Abstract

ABSTRACT:

Recent events, including the arrest of physicians in Michigan, have renewed bioethical debates surrounding the practice of female genital cutting (FGC). The secular discourse remains divided between zero-tolerance activists and harm-reduction strategists, while Islamic bioethical debates on FGC similarly comprise two camps. “Traditionalists” find normative grounds for a minor genital procedure in statements from the Prophet Muhammad and in classical law manuals. “Reformers” seek to decouple FGC from Islam by reexamining its ethico-legal status in light of the deficiencies within narrations ascribed to the Prophet, the health risks posed by FGC, and contemporary perspectives on human rights, and thereby delegitimize the practice. This paper argues that alignment between secular and Islamic views can be found in a harm-reduction strategy by demonstrating that the impetus to reduce harms is found within Prophetic statements on FGC. From an Islamic ethico-legal standpoint, it is justified to acknowledge the permitted status of FGC procedures that do not harm—in other words, the ritual nick—and at the same time the prohibited status of procedures that lead to credible medical and psychological harms. Bringing these multiple perspectives and data points into conversation forges a common ground to delegitimize and eradicate harmful genital procedures among Muslim communities.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 273-300
Launched on MUSE
2019-07-01
Open Access
No
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