African female genital infibulation

Thu, 5 May 1994 20:36:00 PDT

Moffatt's comments and quotes nicely inform us that female circumsion--and
by extension male circumsion, or even the wide range of body
modifications that seem almost to be ubiquitous in human societies even when
they cause pain and permanent, physical change--are not easily dismissed as
practises that should be banned merely because they offend our personal
sensibilities. Female circumsion cannot simply be categorized as male
control and domination of female sexuality (which it may be in some cases)
and thereby placed outside the pale of morally acceptable behavior without
our doing a different kind of violence, namely the violence of denying to
those we would change a recognition they, too, are a part of what makes our
species what it is and for that reason alone should be given the respect of
at least understanding what it is that we want to condemn.

I am against oppression of people anywhere; but at the same time I recognize
that to act upon that moral position in all cases may also require the
destruction of societies in which what I take to be oppression is part of
the fabric of that society. And that does give me pause, and makes me want
to be very sure that I am not reacting more because of my own sensibilities
and less becuase the oppressive behavior is demonstrably destructive of the
human spirit. At the very least, I need to understand the nature of that
oppressive behavior, what it means to those involved, what are the
alternatives, and are those alternatives truly better for those

In many cases there are alternatives, and surely those alternatives become
clearer if we first understand the behavior in question. We may still
conclude, even if we understand the behavior, that we find it
sufficiently abhorrent that we will actively work to change the behavior. To
understand does not mean to condone.

Moffatt also writes:

". . . it [female circumcision] is consistent, deliberately
and consciously in most places it is practiced, with the Islamic (and
Christian) notions of sex as sinful..."

Associating sin with sex is a singularly Christian notion and is not part of
Islam. Quite the contrary.

D. Read