Female Circumcision in Dagestan – What’s Up With That?

Dear Readers:

As promised, here is the piece on the female circumcision scandal which recently rocked Russia.  Since this controversy was also covered somewhat in English-language media, then technically you don’t really need me to translate it from Russian.  Except for Berdiev’s actual quote.

Clap if you believe in God!

Basically, the gist of it is this:  the Russian Federation includes several predominantly Muslim republics in the North Caucacus, including Dagestan.  Since the break-up of the Soviet Union (which was an officially atheist state), the role of religion has increased throughout Russian society.  Just as Christianity has waxed in power throughout the Slavic part of Russia, so too conservative varieties of Islam have grown in strength in the Muslim regions of the country.  Including Wahhabism cultivated by Saudi clerics.  I hasten to add that Wahhabism in and of itself has almost nothing to do with female circumcision, an ancient and barbaric custom which predates Islam.  However, it certainly does not help a struggling society when religious fanatics gain sway.  As with all religions, the bearers of the “sacred doctrines”, namely the priests, muftis, what have you, gain in power and influence as a direct function of the economic and psychological stresses of the people.  Their supposed position of being the intermediary between Man and God, puts them in a position of extraordinary power.

The recent controversy erupted when Mufti Ismail Berdiev, a religious buffoon leader of the North Caucacus, declared that female circumcision was being practiced in Dagestan; and that this is a good thing, which should be happening everywhere.

Here is the raw meat quote from Berdiev, translated from Russian:  “In several populated area of Dagestan, female circumcision is being practiced.  This is a good thing because it helps to reduce lusty feelings among women.  In fact, if this practice were to be applied to all women, that would be a very good thing.  The Almighty created women in order to bear children and to raise them.  (Circumcision) has no effect on that role, it does not prevent women from bearing children.  All it does is reduce the level of vice and degeneracy (in society).”

Is It Really Happening?

Russian journalists and other critics immediately pounced upon Berdiev, pointing out the many errors in his utterance.  For starters, is female circumcision actually being practiced in Dagestan?  Is that even a true statement?  Nobody can cough up any actual numbers of even anecdotal evidence.

Is female circumcision actually being practiced anywhere in the Russian republics?  To my knowledge (and admittedly superficial research), the Russian legal codex is completely silent on this issue.  Which means either (1) that the practice is silently condoned, or (2) that this has never been an issue in Russia.  A google search on “circumcision in Russia” only conjures up stories about male circumcision.  Including that old amusing chestnut when Putin (Russia’s presumably Un-Cut leader) invited an annoying French journalist, one of those who shed tears about the plight of the Chechen jihadis,  to come to Russia to get himself cut:  “If you want to become an Islamic radical and have yourself circumcised, I invite you to come to Moscow,” Putin said.  “I would recommend that he who does the surgery does it so you’ll have nothing growing back afterward,” he added.

“I was only joking”

Male circumcision, barbaric enough in itself, I reckon, is more the source of jokes among men; but very few people, excluding the Mufti of couse, have the fortitude to joke about cutting up the private parts of little girls.  Even the people who believe in, and carry out, this practice, do it with a serious attitude and not in jest.

Meanwhile, this source discusses legal prohibitions worldwide against female genital mutilation (FGM).  Among “industrialized nations”, twelve have passed laws crimininalizing this custom.  Namely, in alphabetical order:  Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States.  These countries were forced to pass laws because the practice became an issue, especially with immigrants from more backward countries.  Russia is not mentioned.  Either because Russia yawns at the practice; or because it was never an issue there to begin with.

Putin and the Mufti: Uncut and Cut

Now, granted, it is possible that the mufti is telling the truth, and that the disgusting practice is being carried out, on the sly, in the heart of Dagestani villages.  I suppose that’s possible.  But we still need numbers and concrete cases, before we start to believe that this is really happening.

Especially since the Mufti, after all the outrage erupted from his gaffe, then proceeded to do a vigorous back-stroke inside his bowl of Caucasian Beef-Ball soup.  “I was only joking,” Berdiev protested.  “It was just a little joke about how female circumcision would reduce the level of vice in society; and next thing you know, the journalists twisted my words to say, allegedly, that the Mufti wants to cut women.  This is absurd,” he concluded.

Is it Shariat?

The next part of the controversy concerns the Mufti’s knowledge, or lack of knowledge, about Islam itself.  Smart people pointed out that female circumcision is not a component of shariat law, a point which the Mufti had to concede:  “No, this isn’t even included among the tenets of shariat, and the practice has no effect on the character of an individual.”  Of all people, the Mufti should not have confused people in the first place about shariat law, since knowing this stuff is actually his job.

This wiki entry shows the prevalence of the practice of female circumcision worldwide.  Russia is not even mentioned.  Again, maybe it really is happening there, but nobody knows it’s going on, and nobody has any numbers or facts to report.

As everybody knows, this quaint custom is prevalent mostly in Africa.  Immigrants have brought the custom to Europe, and even to Canada and the U.S.  Quoting wiki, the section concerning the United States:

The Centers for Disease Control estimated in 1997 that 168,000 girls living in the United States had undergone FGM or were at risk. Khalid Adem, a Muslim who had moved from Ethiopia to Atlanta, Georgia, became the first person to be convicted in the US in an FGM case; he was sentenced to ten years in 2006 for having severed his two-year-old daughter’s clitoris with a pair of scissors.  Performing the procedure on anyone under the age of 18 became illegal in the U.S. in 1997 with the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act.  As of 2015, 24 US states have specific laws against FGM. States that do not have such laws may use other general statutes, such as assault, battery or child abuse.The Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act was passed in January 2013, and prohibits knowingly transporting a girl out of the U.S. for the purpose of undergoing FGM.

Shariat: When things are written down, at least you know where you stand.

In conclusion, I remember reading somewhere that people should not confuse Islam with female circumcision, as the Russian Mufti apparently did.  (Before being corrected, and having to retract.)  Far be it from me to apologize for Islam, but from what I understand, Islam actually came as an improvement for many peoples and tribes, especially those dwelling in North and Central Africa.  The customs predating Islam were much, much worse.  Barbaric practices that would turn one’s hair white just to think about.  The introduction of shariat law was an improvement because it tamed and regulated many of these earlier and lawless practices.  For example, instead of nailing somebody to a tree to die, to punish for theft — under shariat you would merely cut off their hand but allow them to live.  Baby steps, people.  Baby steps.

Similarly, shariat did not introduce such practices as female circumcision, or even the male variety, to be sure, but merely regulated what was already taking place.

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