Bohra Muslim leader speech urging FGM is 'huge disappointment' for India campaign

Published: April 29, 2016
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Little is known about FGM in India where the ritual is carried out in great secrecy by the close-knit Shia Muslim sect thought to number over 1 million. PHOTO COURTESY: kalubookworm.blogspot.com

Little is known about FGM in India where the ritual is carried out in great secrecy by the close-knit Shia Muslim sect thought to number over 1 million. PHOTO COURTESY: kalubookworm.blogspot.com

MUMBAI: A speech by the spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community, in which he appears to be urging followers in India to continue the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), has angered and upset campaigners trying to end the centuries-old practice.

The audio clip of Syedna Muffadal Saifuddin’s speech at a mosque in Mumbai, has been authenticated by several members of the community. According to a transcript, he said: “The act must be done. It needs to be done discreetly when it is a woman, but it needs to be done.”

Calls and e-mails to a spokesperson for the Syedna and the administrative office of the leader received no response.

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A person described as a close friend of the Syedna family told the Times of India newspaper that the remarks were a “general comment” and that people were “interpreting it differently”. Campaigners in the city spoke out against the speech.

“The speech is a huge disappointment for us,” said Masooma Ranalvi, who was cut as a seven-year-old and leads an online petition as part of the ‘Speak Out on FGM’ campaign, which has drawn almost 50,000 signatories, including Mia Farrow, who tweeted her support on Thursday.

“Ever since we began the campaign, there has been only silence from the clergy. But now that it’s out in the open, at least there’s no ambiguity about where they stand,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Religious obligation

Little is known about FGM in India where the ritual is carried out in great secrecy by the close-knit Shia Muslim sect thought to number over 1 million.

FGM, which can cause serious physical and psychological problems, is more commonly linked to African countries which have led international efforts to end the practice.

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India is not included on UN lists of countries affected by FGM. Campaigners say Dawoodi Bohras are the only Muslim community in South Asia to practise FGM, estimating that up to three quarters of Bohra girls are cut.

Although it is not mentioned in the Holy Quran, the Bohras consider khatna — the removal of part of the clitoris — a religious obligation, and debate on the subject has long been taboo.

But the practice among Indian Dawoodi Bohras hit the headlines in November when a court in Australia found two members of the diaspora community guilty of cutting two girls. A Bohra religious leader was convicted of being an accessory.

Since then, more than a dozen Bohra communities in Europe and the United States have passed resolutions against the practice.

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“The strongest form of opposition to khatna is now coming from within the community,” the non-profit group Sahiyo, focused on ending FGM in India, posted on its website on Friday. “Those opposed to the practice have strong reasons for their views.”

Campaigners will now focus on petitioning the government, said Ranalvi. “There is hypocrisy in the clergy’s stance, so the government is the most important route open to us now,” she said. “We need them to step in to protect our girls.”

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Reader Comments (13)

  • sterry
    Apr 29, 2016 - 9:04PM

    There are already Indian Hindus whose families came from Pakistan like Rithik Roshan. He should help them adjust and support them.Recommend

  • Naresh
    Apr 29, 2016 - 11:19PM

    @sterry: There are already Indian Hindus whose families came from Pakistan like Rithik Roshan. He should help them adjust and support them.
    .
    No Sir. If The Leaders of the Dawoodi Bohra Ismaili Muslims – A Shia Sect – feels that FGM is necessary for his Dawoodi Bohra Muslim Flock then stopping this act will hurt the Feelings of the Dawoodi Bohra Ismailis and as such the Government of India and / or Private Indian Citizens MUST NOT INTERFERE and hurt the Religious Feelings of the Indian Dawoodi Bohra Ismaili Muslims.
    CheersRecommend

  • Nasir Shah
    Apr 30, 2016 - 10:06AM

    it does not happen in all muslims. Some ethnic groups among muslims practice and some dont. its not a religious obligationRecommend

  • Rizwan Khan Sydney
    Apr 30, 2016 - 10:10AM

    Why is India delaying on Uniform Civil Code…No citizen should be subject to physical or mental trauma on the basis of religion forcefully…This practice is abhorrent and Muslim communities should step up their act to say No to anyone who try to propagate otherwise.Recommend

  • Atheist
    Apr 30, 2016 - 11:55AM

    @Rizwan Khan Sydney: The social change should come from with in the communities ,religion. Outsider should not interfere.Recommend

  • Speak Logic
    Apr 30, 2016 - 2:52PM

    This is a ritual practiced within the family boundaries.
    This community has a literacy rate of 100%, they are economically progressive, respected all over the world, practice the most peaceful form of islam and it also practices highest form of female autonomy and rights.
    It is better not to interfere in matters pertaining to religious beliefs of a sect which has a tremendous track record and have given all the families their personal choices to make the decision as per their level of beliefs. Recommend

  • hassan khawri
    Apr 30, 2016 - 7:29PM

    @Naresh:
    Present Dawoodi Bohra Community has nothing to do with Ismaili Sect. It break the ties with Ismaili Sect centuries ago.. So don’t include Ismaili word when quoting the community. Recommend

  • nisar
    Apr 30, 2016 - 8:06PM

    Just to make things clear, there is a difference between Bohra ismailis and the followers of Prince Karim Agha Khan iv: the Shia imami ismaili Muslims. some people are confusing the two. The shia imami ismaili muslims are respected all over the world for their progressive and tolerant believes. They do practice FGM. ThanksRecommend

  • ramdar
    Apr 30, 2016 - 10:03PM

    @Speak Logic:
    It is a medieval practice, called religion by some. It should not be used to violate rights of minor girls. Adult woman have a choice to follow it if they wish.
    The progressive Bohra people fear of being expelled from community by Sydna, if they do not follow his dictates.Things are changing. It is only a matter of time.Recommend

  • IndianDude
    May 1, 2016 - 3:05AM

    It is good to hear that the followers of the progressive Indian Bohra community is voicing against the backward clergy. Indian muslims are the best of Muslims and generally make themselves and India proud. I hope Pakistanis learn from the example of Indian muslims.Recommend

  • vinsin
    May 2, 2016 - 3:51AM

    @IndianDude:
    So why India Muslims created Pakistan?Recommend

  • vinsin
    May 2, 2016 - 3:52AM

    @Naresh:
    Then remove word secular from constitution first. If they are getting hurt they can move to Pakistan.Recommend

  • Jami
    Jul 7, 2016 - 9:38PM

    There is no such thing in islam or shiaism. Its all screwed men trying to control womanhoodRecommend

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