Thursday, October 13, 2016

Religion Scores Again

Female Genital Mutilation  (FGM) II

I am following up on a previous post on this brutal practice directed against women mostly in the global South, but also in diasporas in the global North.  That post took issue with the claim that FGM was a 'cultural' ‘African’ practice, a perhaps racist idea put forward by a celebrated liberal apologist for religion, Reza Aslan.  Aslan is an Iranian-American religious studies scholar that converted to Evangelical Christianity and appears as a liberal Christian on many television programs.  He serves to give an intellectual cover for all religions.  Not coincidentally, he is a member of the Counsel on Foreign Relations, (CFR) one of top organizations which the ruling class uses to … rule.  Odd, that, but shows to what extent the ruling class embraces religion.

200 million women & girls have been subjected to various forms of this bloody procedure.  Its effect is deleterious to a women’s physical, emotional and sexual health.  It is meant quite clearly to destroy women’s sexual desire so that they will not ‘stray’ from a marriage.  It is one of the most damaging male chauvinist practices on earth, right up there with honor killings and mutilations and rape.  A recent survey conducted by the Population Counsel centered on Africa shows a very close symbiosis between Islam and FGM in this central African geographic area.  The survey is hampered by lack of information from some countries, and exclusion of other parts of the world, like south and southeast Asia.

Here is the map:
 What does the map tell you about the relation between Islam and FGM?  Here are the percents of Muslim residents, per country, per Wiki.

Highest Green Level of FGM:
Somalia – 99% Muslim
Sudan – 97% Muslim
Djibouti – 94% Muslim
Mali – 90% Muslim
Egypt – 88% Muslim, rest Coptic/Orthodox
Guinea – 85% Muslim
Sierra Leone – 78% Muslim, 20% Christian
Eritrea – 48% Muslim per US Govt.

Next Highest Brown Level of FGM:
Mauritania – 100% Muslim
Burkina Faso – 60.5% Muslim
Ethiopia – 33% Muslim, 43% Ortho Christian

Yellow Level of FGM: 
Chad – 53% Muslim
Cote d’Ivoire – 40.2% Muslim

So just starting with Somalia, it is a 99% Muslim country in which 98% of the girls are cut.  A large number of Somalis have moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, my home town.   It is widely known here that some girls are sent back from Minneapolis to Somalia for ‘vacations’ in which they are mutilated, then flown back.  This shows the extent to which this tragic practice is ingrained in the religious/ethnic culture. 

There is missing data on other Gulf countries, but some is available.  In Oman, 90% of females have been mutilated (Oman is right next to Saudi Arabia). Kurdistan has a 72% level of FGM in some areas.  Many Kurds practice Sunnia and Shia brands of Islam.  In Kuwait, 38% of Sunni women have been subjected to the process.  Yemen has 30% rates.  And so on.  These are all Islamic-dominated countries with almost no Africans.  

What is clear here is that Islam plays a major role in the perpetuation of FGM, as mostly Muslim countries rank the highest in its prevalence.  This contradicts Azlan’s contention that it is a purely ‘African’ practice.  It is a practice which is 'unique' to central Africa where Islam is predominant.  It is not prevalent in all of Africa, which indicates it is not merely 'African.'

If we look at the statistics in south and southeast Asia – which are not on this map, and where there are few Africans or of African descent – the prevalence of FGM there is more obviously linked to Islam. 

India – 97% of Bohra Shia females. 
Pakistan - Overwhelming majority of Bohra Shia females.
Indonesia – 97% of Muslim females.
Malaysia – 93% of Muslim females.
Wikipedia notes that FGM is practiced by many Muslim communities in other south-east Asian countries, but they do not have exact statistics. 

Obviously Christianity and animist religions also play a role in Africa, especially in Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Kenya, which says something about religion in general.  Religion itself leaves the door open to the oppression of women, as demonstrated by the practice of FGM by religious groups, but especially Islamic ones.  Mistreatment of women is the Achilles heel of all conservative religious tendencies – including Christian, Jewish, Mormon, Amish et al.  But its high prevalence among Muslim communities indicates a oppressive male attitude towards women on the part of the ruling elite.  This is something progressives and feminists cannot ignore, no matter how much Islam stylizes itself as the ‘religion of peace.’   

This  of course does not negate defending Muslim people from violent attacks and police actions in the U.S. or abroad carried out by imperial or chauvinist forces.  

P.S. - Recently the Russian government found out that FGM is common in Dagestan, a republic on the Caspian Sea.  There is an Islamist/Salfist insurgency there similar to Chechnya.  It intends to implement Sharia even against the Sufis and other ethnicities who are more secular.  Dagestan is 83% Muslim.

Red Frog
October 13, 2016

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