Wednesday, October 24, 2007

On female circumcision, the headscarf and Rebels without a clue

One must always be weary of getting dragged into a debate and battle which is not his. There has been quite a lot of debate raging about a certain "writer" called Ayan Hirsi Ali, whose account Infidel is that of her life and the hardships she experienced growing up in Somalia (if I remember correctly), this is related to the huge furor being kicked up recently about the practice of female circumcision or "Female Genital Mutilation" as referred to by some. I've seen many Muslims jump up and defend it as a knee jerk reaction because they imagined it was attacking Islam, but I don't think they've really thought through what it is they are defending. I've never personally felt comfortable about it, I'd only even heard of it a few years ago, and I have to say that I personally find it revolting. I know that it was known during the time of the Prophet Muhammad but that it was not too widespread at the time, ie. if there was a particular reason (the female clitoris or labia were unusually large and might have caused discomfort or whatever other reason one might choose for this) they might have done it. He is recorded to have told one woman who did this as her job to not overdo it (remove too much or all of the bits) and have mercy on the child. It's interesting how people seem to think that the whatever the Prophet Muhammad had said is law when it wasn't. A lot of the things he reached conclusions on, like other men, was by consultation and deliberation when it wasn't to do with religion. People seem to forget that he was just a man. Frankly, it is a practice which is culturally rooted to eastern Africa and has no basis in religion whatsoever, unlike male circumcision which has it's roots in all three Abrahamic faiths. Female circumcision and indeed the Hejab itself, are cultural (In no way do I equate the two) and peculiar to a region and peoples of a different time, it serves no purpose whatsoever and if one wishes to tackle it, then this must be done by undermining the religious arguments put forth for it. For those of you who rush off and try to defend the indefensible, please do your research first and don't make fools of yourself.

I also had a long discussion with a friend of mine regarding the Hejab. I had already known that it is in fact obligatory in the Jewish faith and had been in the Christian faith until recently (Nuns in the Catholic church have only recently been allowed to go without one) but I had never been sure as to why or where it says women should be covered from head to toe in a black bag. In fact I've looked and the Quran only calls for decency in clothing and for non form revealing clothes, both for males and females, on no counts does it say women have to hide their faces or wear gloves. The full face cover idea was mostly for the wives of the Prophet (that has a different story and reason, read Karen Armstrong for an excellent non-biased work on his life). I'm not against the Hejab if a woman decides to wear it of her own volition but I'm against the way it is being imposed in Saudi Arabia and Iran - that is by force, or in Syria, where the influences are a lot more subtle but just as powerful sometimes. Still, I refuse to stereotype any woman I meet with a Hejab or without, and, whilst in Syria or Britain, was always mindful of who wouldn't shake hands and who was alright with a peck on the cheek. I think some people confuse wearing the hejab with piety whilst not wearing one implies a lack of it. That notion is ridiculous and nonsensical.

Back to the main topic, I've learned that the hejab itself is a lot more cultural than it is Islamic, something which can be seen in the various implementations we see throughout the Islamic world, so there is no one rule on how it should even be expressed. In Britain, I think it's become an issue for Muslims because they feel (quite rightly) like they are under some form of attack, whether by the media or by the public. I have seen it taken too far however, such as with the recent court case of the schoolteacher insisting on wearing the Niqab in her kindergarden class, but it was good to see that the English judge had enough common sense to put a stop to this excess. This was a classic example of someone picking up a cause without knowing what it is they were fighting for or what was being debated. These people are the quintessential rebels without a clue.

A rebel without a clue can be defined as a person who thinks they are rebelling against a status quo but are in fact, conforming to it. On the opposite end of the spectrum (to risk contradicting my earlier statement on piety!), Arab female pop singers on the Rotana music network also fall into this category, where the status quo they think they are rebelling against leads them to a ridiculous scenario where they confuse political freedom with sexual freedom. They fall from the frying pan and into the fire without understanding what the core issues faced by women in the region and worldwide are. Ayan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan and particularly Irshad Manji are in my opinion, also prime examples of such 'rebels'. Irshad Manji is quite amusing in her debates, though I wouldn't recommend you support her by buying her book, but a rummage on Youtube or Google should bring up some of her finest moments and even some of her own 'radical' interpretations of Islam - interesting. In my opinion, women like these marginalise any genuine Arab or Muslim voices which are tackling the genuine issues faced by females, thus ensuring they aren't taken seriously and continually ostracised.



Abu Kareem said...


With regards to Ayan Hirsi, her personal history is apparently fabricated to fit her "rebel without a clue" image. Contrary to what she claims, she came from a rather moderate and liberal family.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

You know what\'s the trouble with debating those people?
I\'ve thought about this over and over over… and I came to a conclusion that most of those writers or illuminati possess a heavy baggage of hate and grudge against Islam.

Now, talking about the Hejab and dressing in modesty.. I won\'t go into the details or the sequence of different evidence, let\'s just stick to what we both agree upon; the dressing in modesty…form a practical view of point: how would you define \'modest\'? Have you ever seen a girl without Hejab whose hair was not done in style? Do you think that is modesty? Isn\'t hair a part of any girl\'s adornments?
لا يبدين زينتهن إلا ما ظهر منها

As long as the answers for these questions, and others, aren\'t clear cut and obvious, and the argument for or against the obligatory imposition of Hijab is still precarious, I think it is fair to say that wearing Hijab is a form of piety….

Thanks for the interesting article…

Wassim said...

Abu Kareem,
What you've said is true. I've heard that she's a bit of a self publicist and her accounts aren't entirely true. Frankly the woman is a fool and I hold her beliefs in contempt.

Wassim said...

Hi DJ,
Agreed, though I think we can both also agree that piety only comes from witin but cannot be imposed. Imposing something only causes the person to resent the practice and discard it as soon as is possible.

nadia n said...

Just an FYI female genital mutilation is also practiced among Copts and Animists in Africa, it's not solely a Muslim thing. Just one of many things Hirsi Ali is ignorant of.

Personally I feel veiling is a bit of an overdiscussed issue, here and everywhere, but bascially I agree with you. I would never tell anyone what to wear, but I think modesty is something that's going to be relative to the culture. The other end of the spectrum with the pop singers is just another symbol for people to latch onto and maybe for some other people to be like "lol look at those silly Lebanese"-sort of like that time on the Simpsons when Homer found a Bollywood movie and was like "hahaha their clothes are different from my clothes." Is it "free"? I just think it's another path already carved out for them, probably the only path they have to success.

[I just assume everyone watches the Simpsons sorry:P]

Wassim said...

Hi Nadia,
You bring up some great points I wasn't aware of! Don't worry, I'm a big fan of the Simpsons too so you aren't alone :)

Thanks for stopping by!