Islamic attitudes toward sex, correction

Michael (moffatt@GANDALF.RUTGERS.EDU)
Fri, 6 May 1994 10:08:40 EDT

and distribution of African female genital infibulation: "Moffatt also

". . . 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. "
He's right. "Sin" is the wrong term for Islamic attitudes toward
sex, evidently. According to two women ethnographers of Islamic groups that
don't practice infibulation, Abu-Lughod and Wikan, sex is seen as a threat to
the social order, and women as the intrinsically more sexual gender, more in
need of external or internal control than men. Wikan interestingly
distinguishes two folk and scholarly theories, which she says are perennial,
one that women are passively attrractive to men, and then too weak to fight
them off; and another than women are naturally sexually voracious, less
intrinsically self-controlling than men, and therefore have to be protected
from their own sexual natures. The second view in particular seems to be
consistent with the practice of clitorectomy or infibulation.
Lightfoot-Klein generalizes, perhaps a little sweepingly, "the belief that
uncircumcised women cannot help but exhibit an unbridled and voracious
appetite for promiscuous sex is prevalent in all societies that practice
female circumcision."
Once again, infibulation is only practiced in small parts of Islamic
Africa and the Middle East; but where it IS practiced, Islamic authories
evidently are, or have been, quite happy with it. Lightfoot-Klein quotes
early Islamic jurists in Egypt coming to the following judgement of it:
"Islamic jurists
in Egypt wrote, "Female circumcision is an Islamic tradition mentioned in the
tradition of the
Prophet, and sanction by religious leaders, despite their disagreement as to
whether or not it is
a sacred tradition. We support the practice and sanction it in view of its
effect on weakening
the sexual desire of women, and directing their sexual desire to moderation."
L-K reports that medieval Christian missionaries arrived at a similar
accomdation with it in Ethiopia -- initially shocked to discover it as an
indigenous custom, they tried to outlaw it, but were met with so much local
resistence than they switched stances and also decided that it was
an acceptable way to control sexual (now, finally, we've got sex-hating
Christians) _sin.
Michael Moffatt, Rutgers