This story works hard to give the impression that female genital mutilation is practiced among Muslims only by Dawoodi Bohras, and by Christians and Jews elsewhere. This is a marginal improvement over establishment media stories about FGM before the arrests of the physicians in Michigan; until those arrests, establishment media stories universally claimed that the practice was cultural and not Islamic. But there is a long way to go before the establishment media gets to anything approaching the truth.
In reality FGM is sanctioned by Islamic law: “Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) (by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the bazr ‘clitoris’ [this is called khufaadh ‘female circumcision’]).” — ‘Umdat al-Salik e4.3, translated by Mark Durie, The Third Choice, p. 64
And it is widespread in 30 Muslim countries, not just among the Dawoodi Bohras.
Women from a small Muslim sect called the Dawoodi Bohras have reported that female genital mutilation has been performed on them in Canada, a study given to the federal government reveals.
The first research of its kind to probe the practice within this tightly knit South Asian community, the study found that 80 per cent of Bohra women surveyed have undergone FGM and two of the study’s 18 Canadian participants said it happened within Canada’s borders.
In Canada, FGM was added to the Criminal Code under aggravated assault in 1997. The study does not provide additional information on the two cases it uncovered.
Most commonly associated with communities in sub-Saharan Africa, FGM is also practised among members of this Muslim sect who trace their roots to Yemen in the 11th century and who migrated to Gujarat, India, in the 1500s.
Authored by Sahiyo, an organization of anti-FGM activists and members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, the study was completed in February. Preliminary results went to officials from Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department in June 2016. The federal government says it is looking into the issue.
The researcher’s findings show that more than 80 per cent of the 385 Dawoodi Bohra women surveyed — including all 18 Canadian participants — want the practice to end and would not do it to their daughters.
Female genital mutilation, also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision, is a procedure that intentionally alters or causes injury to external female organs. It can be inflicted on girls as young as 1 and varies in severity from partial removal of the clitoris to excising the clitoris and labia and stitching up the walls of the vulva to leave only a tiny opening.
Khatna is the South Asian term for genital cutting and, according to the study, the sect’s practice of removing a woman’s clitoris is done for reasons including “religious purposes,” to curb sexual arousal, for cleanliness and to maintain customs and traditions.
The Dawoodi Bohras have recently made FGM-related headlines. A Detroit emergency room doctor charged in April with alleged performing of FGM on 100 young girls is a Dawoodi Bohra. The doctor, Jumana Nagarwala, is in jail awaiting trial. In 2016, a Dawoodi Bohra priest in Sydney, Australia, was convicted for his role in performing FGM.
“The findings (of the study) demonstrate that FGC (female genital cutting) is deeply rooted in the community’s culture,” the authors write. Sahiyo means “friends” in Gujarati.
“Understanding the complex social norms and cultural values systems that shape the meaning and significance of the practice within this community is critical work of anti-FGC advocates.”
For this story, the Star also spoke with three local Dawoodi Bohra women who described what it’s like to undergo khatna in their native countries of India and Kenya at the hands of “practitioners,” not doctors, in non-medical environments such as kitchens, with unsterile razors.
A continuing Star investigation has revealed that Canadian girls have been taken overseas to have the procedure and that thousands more could be at risk of being sent abroad to be subjected to FGM.
Practitioners who perform FGM are “almost certainly entering Canada” to engage in the practice, says an internal report from Canada Border Services Agency, as reported by Global News in July.
FGM is a cultural practice dating back hundreds of years, and organizations including the United Nations say that although it is often perceived as being connected to some Islamic groups, it also occurs in other religious communities, including Christians, Ethiopian Jews and certain traditional African religions.
Only where those non-Muslim communities live in close proximity to a much larger Muslim population.
…The emails say officials learned from the report how over the past two decades there has been a regression of gender equality in the Dawoodi Bohra community worldwide and there is “significant hidden violence against women.” There are roughly 20,000 to 40,000 Dawoodi Bohras in Canada, according to the federal emails.
Titled “Understanding Female Genital Cutting in the Dawoodi Bohra Community,” the Sahiyo study surveyed 385 Dawoodi Bohra women across the globe, including women in Canada, the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom, in an attempt to shed light where “little or no data” exists. It aims to inform policy makers and health professionals in order to “end the practice,” the study said, that has left most of its participants with emotional scars — anger, haunting memories and frustration in their sexual lives.
“I feel robbed and cheated of my sexuality,” one respondent told the study’s researchers.
Shaheeda Tavawalla-Kirtane, Sahiyo’s Canadian co-founder, who works in India to raise awareness about FGM, said she has been tweeting to Canadian ministers because Canada should be aware this “crime” is happening on its soil. The Sahiyo study suggests creating a hotline for at-risk girls and education about FGM for front-line workers, such as teachers.
Some of the study’s participants reported that, typically at the age of 7, they were told they were having the procedure to remove a “worm” and that khatna was part of the religion.
The religious justification for this practice may come from passages in the Da’aim al-Islam, a sacred Islamic text that informs the tenets and traditions of the Dawoodi Bohras. According to The Pillars of Islam, a respected translation of the text, cutting will lead to “greater purity.”…