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Egypt: Anti-Male Circumcision Campaign

In 2008 Egypt passed a law that banned female circumcision (FGM). Today a group of bloggers started a campaign against male circumcision.

Zobaida owner of Al Haramlek Blog gave birth to a baby boy and refused to have him circumcised at the hospital; She wrote about her encounter with the physician at the hospital:

“يا مدام… دي نضافة عشانه”
آه… ده انت جاي لرزقك بقى، باعتبارنا في القرن الرابع للهجرة وما عندناش مية ولا صابون ولا “وِت وايبس” جونسون وجونسون

فكرت أن أشرح للطبيب الأنيق إنه في أغلب الظن حمار لا يقرأ ولا يعرف سوى ما قرأه في “كتيب الاستخدام”. فكرت أن أشرح له أيضا إنني لن أسمح لليهود أن يقرروا التقطيع من جسم رضيع أنا مسئولة عنه. إنما عدت وتذكرت: بالنظر لإنه حمار ولم يقرأ سوى كتيب الاستخدام ولا يعرف عن اليهود سوى إنهم أحفاد القردة والخنازير … إيه احتمالات إنه يفهم؟

The doctor said: “This is a procedure for his own hygiene”
She replied: “Oh Yes .. since we are in the 4th Hijri year and we've never heard of soap, shampoo, and Johnson & Johnson's wet wipes?”

I thought of explaining to the doctor who most probably knows nothing about the human anatomy other than what he studied as our “user manual.” I also contemplated telling him that I will not let Jews force me to cut off parts of my baby's body but I decided to keep my mouth shut – since he probably knows nothing about Jews other than what he hears of them being the grandsons of monkeys and pigs … really what are the chances of him getting any of what I have to say?

Then she looked at her son and said:

لا أعرف النقطة التي خرج عندها الطبيب الأنيق تحديدا، كان الولد ملفوفا بعمر يوم واحد يكاد لا يلاحظ لو طويت عليه معطفي وهم يريدون أخذه ليوخزوه بالإبر ويقصوا من جسده المنهك بالمقص، ويعذبون أيامه الأولى بالبول الحمضي السائل على جرحه المفتوح. آه يا جزارين يا مجرمين يا جهلة. ما تخافش يا واد، ولا حد يقدر يلمسك وأنا موجودة، أمال إنت فاكر إيه؟ لما تكبر ابقى قطع في روحك زي ما أنت عايز، إنما لحد ما تكبر لك عندي أسلمك لنفسك صاغ سليم.
I do not know when the doctor left us exactly but what were they thinking when they wanted to take my one day old baby boy to stick needles into his frail body and cut a piece of him with a cold scissor? Those butchers want to torture you on your first days in this world and cause you unbearable pain when urine touches his gaping wound .. those ignorant butchers! Fear them not my dear son, no one will lay a finger on you as long as I am alive. When you grow up you can cut off whichever part of your body you choose … until then no one will touch you.

Thinking of her newborn, she wished:

كنت أود أن أعده إن تلك هي المرة الأخيرة التي سيتهدده الجهل والقسوة فيها، ولكنني كنت أعلم إنها ليس كذلك، وإن هذه ليست سوى الموقعة الأولى … فحسب.
How I wish I could promise you that this would be the last time you will be threatened by ignorance and cruelty but I know that this is not how the story goes … this is just the first round!

Emad of Something for the Soul wrote:

الحمد لله نجحت حملة أوقفوا ختان الأولاد … ليس فقط البنات و إنضمت إلينا الدكتوره سهام عبد السلام و هى باحثه و مؤلفة لاحد الكتب و فى السابق أجرى موقع العربيه معها لقاء و نشره تحت عنوان باحثة مصرية ترى ان ختان الذكور جزارة ارتبطت بالمجتمع الذكوري وان الاسلام لا علاقة له بالختان و عنوان فرعى الختان جزاره لا طهاره و فتحت علينا كنز من معلوماتها العليمة و عن طريقها إتصلت بنا منظمه أمريكيه إسمها نوسيرك تتخصص فى محاربة ختان الأولاد تلك العاده التى أخذت تقل فى الولايات لمتحده
Thank God, our Facebook campaign calling for the banning of male circumcision has attracted a lot of attention and members. Dr. Seham Abdel Salam - a researcher and author – supported our cause saying that male circumcision is pure butchery and is directly traced to male-dominant societies; Islam has nothing to do with such a habit. Also NOCIRC - an American organization that is combating male circumcision – got in touch with us.

