Heather Hastie on female genital mutilation and Islam

The other day I wrote a bit about those apologists who claim that female genital mutilation (FGM) has nothing to do with Islam (it’s all culture, Jake!), citing an earlier refutation of that claim by Heather Hastie.  FGM apologists like Reza Aslan are ubiquitous, and how many people know enough about the issue to evaluate the claims?

Heather’s now put up a new post, “Making excuses for Islam and FGM,” updating and buttressing the connection between FGM and Islam, and covering the practice in various places. If you need to evaluate claims by people like the unctuous Aslan, her two pieces are a good start. The good news is that FGM is on the wane as the moral arc bends towards justice.


  1. Posted April 25, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    As I noted in the previous discussion on this topic, whether or not FGM is or isn’t Islamic spectacularly misses the point.

    The point is that it’s excruciatingly painfully obvious that taking knives to little girls is an horrifically evil practice, and for Islam to have failed to practically immediately stamped it out demonstrates beyond all doubt that Islam is a complete failure at its central claim to being a respectable moral standard.

    Were adherence to Islam something that would even slightly preferentially guide one towards being a better person, FGM would have vanished centuries ago. Therefore, whatever the reason, it is indisputable that Islam does nothing to make one a better person.



    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Exactly Ben! It’s like admonitions against rape, slavery, and genocide, to name just three, being endorsed in the Bible instead of included in the Ten Commandments as things that are forbidden.

  2. ladyatheist
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate the nuanced and multi-faceted approach here. Not all Islamic countries have the same culture. Not all Islamic beliefs are identical. Not all muslims are equally observant.

    Yes, the people who do it are members of some variety of Islam in some Islamic-dominated culture, but that says nothing about Islam itself… or itselves.

    Warren Jeffs married underage girls because his variety of Christianity permitted it. That doesn’t make all Christians child rapists. There are Jews that eat cheeseburgers and Catholics that have abortions.

    As atheists who believe its all nonsense, we sometimes overgeneralize. (That’s not an overgeneralization btw because I said *sometimes*)

  3. veroxitatis
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    As from end 2015 UK medical doctors and associated staff are under a legal requirement to report their having treated a female of under 18 years of age who shows signs of FGM. This is the right approach and I am sure it will prove helpful in the longer term but imo it does not go far enough. There ought to be an obligation on medical and teaching staff to report to the police or social work any conversations with the girl herself or family members which might raise suspicion that there has been FGM. This would result in FGM being treated as seriously as suspicion of sexual abuse of a minor.
    I wonder what the position may be in the US or in individual States. And, since it was Heather’s article, may I ask if the legal position is any more strict in NZ.

  4. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    The correlation with Islam and FGM is especially obvious in Central Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, etc., even if it is less obvious in African countries.

    Yes, it is practiced widely by Christians as well in the African countries of Burkina Faso and Central African Republic. That stat enables Muslim apologists like Aslan to downplay a connection.


    The line about the arc of the universe is better known in its more confident version from Martin Luther King, but was earlier stated more tentatively by Unitarian minister Theodore Parker

    “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice”

  5. nicky
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    “The good news is that FGM is on the wane as the moral arc bends towards justice.”
    Isn’t that a tad optimistic? I gather from Heather that the wane is mainly in African, non-Muslim societies. In Asia, and Indonesia in particular, it appears to be on the rise, at least that is how I understood it.

  6. Dan
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    Not all Islamic societies approve of FGM, but to those that do, they’re the ones leading the practice. Look at Indonesia and Malaysia. I did not know until this year that they practice FGM there. I live in the Philippines and we’re practically the same ethnic group. Yet FGM is rare in our “Christianized” country.

    FGM is unkown in most of Southeast Asia outside of Muslim regions, where it is practiced at an alarming 90% percent of young women. Let us not pretend that Islam, as it is practiced here, has nothing to do with FGM.

  7. BJ
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I just want to mention something that wasn’t mentioned in Heather’s article: the New York Times’ Health Editor has unilaterally decided that all articles on the subject will now use the term “genital cutting,” because the term FGM is “culturally loaded” and brings up bigotry against those who practice it. It’s so nice to sugarcoat things so we don’t offend the people mutilating the genitals of little girls, eh?

    • Harrison
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:28 am | Permalink

      If that’s an attempt at PC it’s not a very good one. “Genital cutting” is no less vivid or horrific, and less likely to get the acronym treatment. I’d say that’s an own goal.

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