Muslim female circumcision goes viral in Russian media


Report about local custom that provoked sensation reaches prosecutor general

by Artur Priimak

Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 18 August 2016


The chairman of the Coordinating Center of Muslims of the northern Caucasus, Mufti Ismail Berdiev, proposed performing circumcision on all women in order to reduce depravity on the planet. The mufti made this declaration in response to a request to comment on a report by rights advocates regarding the practice of ritual operations in several regions of Dagestan. Singer Diana Gurtskaia, a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian federation, sent to the Office of the Prosecutor General a request to verify the authenticity of the report of rights advocates and to adopt measures.


Yesterday Mufti Ismail Berdiev told Interfax: "It is necessary to circumcise all women, so that there will not be depravity on the earth." But several hours later Berdiev corrected himself: "I do not urge circumcising women. This is not prescribed by Islam and it is simply impossible." However the mufti made a statement in defense of this ritual practice two days in a row. On Monday he said on a program on radio station "Govorit Moskva": "This is simply a Dagestani custom. It is done in order to lessen female passion a little."


Berdiev's statement was issued in response to a request to comment on a report titled "Conduct of mutilation operations among girls in Dagestan," where information from interviews by experts of the "Legal Initiative of Russia" with female residents of the mountainous regions of the republic--Gumbet, Tsumadinsk, Tliarata, Botlikh, etc.--was presented. The reporters said that the operations were most widespread among Avars and closely related people of western Dagestan, but this practice is also found among Aguli and Tabasaran of southern Dagestan and also in the plains of the north of the republic. The reporters said that a majority of girls from 3 to 12 years of age went through this ritual, which existed back in the soviet years. In the future, rights advocates say, this is fated to continue since it is part of the fabric of the Shafii school of law (madhhab) of Islam, which 90% of Dagestanis profess.


Yesterday the chairman of the Commission for Support of the Family and Maternity of the Public Chamber of the RF, singer Diana Gurtskaia, reported that she asked Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika to pay attention to information of the report about "Saudi" morals in Dagestan: "Civil activists and religious leaders of various confessions with whom I managed to talk in these days view the report as an attempt to assault the peace and inter-religious stability in the northern Caucasus.  Measures of urgent prosecutorial reaction to activities violating the constitutional principle of protection of motherhood and childhood are necessary."


"Female circumcision is a very closed topic in Dagestan," the head of the sector of the Caucasus Institute of Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Bobrovnikov, told NG. "According to my information, it is in the western regions of Dagestan: in the Tsumadin and part of Akhvakh regions and partially in the plain, in the Tarumov, Kizilyurt, and other regions, where they mainly go from the Tsumadin highlands." Bobrovnikov did not agree with the reporters that cutting of private parts is a universal tradition in the republic: "It is not in southern Dagestan." By this sentence the scholar cast doubt on the conclusions of the report that this custom is among the Aguli and Tabasaran peoples of southern Dagestan. Bobrovnikov does not agree with the reporters in terms of alleged existence of a direct link of the archaic custom with religious canons: "This is not a purely religious but a local tradition. The Shafii law school does not prescribe this tradition, but it does not oppose it." Among Shafii authorities (as generally among Muslim authorities) there is no unified opinion regarding female circumcision. But many theologians and experts of Islam consider the Hadith (traditions about the words and actions of the Prophet Muhammed) that prescribe female circumcision to be inauthentic.


"Both female and male circumcision have nothing to do with Islam," Magomed Abdulkhabirov, a Dagestani physician and public leader and native of Tsumadin district of Dagestan, told NG. "The ritual of circumcision was represented back on the frescos of ancient Egypt, and Judaism and Islam later appropriated it for themselves. Male circumcision is useful from a medical point of view, but female circumcision is barbarism. It is a painful, bloody, and mutilating operation, sometimes with a fatal outcome or infection, with terrible painful scars and constriction of the urinary tract. Anyone who does this is committing a crime and should be put in prison by law." (tr. by PDS, posted 18 August 2016)




RIA Novosti, 17 August 2016


The head of the Coordinating Center of Muslims of the Northern Caucasus, Mufti Ismail Berdiev, explained his words about female circumcision that evoked a widespread public resonance as a joke.


Earlier the organization "Legal Initiative" published an account according to which, in several residential areas of remote district of Dagestan, the surgical operation including deliberate injury of the genitals of teenage girls is practiced.


On Wednesday, the chairwoman of the Commission for Support of the Family of the Public Chamber, Diana Gurtskaia, asked Prosecutor General Yury Chaika to conduct an examination of this information. Berdiev also commented on the account.


Berdiev said that he merely had in mind that in several regions of Dagestan the practice of circumcising girls has spread, although "this is not in accord with Muslim sharia."