On their Facebook group, they tackled several issues directly related to the resistance of their campaign; religion, Science, AIDS, and hygiene.

Blogger Ahmad Al Sabbagh has had it with such campaigns saying:

ثم فجاءة وعلى حين غرة وفى غفلة من الزمن وقد توقفت الساعة عن الدوران وجدت من يعبث بذكورتى .. أسف لا أعنى هذا المعنى الأبيح الذى برز إلى مخيلتك .. لكننى وأثناء جولة فيسبوكية إعتدت أن اقوم بها كل عدة أيام .. فوجئت بأن هناك حملة كبرى تم تدشينها للدعوة إلى وقف ختان الذكور وفوراً !!
ليس هذا فقط بل إن الجروب مدعم بالصور والرسومات التوضيحية التى تبين فظاعة جريمة ختان الذكور !!
طبعاً .. لن أخوض فى تفاصيل أخرى لإننى لست بعالم دين .. لكن يكفى بأن أقول أنك إذا حدثت أول شيخ أو عالم دين تقابله فى طريقك عن وقف ختان الذكور فى مصر فانه بالتأكيد سوف يتخلى عن وقارة ولربما ينصحك بإعادة الختان ..
أرحمونا يرحمكم الله
ختان إيه اللى نوقفه للذكور ..
على أى نص دينى تستندون ؟
على أى قاعدة علمية تستندون ؟؟
أم أنكم تعاطفتم مع الرجل فأردتم مساواته بالمرأة التى مُنع ختانُها ؟
هل إنتهت قضايا حقوق الإنسان فى مصر ، وأصبح للعضو الذكرى الحق الوحيد فى المطالبة بوقف ختانه ؟
السادة والسيدات أعضاء المجلس القومى للمرأة والرجل والطفل وكل المجالس القومية لكافة الكائنات الحية ..
عشان خاطر النبى،
أرحمونا يرحمكم الله ..
All of a sudden and when time seemed to stand still, I came across a Facebook group that is against male circumcision! The group posted illustrations of the procedure to support the cruelty of the notion. Of course I will not go into further details because I am not a religious figure but I bet you if you stopped any man of religion you run into the street and asked him him to share his thoughts with regards to prohibiting male circumcision, I assure you that he would be far from pleased and his decency would abandon him as he tells you to sober up!
Have mercy on us! Leave us in peace .. our baskets are full!

On what basis are you basing your demands? Religiously and scientifically? Or did you get jealous of women so you decided to plead for equality between men and women when it comes to circumcision? Did we run out of human rights causes in Egypt and we are only left with the issue of foreskin?

Have mercy on us .. I besiege you!

22 comments

  • James Loewen

    It is wonderful to read about this woman who protects her son from genital mutilation. I wish my own mother had had the information and the strength of conviction this wonderful woman has showed. Her son is very lucky to have a mother so in touch with her own humanity.

  • […] is an excerpt from a blog post of an Egyptian mother who recently gave birth to a newborn baby. The doctor suggested circumcision, but the mother […]

  • RJ

    Thank you! End the mutilation!!! I wish my parents hadn’t mutilated me :( :( :(

  • Sean

    I am glad to see this effort, as a European-American convert to Islam – and uncircumcised. My ethnic groups do not practice this and as my family were relatively recent arrivals in America, we continued the “old” traditions.

    I have been a Muslim for seven years but saw no reason to follow other people’s interpretation of the faith where there is nothing about it in the Qur’an. I am a practicing Sunni Muslim who believes in the ahadith – but I feel that they have been taken out of context and distorted to support this practice.

    So I personally agree fully with the campaign against the practice but nevertheless believe that it should be framed in a re-evaluation of the textual evidences and a look at early Islamic history.

    For by rejecting outright that religious evidences are a double-edged sword, we cede the inherent power of interpretation to those authorities who derive their power from telling others how to live and act, i.e. a monopolization of interpretation.

    Rather it is we who have the advantage. I have noticed that even its proponents fail to claim it is obligatory to be a Muslim, instead relying on the same old tired “hygienic” arguments.

    If we look at the Hanafi and Maliki madhhab (I follow the latter), both of these schools do not regard it as wajib or obligatory. The Shafi’i and Hanbali madhahib are less flexible in this regard due to their own location in the Arab heartland, but I believe that as time goes on, there will be a re-evaluation of this practice as well just like there was a re-evaluation of FGM as it was finally shown to be clearly contrary to Islamic ethics.

