- Welcome to each and every one of you. We have gathered here this morning to discuss a very serious issue. It is one that touches many parts of the world – Africa in many places, the Middle East in places, Southeast Asia, even immigrant communities who come to the West who engage in the practice, which is variously called female genital mutilation or female genital cutting. It is one that has serious impacts, touching some 100 million to 140 million women. Another 3 million girls and women are at risk of being cut this year alone on the African continent.
- Now, why do we worry about this problem? Why are we concerned about it? Why is there an international movement and regional and local movements to work at the abandonment of this practice? It is because it is a serious violation of human rights and a very serious public health issue. It is one that is, in practice, essentially a right of passage, but a right of passage with very serious consequences, resulting in poor health, in pain, certainly childbirth pain, infection, very difficult childbirth complications often, even infant mortality and maternal mortality.
- And it is one that often is claimed to be done in the name of religion, but we’ve got the imam with us this morning to certainly disabuse us of that argument, because essentially it is a cultural practice and not one mandated in any Qu’ranic values or other religious tenets … //
… IMAM MAGID:
- Thank you, Ambassador, for your leadership and for having us to come together on a very important issue today. And I will like to say you are a champion on this. You have brought people together, indeed a catalyst to bring imams and advocates toward this issue.
- I would like to say that the role of religious community in addressing this important issue, the FGC, it is crucial because of some people have used religious argument, as the ambassador said eloquently. And I was in Darfur and we spoke to midwives – just about two weeks ago, three weeks ago I was there – and there’s a local imam, very powerful imam, just like the imam mentioned in Senegal, who eloquently addressed the issue. And a lady that’s been doing this for 20 years stood up and said, “This will be the last time for me doing these kind of things.” And then – even she give some suggestions. She said the midwives who deliver babies, they may need to increase their fees of delivering the baby instead of being paid to do this kind of practice, and so they can abandon the practice.
- The issue also here, is – the cultural sensitivity. You and I were speaking earlier of the language sensitivity, using – the use of language. And it’s very important, when addressing it from the religious point of view, is to use the Koran to address the issue, rather than to say it is Islamically unacceptable.
- From the Islamic point of view, Islam respect human dignity and human honor and human life, and one of the objectives of Islamic law is to preserve female wife. Being from Sudan, I have seen women lose their life, actually, because of the practice giving birth. Marriages went very bad and domestic violence occurred because of a lack of intimacy in relationship. Therefore, this is really about saving family, bringing honor and dignity, enforcing good values, and bringing good values and what you call social norms and moral norms. And therefore, I really see this like a milestone, our meeting here today, and I would like really to thank you, Ambassador, for leading us.
- So with that, we will take a few questions here in D.C. For the callers that are joining us internationally via our hub, if you would like to join in the queue to ask a question, I ask that you press * and then 1. We’ll take a few questions here in D.C. and then we’ll shoot to you, so please begin to queue up if you’re interested in asking questions.
- With that, we’ll take the first question here.
- Good morning and thank you for standing up for us women. We are the victims. You are the one standing up for us. Thank you for what you’re doing. I’m from Mali. You did not mention the statistics in Mali. And you brought an imam. Why you did not bring a priest? Because my friends who are Christian are also circumcised. Why this discrepancy? You should brought also a priest to tell us about the view – the Christian view on female circumcision or fibrillation.
- So I don’t know if I have a question, just to salute you for what you’re doing for us. We used to say that we believe in the duality – I’m a Muslim, by the way. We used to say that we believe in the duality of humankind, so we have to circumcise. We take a tiny bit of the clitoris of female and also we cut the male, so to make the female fully female and the male fully male. So we believe in that, but because of Islam, we stopped that. We know that circumcision is ancestral practices that Islam and Christianity adjust themselves to. It’s not religious wheel or religious practices. It’s ancestral African practices. It started from Egypt to the rest of Africa. I know that in the Mandingo land in Mali during the empire time, when the male decided to have a male circumcision, the woman was very strong. They also decided to have a circumcision for – female circumcision. So this is a tradition in – enough going on in Africa before even Islam … //
… AMBASSADOR VERVEER:
- Well, and I think it’s also giving the young women an opportunity to express – and the women to express – how they have felt, what they are undergoing in terms of health and pain, and then to have everybody listen to that and say, “We don’t want you to go through that.” And that leads to the declaration of abandonment. But it is that opportunity to be able to engage a process where you’ll be listened to.
- Yeah. All I guess to say regarding the customs you are talking about, because I’m from Sudan and I know that we practice for a while in Sudan, the whole idea, the notion of what they call it female circumcision, which is wiseco, female circumcision, is to have the woman become submissive. And the woman doesn’t have desire, and it is there to fulfill the desire of her husband. And therefore, that notion of teaching her at the time of circumcision is actually stealing her away – taking away her rights as a human being and in being able to express her feeling and have needs like in – like her husband to be – have – will have need.
- And the issue that I would like to say that – of teaching people values of marriage, I would suggested to the imam, and we agreed on that when I was in Darfur, is to infuse the idea of premarital counseling. And we do that now in our mosque in America, where we teach a person, a husband to be and a wife to be – their rights, their mutual rights, and the respect of the marriage institutions, and how to fulfill the needs of one another, because women have been used to fulfill all of the need of men. And that’s why they circumcise them or they are doing the cutting of so-called circumcision.
- With that, unfortunately, we’re going to have to end. Thank you all very much for joining us. I’ll try and get the transcript to you as soon as possible.
- Thank you.