Mauritanian Muslim imams initiate rare ban on female circumcision
Human rights campaigners who have been struggling for years to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM) in West Africa got a boost this week as news emerged that a group of Muslim clerics and scholars in Mauritania had declared a fatwa, or religious decree, against the practice.
“Are there texts in the Koran that clearly require that thing? They do not exist,” asked the secretary general of the Forum of Islamic Thought in Mauritania, Cheikh Ould Zein. “On the contrary, Islam is clearly against any action that has negative effects on health. Now that doctors in Mauritania unanimously say that this practice threatens health, it is therefore clear that Islam is against it.”
In many parts of West Africa, FGM has been presented as a religious obligation for practising Muslim women, leading most to believe that if they are not circumcised they are unclean and their prayers will not be heard. Which makes the decision by 34 imams and scholars — supported by the government of Mauritania and UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s agency — all the more unusual.
Read the whole story on the Reuters humanitarian news network AlertNet.