Archive for January 21st, 2008

“Exactly Who are the Barbarians? Female Genital Mutilation as Pictured in the West” Dr. Phyllis Chesler

Monday, January 21st, 2008

The Grey Lady editors just slipped it right in there—the magazine spread was so big (eight pages,with eight huge color photos), and so unbelievable, that I actually missed it. I am talking about the Sunday New York Times magazine article about female genital mutilation in Indonesia.

Not until Dr. Andrew Bostom called it to my attention, did I stop, look, and let the headline sink in: “A Cutting Tradition.” I probably thought it was a rather long article about a recipe—not for a lifetime of agony, but for another way to cut and prepare a meal. Something Asian, maybe Fusion. The women’s faces were Asian faces.

But, the article is essentially a National Geographic-style photo essay subtitled: “Inside a female circumcision ceremony for young Muslim girls.” The photos are by Stephanie Sinclair, the brief text is by Sara Corbett.

What is a human rights atrocity with life-long and life-threatening consequences is here being presented as a “tradition,” often a harmless one, sometimes not, but always a well-intentioned one.

According to the article, there is “little blood involved”—well, how bad can that be? And, “antiseptic is used”— well, this is not dangerous at all, is it? Finally, afterwards, the child is given a “celebratory gift”—what, am I the kind of westerner who, Grinch-style, would deny the child her gift in order to make my twisted, “racist” argument? As the article states , the child clutching (or drinking) her gift “has now joined a quiet majority in Indonesia.”

These photographs were taken in 2006 on a day where 200 girls were genitally mutilated . In honor of the “prophet Mohammed’s birthday,” the Assalaam Foundation subsidized both the mutilation—and the “gift.” According to the Foundation’s chairman of social services, the cutting/mutilation will “stabilize her libido;” “make a woman look more beautiful in the eyes of her husband’; and “will balance her psychology.”

Ninety six percent of all Indonesian families have sliced their daughters’ clitorises right off.

No orgasms for you, you naughty, wicked hussy of a child.

In the article, an Italian physician who is also a World Health Organization official states: “To judge them (the female mutilators) “harsly is to isolate them. You cannot make change that way. These mothers believe they are doing something good for their children.”

The Indonesian “cutting” is presented as less severe, less “extreme” than African versions. Oh yeah? Then why does one photo show us a child in extraordinary pain. Yes, right there in the New York Times. The caption is: “A girl cries as she is circumcized. ” Well, its like being vaccinated, right? And there is a second photo of a highly anxious child just before the mutilation. This one is captioned: “A girl is soothed by an attendant before her circumcision.”

The photographer has captured a live human rights atrocity in progress and we are seeing it in color with our morning coffee and croissants. Or bagels. Or muffins. Whatever.

Who exactly are the barbarians here? Those who genitally mutilate their daughters or those who deem the atrocity as something of a soft core “tradition” to be “enjoyed” at Sunday brunch?

And why has no one commented upon the fact that it is only women who perform such mutilations? The psychological trauma of undergoing such a painful procedure, (albeit with very different consequences), among both male and female children and adolesecents, is unbelievable. How can a girl ever trust an older woman again? (Actually, she can’t).

I will let Dr. Bostom, who is a physician and the author of the forthcoming book, “The Legacy of Islamic AntiSemitism” (a daunting, compelling, and indispensable book), have the last words. He has written a passionate article titled “Clitoral Relativism-Female Genital Mutilation in ‘Tolerant” Islamic Indonesia. ” Quoting from the British Medical Journal on the subject, he reminds us that:

“Female genital mutilation, also misleadingly known as female circumcision, is usually performed on girls ranging in age from 1 week to puberty. Immediate physical complications include severe pain, shock, infection, bleeding, acute urinary infection, tetanus, and death. Long-term problems include chronic pain, difficulties with micturition [urination] and menstruation, pelvic infection leading to infertility, and prolonged and obstructed labor during childbirth. ”

He notes that FGM is illegal in the United States. He views the above article as “misleading.”

Read Dr. Bostom here.


Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the well known author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) and The New Anti-Semitism (2003). She has just published The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (Palgrave Macmillan), as well as an updated and revised edition of Women and Madness. She is an Emerita Professor of psychology and women’s studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969) and the National Women’s Health Network (1974). She is currently on the Board of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and lives in New York City. Her website is
We are delighted to have Dr. Chesler as a contributor to the Jesus is Lord, A Worshipping Christian’s Blog.

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The Origins and Obligations of Sharia Law

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Sharia is the body of Islamic religious law based on the Koran and the words and actions of the prophet Mohammed and his followers.

In the West sharia has become synonymous with the brutal punishments meted out in Islamic states, but the majority of laws are to do with everyday issues, ranging from personal hygiene to banking.

Hardline Muslim leaders claim that sharia is eternal and can never be changed, while moderates argue that it is not a strict set of laws but should be open to interpretation.

Sunni and Shia Muslims follow different schools of thought in interpreting the sharia laws, but all Muslims are required to live according to sharia wherever they are.

Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran have implemented sharia as the legal system of the country, but in Britain it has no legal standing, despite the introduction of sharia-compliant banking and food.

In sharia courts, or councils, once an imam has reached a decision, he will issue fatwas, or rulings, on issues such as inheritance and divorce.

Divorce law is particularly complicated – a man can end his marriage by uttering the word talaq. He can take his wife back after a three-month break (iddat) but the third time he uses the word the divorce is final.

The prophet Mohammed has said what could be translated as: “The women who seek divorce (khula) without good reason are hypocrites.”

Some parts of sharia law are obligatory, while others are recommended or optional

Examples of obligatory laws

• Earnings must be lawfully obtained

• Food must be halal

• Personal hygiene must be of a very high standard

• Couples must have a full bath in flowing water after intercourse

• The body must be covered modestly

• Prayers must be said five times a day

• Believers must fast during Ramadan

Strongly recommended laws

• Hands should be washed upon waking up (because one does not know where the hands have been during sleep)

• Believers should wash with water after going to the toilet

• Eating should be done while seated

• The right hand should be used for eating and the left for cleaning oneself

• People should lie down on the right side when going to sleep

• The right shoe should be put on first, followed by the left

• The mouth and nose should be covered when yawning or sneezing

• Food should not be eaten when very hot but left until it has cooled a little

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Bin Laden’s Son Says Father Is Not a Terrorist

Monday, January 21st, 2008


One of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden’s sons said he doesn’t consider his father to be a terrorist but says he should find another way to defend Islam.

Speaking with CNN outside Cairo, Omar bin Laden, the fourth of 11 children born to Osama’s first wife, said his father was fulfilling a personal mission. When his father was fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, Washington considered him a hero, he said.

“He believes this is his job — to help the people,” he said. “I don’t think my father is a terrorist because history tells you he’s not.”

The son, 26, said he last saw his father in 2000 when he decided to drop out of an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan because he didn’t want to be associated with killing civilians, the network reported. He said he had a message for his father.

“I try and say to my father: ‘Try to find another way to help or find your goal,” he said. “This bomb, this weapon — it’s not good to use it for anybody.”

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