Female genital excision has been banned in Egypt since 2008. Now, for the first time, a doctor is about to stand trial for carrying out the procedure, with a court date set for April 24, 2014 in Aga.
Human rights organizations fought for prosecution in this case, believing that the death of a thirteen year old girl last June offered the chance for a precedent-setting verdict against an ingrained custom, which supporters generally refer to as female circumcision.
It is totally false to compare the custom of female genital mutilation to the religious practice of male circumcision.
First, while there are great medical benefits from removal of the foreskin of a male, especially in reducing the spread of HIV; there is no medical benefit to a female from the removal of her clitoris and labia.
In Africa, Jewish and Muslim men have much lower rates of AIDS than uncircumcised Christian men.
Second, there is no evidence that female genital mutilation promotes chastity and preserves a woman’s virtue. Having a considerate, loving and faithful husband does much more to promote a woman’s virtue than female genital mutilation.
Third, male circumcision is a religious requirement; female genital mutilation is only a tribal custom, originating in sub Sahara Africa; which is now being spread by religious extremists to Asia and the West as part of a reaction against the rising rate of girls going to school and woman going to work outside the home.
Evidence that female genital mutilation is a only a custom comes from the fact that in rural Egypt even Coptic Christians mutilate their daughters genitals.
Also female genital mutilation had been denounced by all the major Islamic scholars in the Muslim world.
Finally, male circumcision is derived from the God inspired practice if Abraham and Muhammad.
God said to Abraham (Genesis 17:7): “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you…
(8-12) "And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God. And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
"You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old,"
And Allah ordered Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to follow the religion of Ibrahim (peace be upon him). When Allah said (Qur’an 16:123) "Then We inspired you: ‘Follow the religion of Ibrahim, the upright in Faith’." And part of the religion of Ibrahim is, as is evident from the verses cited above, to practice circumcision.
Abraham was an old man when he circumcised himself, thus becoming a good example that one is never to old to do God’s will. As a Hadith says: Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: ” Prophet Ibrahim circumcised himself when he was eighty years old and he circumcised himself with an axe." (Related by Bukhari, Muslim & Ahmad.)
Abraham’s first born son Ishmael, was a young boy when he was circumcised, so Muslims do not have to circumcise their son’s on an exact date. A Hadith states: When Ibn Abbas was asked “How old were you when the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) died?” He replied, "At that time I had been circumcised. At that time people did not circumcise boys till they attained the age of puberty (Baligh)." (Bukhari)
Prophet Muhammad himself selected the 7th day after birth to circumcise his own grandsons: Abdullah Ibn Jabir and Aisha both said: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) performed the Aqiqah of al-Hasan and al-Hussein (the prophets grandsons) circumcising them on the 7th. Day.” (Related in al-Bayhaq & Tabarani)
Thus, for Jews circumcision is a sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham and his sons Ishmael and Isaac and their descendants for future generations.
For Muslims it is a sign or their close connection to Abraham which is also celebrated each year at the annual Hajj ceremonies.
For both Muslims and Jews it is a sign that one who submits to God’s commandments and covenant cannot expect a life without some pain and suffering. When endured for the right reasons it always leads eventually to great spiritual benefits.
Female genital mutilation is the exact opposite of circumcision both medically and religiously.
Rabbi Allen S. Maller retired after serving for 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California. His web site is rabbimaller.com