Mutilation in Maine

by TOM MCLAUGHLIN October 13, 2017

The euphemism is "female circumcision," but federal law banning it in the USA labels it "Female Genital Mutilation" or FGM, and that would seem to be the more accurate term. That law passed in 1997 but if it hadn't, I wonder if it would pass in today's political climate.  

The issue is getting controversial and opinion is divided along left/right political lines. Generally, Republicans want to ban it and Democrats resist. There's also disagreement about whether FGM is a Muslim religious practice or strictly an African cultural ritual. Some say it's both.

A report in The Middle East Quarterly claims FGM is practiced in many Muslim countries beyond Africa, especially in Kurdistan, but there's little research beyond that because such discussion is discouraged in the Muslim world. An article on stopfgmmideast.org claims FGM is discussed in a "hadith," a singular or plural noun for accounts of what Muhammed said, which records a discussion between Muhammed and a woman who performed FGM. Muhammed said, "Yes, it is allowed ... if you cut, do not overdo it, because it brings more radiance to the face, and it is more pleasant for the husband." On the strength of that hadith, today's Muslims do not prohibit FGM.

So how would one "overdo it"? Carmen Fishwick, writing in the UK Guardian, describes FGM thusly:
"Female genital mutilation involves the removal of the clitoris, inner-and-outer lips of the vagina, and the sewing or stapling together of the two sides of the vulva leaving only a small hole to pass urine and menstruate -- depending on the type. Typically FGM is performed with a razor blade on girls between the ages of four and 12, traditionally without anaesthetic."

One FGM procedure only removes the clitoris.

No one had been prosecuted in the United States under the federal law until April of this year when two Michigan doctors, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala and Dr. Fakhruddin Attar were arrested for mutilating the genitals of two young Muslim girls from Minnesota. A USA Today article claims there were many more victims and that Dr. Nagarwala regularly performed the practice but tried to cover up her activity. Nagarwala was released under $4.5 million bond two weeks ago while awaiting trial. Her attorney said she would not flee because the wants a trial: "It's a fight about a sacred religious practice," she added. Nagarwala, a Muslim, clearly believes FGM is a religious practice. Attorney Alan Dershowitz agrees and is consulting with Nagarwala's defense team.

A bill to criminalize FGM in Maine failed by one vote last summer. Maine State Representative Heather Sirocki of Scarborough had introduced the bill and she told me she expects it to be reintroduced by Governor LePage in January. Opponents of Sirocki's bill claim FGM doesn't happen in Maine and her bill is a solution in search of a problem. Sirocki claims Maine girls are indeed being victimized. As evidence, she cites a survey of federal Medicaid data where there are codes for each procedure performed including female genital mutilation. For 2016 alone, Maine documented eight incidents of treatment for FGM - presumably medical intervention for complications resulting from FGM rather than for the procedure itself.

When I attended a forum at St Joseph's Church in Bridgton, Maine last year, a woman claiming to work in the Portland school system said Somali girls told her they'd been taken to Boston for the procedure. If anyone who attended can tell me that woman's name, I'd appreciate it. Sirocki also told me that Maine's Department of Human Services (DHS) instructs mandated reporters to notify DHS about suspected incidents of FGM, but that didn't happen for the eight incidents reported above.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lobbied against Sirocki's bill in Maine and against a similar bill in Minnesota where it was also defeated. However, twenty-four other states have outlawed the procedure. It's perplexing that neither the Democrat Party nor women's groups in the US are not leading the charge against FGM. The issue would seem to be tailor-made for them. Neither do they complain about widespread abuse of women within Islam from beatings to honor killings. The same kind of myopia is evident in the European left as well.

Some claim it's multiculturalism - the idea that all cultures are equal, that no one culture is superior or inferior to any other culture - even one that oppresses women. In my conversation with Maine Representative Heather Sirocki, she cited the case of a Manchester, New Hampshire man, Augustin Bahati, 33, who was arrested last August for what the Manchester Union Leader described as "striking, pushing, grabbing, kicking and pulling out the hair of a woman who was 27 weeks pregnant..." The charges were dropped by Manchester domestic violence prosecutor Andrea Muller because "he lacked the cultural competency to participate in the American justice system." Bahati is an immigrant from the Congo. It's okay to beat up women in the Congo, so let him do it here too?

We'll see what happens when Maine Governor LePage reintroduces the FGM bill in January.    

 

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Tom McLaughlin is a (now retired) history teacher and a regular weekly columnist for newspapers in Maine and New Hampshire. He writes about political and social issues, history, family, education and Radical Islam.  Email him at tomthemick@gmail.com

 


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