Activist finds left’s silence on genital mutilation case dismaying
Imagine what the American left would do if conservative Republican Christians engaged in a barbaric practice to mutilate girls, to kill off their sexual desire while leaving them fertile when they come of age.
American feminists and their allies of the left would be outraged. Op-ed writers from establishment newspapers would seethe, and a few, I suspect, would draw some link to the ascension of Donald Trump and angry white men.
But the other day, a Michigan physician was charged in a federal indictment for allegedly conspiring to perform female genital mutilation. It is a practice that predates Islam, but one that remains prevalent in many North African and some Middle Eastern predominantly Muslim countries.
In the Michigan case, the alleged victims are two 7-year-old girls.
American feminism has been mostly quiet about the girls. And the left in general has not engaged. But silence can often hold the truth of things.
“It’s all so very sad and depressing. I find this silence extremely painful,” renowned feminist and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali told me in an interview.
“The left can easily and comfortably condemn the misogyny of white men, but not of men of color, not of Muslims,” Hirsi Ali said. “They are afraid of being shunned. They’re afraid of being put into a basket of deplorables. So they’re silent.
Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia. She was subjected to genital mutilation. Now an American citizen, she runs the AHA Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting young girls from mutilations, honor killings and forced marriages. You can find more about them at their website, http://www.theahafoundation.org.
Her group estimates that in the U.S., some 500,000 women and young girls have suffered genital mutilation or are at risk of the practice. The federal case in Michigan is the first of its kind. Female genital mutilation (FGM) became illegal under a federal law in 1996, but at present, 26 states do not outlaw the practice, Hirsi Ali said.
According to the federal indictment of Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, who has denied the charges against her, the two girls were brought to Michigan by their parents from Minnesota in February. Their genitals were mutilated in accordance with an ancient and barbaric custom known throughout Africa and parts of the Islamic Middle East, to remove sexual desire and, therefore, make them fitting brides in the eyes of some.
According to the United Nations, the practice isn’t confined to Muslim North Africa. Some Egyptian Christian Copts are also said to engage in it.
“This practice does take place in a small amount of countries where Muslims reside, but not all Muslim countries,” Dawud Walid, executive director of Michigan’s Council on American Islamic Relations, told me by phone.
“Whether it is Islamic or not is a moot point. Obeying the law of the land is Islamic and overtly violating the law of the land is not Islamic,” said Walid. “And we obey the law.”
Another aspect of the politics of all this is the decision by The New York Times not to use the term female genital mutilation.
The Times opted for an Orwellian phrase, “genital cutting,” not to spare the Victorian sensibilities of its readers, but because it is politically palatable to the left. But the United Nations uses “female genital mutilation.” The World Health Organization uses “female genital mutilation.”
It is not merely a cut. This is mutilation for a cultural purpose, to rob women of sexual joy and render them as breeders.
All of this — the politically correct filter by The New York Times, the avoidance of the issue by the left, even the destruction of female sexuality by ancient cultures — is political.
And who suffers? Political wits and activists don’t suffer. Girls suffer.
“The decision of The New York Times illustrates the terrible trade-off they’ve made,” said Hirsi Ali. “They’re concerned about politics, about protecting a group versus the individual rights of the child or the woman.
“Groups don’t have rights. Individuals do. Individuals have bodies. You can lock them up, cause them pain, and break their spirit. And so the talk is about groups and identity politics. When what is being done is actually mutilating the genitals of a little girl.”
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His Twitter handle is @john_kass.