    The following are some of my own efforts to reconcile intactivism with Islam, merely by looking at the actual textual and historical evidences. Allah (Azza wa Jall) said in the Qur’an at many places that He created us in a state of perfection, at one with our fitra.

    We should know that what we face is nothing more than the monopolization of interpretation by certain individuals who derive their power from perpetuating such practices. I pray that you all are successful in your efforts and may Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) guide us all to the ummatu-wasita, submission to His will and not those of other human beings. Amin.

  • Sean

    circumcision is mentioned in the Ahadith (plural) largely in relation to Semitic tradition: The Prophet Abraham was circumcised, as was also mentioned in the Bible. The Qur’an indicates that the central message of all prophets was the same, while there were unique differences in their Sunna, or practice. For example, the followers of Prophet Joseph would prostrate to him as a sign of respect whereas it is forbidden to prostrate to another human being in Islam.

    There is room for a similar argument as that used towards Christian advocates of circumcision: The coming of Jesus superseded the necessity to fulfil the letter of the Mosaic law, which would obviously include the Judaic (Semitic) practice of circumcision which the apostle Paul indicated would be unnecessary for the Gentiles who accepted Jesus’ message.

    Similarly, Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad completed and abrogated the messages of the previous prophets. Abraham was circumcised, but what role does this fact have in the ability of the Muslims to achieve their religious duties or hold those core Islamic beliefs? There are other aspects of his times which are not followed by Muslims, so why make some special exception for circumcision? How does circumcision have any bearing on the belief and worship of One God?

    This should answer this first argument which I have found Muslim advocates of circumcision tend to use, i.e. “the Prophet Abraham was circumcised, and we the Muslims follow his beliefs on the Oneness of God”.

    The second “evidence” used by Muslim advocates of circumcision is the hadith: “Five practices are characteristics of the Fitra: circumcision, shaving the pubic region, cutting the moustaches short, clipping the nails, and depilating the hair of the armpits” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book #72, Hadith #779).

    Let us examine the role of Fitra under Islamic law: these are acts which are recommended but not necessarily obligatory. Notice the key word “characteristics”, implying that Fitra is not a status which can be attained by the human being in its perfect sense. But the most significant fact lies in how other ahadith describe the practices of Fitra:

    “Five things are included in the fitra: trimming the moustache, cutting the nails, shaving the pubic hair, plucking the armpits, and using the siwak (arak stick for cleaning the teeth).” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Adab al-Mufrad)

    “Ten are the acts according to Fitra: clipping moustache, letting the beard grow, using the tooth-stick, snuffing water in the nose, cutting the nails, washing the finger joints, plucking the hair under the armpits, shaving the pubes and cleaning one’s private parts with water.” The narrator said: “I have forgotten the tenth, but it may have been rinsing the mouth.” (Sahih Muslim, Book #2, Hadith #502. Also reported by Ahmad, al-Nasa’i, and at-Tirmidhi)

    In neither of these other versions is circumcision even mentioned. These ahadith about acts of Fitra are general, but what about specifics? There is one hadith where the Prophet Muhammad was visited by two Persian envoys whose moustaches were long, and he indicated how his Sunna is to keep the moustache trimmed. Another hadith which specifies these acts of Fitra:

    “A time limit has been prescribed for us for clipping the moustache, cutting the nails, plucking hair under the armpits, shaving the pubes, that it should not be neglected for more than forty nights.” (Sahih Muslim, Book #2, Hadith #497)

  • Sean

    There is one singular hadith mentioning circumcision as one of these acts of Fitra, while at least two other versions do not even mention it and ahadith which go into specific rulings do not mention circumcision either. Given my analytical nature I am one who tends to attach significance to statements, however I believe that the implications would be apparent to anybody.

    These acts are mentioned in relation to hygiene, as is the Islamic practice of Istinja’, i.e. keeping the private parts clean. We intact men all know that it takes little time and effort to clean the penis – a foreskin certainly serves as no impediment to hygiene. I would advise to argue this fact of hygiene and the above points about Fitra the most you can, as this seems to be the lynchpin of the justification.

    I would like to conclude with some quotes from some great Islamic scholars. No sane or intelligent Muslim would dispute the knowledge and piety of these great scholars. What is significant is that each of them explicitly ruled that circumcision was not Wajib or even an issue raised in da’wa, yet somehow some modern-day individuals pretend to know better than them. I do look forward to feedback on this issue, as it is my intention to open up free dialogue on the matter….