"And then I jokingly added: What if this were everywhere, then perhaps this would serve the cause that there would be less depravity. And then they (journalists) twisted my joke and said that the mufti is for circumcision," he explained to RIA Novosti.


"They took everything to absurdity," he summed up.


In 2008 the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution about the necessity of the total elimination of the mutilating practice of female circumcision. In 2012 a similar resolution was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations.


Such an approach is also taken by Russian health, declared an official representative of the Russian Ministry of Health, Oleg Salagai. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 August 2016)



RIA Novosti 17 August 2016


The Islamic religion does not prohibit female circumcision completely, although it permits it in only some circumstances—as a conscious decision of a woman, made without compulsion, Mufti of Moscow and the Central Region Albir Krganov, the head of a working group of the Public Chamber of Russia for Combating Pseudo-religious Extremism, told RIA Novosti.


Previously the organization "Legal Initiative" published an account which explained that in several population points in remote districts of Dagestan the surgical operation is conducted, entailing the deliberate wounding of the genitalia of teenage girls.


On Wednesday, the chairwoman of the Commission for Support of Family, Children, and Maternity of the Russian Public Chamber, Diana Gurtskaia, sent to Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika a request to verify this information.


She emphasized that in the event of confirmation of this information, "urgent measures of prosecutorial response are necessary."


"According to Sharia (the complex of Islamic prescriptions—ed.), female circumcision is permitted. But this does not say that it is obligatory; it is a profoundly individual decision of each person. And this is permitted only in allowable form," Krganov said.


He explained that there are various forms of female circumcision, including, as he said "there are entirely inhumane approaches, which were used back in the pre-Islamic period, as a kind of punishment. . . , leading to the example of so-called 'pharaohnic circumcision,' which removed all external indicators of sex."


"Such actions are completely forbidden by Islam. If there is no necessity of the correction of the organism that the Almighty gave you, it (circumcision) is improper. I consider that such a decision may be made by a woman independently or, if she is a girl, with the consent of her parents, and it is obligatory that a physician be present. This must be a very well-informed decision," the mufti emphasized.


Commenting on the opinion of the chairman of the Coordinating Center of Muslims of Northern Caucasus, Ismail Berdiev, who stated, according to several news media, that "it is necessary to circumcise all women," Albir Krganov noted that "this is his personal opinion."


"But if this topic is discussed in the northern Caucasus, in the regions, I think that the ecclesiastical boards (of Muslims—ed.) could—if this matters to them—initiate a discussion of this topic involving a broad public or even experts from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, and scholars. In the area of an ecclesiastical board, scholars of institutions, or public chambers of the regions, it is possible to discuss this topic among them in order to bring it to an end in order to explain to people what this is," the mufti added. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 August 2016)



Interfax-Religiia, 17 August 2016


The chairman of the Coordinating Center of Muslims of Northern Caucasus, Ismail Berdiev, spoke out in favor of the circumcision of women.


"It is necessary to circumcise all women so that there will not be depravity on the earth and so that sexuality will be diminished," declared the mufti on Wednesday to a correspondent of Interfax-Religiia.


He pointed out that circumcision is practiced in several residential areas of Dagestan.


At the same time, I. Berdiev said that Islam does not prescribe circumcision of women.


"But it is necessary to reduce the sexuality of women. If this were applied to all women, that would be very good. The Almighty created woman so that she would give birth to children and raise them. And this (circumcision—IF) has nothing to do with that. Women will not cease to give birth because of it. And then debauchery would be less," the news agency's interlocutor summed up.


Yesterday on the official website of the rights defense foundation "Legal Initiative" a report was published about the practice of female circumcision in Dagestan, evoking sharp discussion on the Internet. The consequences of the operation result in the lowering of sensitivity and sexual desire of women who are subjected to this procedure. The report says that this is confirmed also by the respondents and expert physicians who practice it.


From the materials of the foundation, it follows that female circumcision in the region is practiced mainly in mountain villages in Tsumadin, Botlikh, Tsuntinsk, and Bezhtinsk districts. It is noted that girls aged up to three years are subjected to the operation and in rare cases up to 12 years.


The report notes that these operations are considered a violation of the rights of women and girls on the international level, inasmuch as they represent an extreme form of discrimination and violence. Female circumcision is rarely performed in hospitals, and often after a covert operation inflammation and bleeding occur


However, despite the fact that women who are subjected to circumcision justify this practice and advocate its continuation in new generations, the procedure of the operation itself leaves strong traces in their psyche. Women who are subjected to circumcision remember the pain and stress and many often do not recall why this operation was done to them, the published report says. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 August 2016)

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