The Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS), which controls the area in and around Mosul in northern Iraq, is denying it ordered that all females between the ages of 11 and 46 undergo female genital mutilation, contrary to earlier reports.
Although FGM predates Islam, Muhammad is said to have advocated it for the sake of female “purity.” This is achieved by butchering the vagina in a way that diminishes or eliminates sexual pleasure. It is estimated that 125 million females worldwide — mostly in Muslim families — have had to endure this barbarism, usually without anesthetic.
But you would never know about FGM’s close association with Islam if your only source of information on the practice was the liberal blogosphere. That’s because many sites go to great lengths to ignore Islam’s role in it, and even go so far as to portray it as a truly cross-religious problem. For instance, by reading Jezebel you would never know that FGM is most commonly practiced in Islamic communities, or even by Muslims at all. This is because although Jezebel has several articles on FGM, extremely few of which mention Islam as a culprit. The same can be said of Feministingand Salon.
This would be like reading an article on the opposition to gay marriage in the U.S. and not coming across a single reference to Christianity or the Bible.
The dearth of acknowledgments of the religious element is disheartening but not surprising. By and large the Western Left has failed to properly diagnose the broader problem of misogyny in countries where Islam is the majority religion. Most likely this is done either out of willful ignorance, or fear of being labeled Islamophobic. The reluctance to condemn Islam is understandable given that so many law-abiding Muslims have had their civil liberties assaulted by Western governments. But facts are facts, and they indicate that Islam is strikingly anti-feminist, especially as practiced in the developing world. As a comprehensive Pew study of global Muslim opinion found last year,
“Although many Muslims endorse a woman’s right to choose how she appears in public,overwhelming majorities in most regions say a wife should always obey her husband.Medians of more than eight-in-ten Muslims express this view in Southeast Asia (93%), South Asia (88%), and the Middle East and North Africa (87%). Even in Central Asia, a region characterized by relatively low levels of religious observance and strong support for a woman’s right to decide whether to wear a veil, seven-in-ten Muslims agree that a wife should carry out her husband’s wishes.”
While men certainly don’t need Islam or any other religion as a reason to oppress women, sexism becomes immensely more difficult to challenge when it’s backed by divine legitimacy. By speaking out against their oppression, Muslim women not only critique their society, but defy the very will of god himself. For this reason, so many of them suffer in silence.
Media outlets that purport to advocate for women and assail any and all forms of misogyny too often turn a blind eye to the systematic subjugation of women in predominantly Islamic cultures. By pretending that the oppression of Muslim women is an exception rather than the rule, they fail to identify the cause of a great deal of suffering, and by extension, the remedy for alleviating it.