    “That all peoples, white and black, Romans, Persians and Abbysinians accepted Islam in the time of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and none of them were investigated concerning circumcision.” – Al-Hasan al-Basri

    “It has been narrated from Al-Hasan that he allowed adult converts to Islam relaxation in getting themselves circumcised. He did not see any harm in their being uncircumcised. He did not see anything wrong with their being called as witnesses or their slaughtering animals or their going for Hajj or their offering prayers.” (Imam Ibn Abd al-Barr, Al-Tamheed)

    “If a male adult embraces Islam and feels apprehensive about circumcision, it is waived in his case, since ablution, ghusl or grand ablution, and other obligations are waived in his case if he feels any of these is hazardous. It makes then more sense for circumcision to be waived in such a case.” (Imam Ibn Qudama, Al-Mughni)

    After the conversion of many people stopped the revenues from Jizya, Jarrah the governor in Khurasan, advised that circumcision be adopted as the religious test for true acceptance of Islam. However, Khalifa Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz (rahimahullah) – whom scholars have regarded both as the fifth of the Khulafa ar-Rashidun and the Mujaddid of the first Hijri century – replied in a letter: “Allah sent Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to summon men [to Islam] and not to circumcise.” (Ibn Jarir At-Tabari, Annales, vol. II, p. 1354)

    If these three believed that circumcision was not necessary in Islam, how can others with much less knowledge claim otherwise? There is also much to the story about the caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz. The majority Sunni Muslims believe that there were four Rightly Guided Caliphs, after which followed a degeneration of the rulers – except for Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, whose status was such that he is often considered the fifth even though he came later. His knowledge and piety was such that he is even regarded as the Mujaddid (reviver of Islam) for the first Islamic century. Hence, if he refused making circumcision an issue for following Islam, how can the less-knowledgeable regard it otherwise?

    In conclusion, given how deeply engrained circumcision is among most Muslim peoples – a matter of culture and tradition rather than a conscious practice of Islam – it seems like a hopeless cause. We often appear as voices in the wilderness. But how often in history have dedicated individuals accomplished great things? Information is the key to erasing both the stigma surrounding the issue and the misconceptions frequently used to justify circumcision.

    • Cindy

      Sean,
      Thanks for your most interesting comments – I find them very informative.
      Below are the comments made by the famous medieval Jewish physician Maimonides, Moses. He makes an interesting observation on why ‘circumcision’ it’s done in the first place.

      The Guide of the Perplexed
      Translated by Shlomo Pines
      The University of Chicago Press, 1963
      (Many scholars consider this to be
      the most authoritative translation to date.)

      Similarly with regard to circumcision, one of the reasons for it is, in my opinion, the wish to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question, so that this activity be diminished and the organ be in as quiet a state as possible. It has been thought that circumcision perfects what is defective congenitally. This gave the possibility to everyone to raise an objection and to say: How can natural things be defective so that they need to be perfected from outside, all the more because we know how useful the foreskin is for that member? In fact this commandment has not been prescribed with a view to perfecting what is defective congenitally, but to perfecting what is defective morally. The bodily pain caused to that member is the real purpose of circumcision. None of the activities necessary for the preservation of the individual is harmed thereby, nor is procreation rendered impossible, but violent concupiscence and lust that goes beyond what is needed are diminished. The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure is indubitable. For if at birth this member has been made to bleed and has had its covering taken away from it, it must indubitably be weakened. The Sages, may their memory be blessed, have explicitly stated: It is hard for a woman with whom an uncircumcised man has had sexual intercourse to separate from him. In my opinion this is the strongest of the reasons for circumcision.
      Sean, one more thing. My husband is intact and he believes that men should use the word ‘Natural’ as opposed to ‘Uncircumcised’ to describe the fact that his penis is intact. He feels that using the word ‘uncircircumcised’ denotes that something should of been done but wasn’t. What’s your opinion on this?

  • Sean

    It is interesting that a well-known Jewish religious scholar made such a statement. First, it gives us a glimpse of how many of its proponents within the Jewish tradition justified it. And this is in the context of the efforts of some Muslims to re-evaluate this practice.

    Circumcision has a deeper role in Judaism, being a sign of the covenant. But if an increasing number of Jews are re-evaluating this and have a practice called the B’rit Millah to replace this traditional symbol, then it gives me similar hope for many Muslims since even its proponents admit it is not mentioned in the Qur’an nor is it an “obligation” for the acceptance of one’s Islam or a pre-requisite for following Islam, although these proponents rely on other excuses drawn from other sources.

