s statement was similarly off base with the other groups he named, including the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) and the Middle East Forum (MEF).
Contrary to Murphy’s assertion that it is anti-Muslim, the MEF points out that it “has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to moderate Muslim and anti-Islamist causes, working with moderate and reformist Muslim groups and activists all across the country.”
Murphy included IPT among the groups he described in his Senate comments as having benign names, but dark missions, that Pompeo was “deeply intertwined” with.
We wish reality was different, but the IPT has never had a relationship with Pompeo of any kind.
We asked Murphy’s office on Monday to provide the basis for saying Pompeo was deeply intertwined with the IPT. We also asked for specific examples to support Murphy’s claim that IPT and the other groups he named “try to tell Americans that all Muslims are out to get them and that we are better off if we just shelter ourselves from people of the Muslim faith.”
We have received no response.
While CIA director, Pompeo helped then-IPT Senior Fellow Pete Hoekstra, now the U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, secure the freedom of former CIA operative Sabrina DeSousa, who faced four years in an Italian prison after being convicted in connection with a 2003 rendition of a suspected al-Qaida cleric in which DeSousa denies involvement.
Two years ago, Hoekstra – a former U.S. House colleague of Pompeo’s – wrote an op-ed praising Pompeo for remarks calling out an imam who was recorded praising Hamas. If those two episodes constitute “deeply intertwined,” then Murphy is a linguistic revolutionary.
If expressing concern about radicalization among some Muslims, or opposition to political Islam, makes one anti-Muslim, then Sen. Murphy needs to add a prominent elected official to his list: Chris Murphy.
In a 2016 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Murphy described the challenges he saw in radical Islam. He described the way radical Wahhabi education and charismatic clerics can lure young Muslims into a life of jihad.
“A cleric from a nearby conservative mosque offers you a different path,” Murphy said. “He tells you that your poverty is not your fault, but simply a punishment handed down to you because of your unintentional deviation from the true path of Islam.”
You send your son off with the imam for an education. Soon, “He’s a teenager, announcing to you that the only way to show true faith to Islam is to fight for it against the kafir, the infidels who are trying to pollute the Muslim faith, and against the Westerners who are trying to destroy it. He tells you that he’s going off to Afghanistan, or Syria, or Iraq with some fellow students, and that you shouldn’t worry about him because God is on his side.”
Murphy criticized the emphasis Republicans placed on uttering the term, “radical Islamic terrorism,” but acknowledged that Democratic Party leaders “do backflips to avoid using these kind of terms, but that ends up forestalling any conversation about the fight within Islam for the soul of the religion.”
What’s needed, he said, is “a real conversation about how American can help win the moderate voices within Islam, help them win out over those who would sow the seeds of extremism.”
That’s exactly what Jasser is trying to do through AIFD and the Muslim Reform Movement. Jasser even wrote a book called “A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight To Save His Faith”.
“Wow, talk about schizophrenic,” Jasser said after the IPT forwarded him a transcript of Murphy’s CFR speech. “Sounds like he just reads what’s put in front of him. The same person who called AIFD out could not have had these thoughts or statements.”
In the end, Murphy’s objections weren’t enough to derail Pompeo’s nomination, which was confirmed 57-42, with Democrats Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill, Bill Nelson, Doug Jones and Independent Angus King supporting him.
Murphy obviously can support or oppose whomever he chooses. In this case, however, in criticizing someone he sees as unjustly smearing people, Murphy unjustly smeared people who, in many cases, may not differ from him as much as he’d portray it.
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