Mufti Bans Female Circumcision

Reuters, June 25, 2007

Egypt’s state-appointed Grand Mufti said today female genital cutting is forbidden by Islam.

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Genital cutting of girls, often referred to as female genital mutilation or circumcision, is banned in Egypt although the practice remains widespread as a rite of passage for girls and is often viewed as a way to protect their chastity.

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The statement was the strongest yet against the practice by the Mufti, who is the government’s official arbiter of Islamic law. The Grand Sheikh of Cairo’s prestigious al-Azhar mosque, Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, had previously described the practice as un-Islamic, although some other clerics have supported it.

Both Tantawi and Coptic Pope Shenouda, the leader of Egypt’s minority Christian community, have said that neither the Koran nor the Bible demand or mention female circumcision, which is usually performed on pre-pubescent girls.

Girl’s death

The statement came after Budour Ahmed Shaker died on Thursday while undergoing the procedure in the southern province of Minya after she was given a large dose of anaesthetics, security sources said.

Egypt’s doctors’ syndicate has launched an investigation into the death, an Egyptian newspaper said. The girl’s father has filed a lawsuit against the doctor for negligence and the doctor could face up to two years in jail, the security sources said.

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The practice is performed on both Muslim and Christian girls in Egypt and Sudan, but is extremely rare in most of the rest of the Arab world. It is also common in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.

A 2005 UNICEF report on the practice showed that 97 per cent of Egyptian women between the ages of 15 and 49 had been circumcised.

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