    Second, and perhaps most importantly, this is a very startling admission. Because I read that it first became practiced in the U.S. due to notions that it decreases sexual desire or activity and even curtails masturbation. These are obviously notions that have long been refuted by the advances of health/science knowledge, yet looking at this quote by Maimonides shows how these notions go back many centuries.

    “he believes that men should use the word ‘Natural’ as opposed to ‘Uncircumcised’ to describe the fact that his penis is intact. He feels that using the word ‘uncircircumcised’ denotes that something should of been done but wasn’t. What’s your opinion on this?”….

    I never thought about the term before but yes, it makes alot of sense. Now that I think about it, the prefix “un” is often taken as the aberration of that which is perceived as the norm. I like the term intact, as it really says it all and I will certainly use this.

  • Sean

    “But if an increasing number of Jews are re-evaluating this and have a practice called the B’rit Millah to replace this traditional symbol”….

    I meant B’rit Shalom, which is the re-evaluation of the traditional practice of B’rit Millah.

    My point was that if many Jews are now re-evaluating what was previously regarded as an integral part of Judaism, then this gives me hope since circumcision does not have the same central role in Islam.

  • The Koran against circumcision:

    القرآن إزاء تشويه الأعضاء التناسلية

    الله لم يصف الختان في القرآن و من الممكن أن تصبح مسلما دون ختان.
    المصدر النقى و الموثوق للإسلام لا يذكر الختان و لا حتى مرة واحدة
    إنها ليست واحدة من أركان الإسلام الخمسة
    ليست موصوفة بقانون (شريعة) الإسلام و إنما فقط بالسنة و التى تعنى العادة و هناك جدل و مناظرات عن مدى حقيقة نسبتها و صدقها
    و على العكس الآيات فى سورة الأنعام 115 و فى سورة يونس 59 و فى سورة النحل 89 تنهى عن الختان من باب إنها تستبعد كل ما لم يرد فى كتاب الإسلام
    الأية رقم 59 فى سورة يونس تقول: قل أرئيتم ما انزل الله لكم من رزق فجعلتم منه حراما و حلالا قل ءالله أذن لكم أم على الله تفترون

    و تذخر آيات كثيرة بالحديث عن الكمال فى خلق الله
    آل عمران 6 , آل عمران 190-191 , الرعد 8 , الفرقان 2 , الروم 30 , السجدة 7 , ص 27 , غافر 64 , القمر 49 , التغابن 3 , الإنفطار 6-8 , التين 4

    ربنا ما خلقت هذا باطلا آل عمران 191

    لا تبديل لخلق الله ذلك الدين القيم الروم 30

    الكتاب المقدس (القرآن) يبدوا كإنه يعكس نفس ما قالة بولس الرسول فى عدم الختان و يؤيد عيسى و يحيى فى إنهم تعمدوا بمجرد ماء

    رسالة كورنثوس الأولى الإصحاح 12 العدد 18 الله وضع كل فرد فى الجسد كما أرد هو ان يكون

    هذا الإصرار المتكرر يظهر تصميم محمد ضد فكرة أن أمر إلهى قد أعطى لإبراهيم (بالختان) , رب محمد غيور بالضبط كرب موسى , فطالما الخلق رائع و كامل فالتغيير فيها إذا يكون أمر شيطانى , أنظر الآيات رقم 118-119 من سورة النساء و التى تقول : لعنه الله و قال لأتخذن من عبادك نصيبا مفروضا , و لأضلنهم و لأمنينهم و لأمرنهم فليبتكن ءاذان الانعام و لأمرنهم فليغيرن خلق الله و من يتخذ الشيطان وليا من دون الله فقد خسر خسرانا مبينا

    وحده الشيطان الذى ممكن أن يعد أرض كنعان مقابل الغلفة من الرجال , و هكذا القرآن يدين تعميم ختان إبراهيم بإعتباره عادة للمشركين قديمة

    و إذ إبتلى إبراهيم ربه بكلمات فأتمهن قال إنى جاعلك للناس إماما قال و من ذريتى قال لا ينال عهدى الظالمين البقرة 124

    فإذا كان الختان مشقة منسوبة إلى إبراهيم فمحمد إستبعدها عن الرجال الأخرين و تكون محصورة بحادثة فردية فقط (لإبراهيم) و الإنسان لا يجب أن يعدّل فى الخلق و من عمق القرون الوسطى ها هو بعد نظر محمد الغير عادى و الذى هو أقرب لإستنتاجات الطب الحديث و التى تبرر الختان فى حالات نادرة فقط

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