FGM: ‘traditional practice’ in 32 countries, of which 29 are OIC States — 3 million girls mutilated worldwide each year, 95% of Egyptians
Comments by David G. Littman, NGO Representative at the UN in Geneva:
Association for World Education and World Union for Progressive Judaism
Oral statement (from UN webcast below the fold) reproduced verbatim below
We decided to speak out again on a “traditional practice”, whose religious links are vociferously denied, despite irrefutable UNICEF facts and figures. FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is spreading in Europe with some migrant populations that practise it traditionally. There are now over 1,500 cases in Geneva and nearly 10,000 in Switzerland, with hundreds of thousands in European Union countries. This won’t cease until it is strongly penalized, backed by an unambiguous fatwa from the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar (Cairo) stating, unambiguously, that this ‘cultural relativism’ is forbidden by all legal traditions in Islam – unfortunately, this is unlikely. The subject is still considered taboo at the UN and an explicit mention of Sharia justification usually leads to an angry denial and rude denigrations, as we have learned from personal experience since 1993.
Written statement with background information on FGM reprinted at end
It is worthwhile comparing our recent statement on this and the minor Egyptian ‘point of order’ incident of 23 March (as recorded on the UN video above, reprinted below), which occurred on the same subject of Violence against Women as the ‘Sharia Affair’ of 16 June 2008. Then, the flamboyant, moustached Egyptian delegate Amr Roshdy Hassan succeeded in blocking the Council for 1¾ hours, resulting in a big scandal and wide media coverage by AFP, AP, Reuters, ATS (17-18 June 2008), with Romanian HRC President Doru Romulus Costea and former HCHR Louise Arbour, American Ambassador and Amnesty International, and our joint NGO statement being quoted at length. Our perseverance then and after appears to have been successful in this field. A follow-up You Tube video on the historic landmark ‘Sharia Affair’, with many captivating moments, is currently being prepared for Jihad Watch next week.
Shipwreck at the UN Human Rights Council: summary of 16 June 2010 event
At about 4:40pm on 16 June 2008, David G. Littman was given the floor by the HRC president to deliver a joint statement for the AWE and the International Humanist and Ethical Union, under agenda item 8: ‘Integrating the Human Rights of Women throughout the United Nations system’. Within 22 seconds he was stopped on a ‘point of order’ by the delegate of Egypt. In all, there were 12 negative points of order – 7 by Egypt, 2 by Pakistan, 2 by Iran, one by Cuba; and three positive reactions: one each from Slovenia (for the EU), Canada and Germany; and 13 explanations by the president, who gave us the floor 4 times. The proceedings of the Council were suspended for over forty minutes, and again for a second recess after the Egyptian delegate and others intervened several times before declaring provocatively: “My point is that Islam will not be crucified in this Council“. The German delegate asked the president and the Egyptian delegate whether this term was “appropriate with regard to the question of mentioning religion and its symbols.” He received no answer. Pakistan’s delegate Imran Ahmed Siddiqui, speaking for Pakistan and the OIC, declared that the statement by the NGO “will amount to spreading hatred against certain members of the Council” – all OIC countries.
When Mr. Hassan threatened to call for a vote if the speaker was not ruled ‘out of order’, the president announced another brief break to analyse “what the speaker had read.” After the 40 minute recess, there had been a capitulation to OIC demands and the president then announced that “this Council is not prepared to discuss matters religious matters in depth. Consequently we should not do it” – and that “declarations” must avoid judgments or evaluation about religion and any mention of Sharia.
Three months later (19 September 2008) we again spoke for AWE on Female Genital Mutilation; so-called “honour killings”; death by stoning; disfiguration of women by acid; marriage of female children, but avoided pronouncing the officially taboo words. A year later (19 September 2009), we used the terms ‘edict’ and ‘ruling’ – with ‘fatwa’ in brackets in our available statement – e.g: “An edict [fatwa] on the website of Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, President of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, is unlikely to change this ghastly toll; only an unambiguous ruling [fatwa] from Al Azhar might help do so.”
FGM: Oral statement of 23 March 2010 / Appendix: Shafi’i fiqh / AWE Written Statement
WORLD UNION FOR PROGRESSIVE JUDAISM
ASSOCIATION FOR WORLD EDUCATION
United Nations Human Rights Council -13th session (1-26 March 2010)
Statement: David G. Littman (37TH meeting) – Tuesday. 12:30 – 23 March 2010
Item 8: Follow-up to & implementation of Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
[The words in square brackets were not pronounced within the 2 minute time limit]
Mr. President, under item 10 [a mistake - item 8], the Vienna Declaration, we wish to raise once again the question of a barbaric “traditional or customary practice”, which is a shameful euphemism for a crime against female children. As is known from UNICEF, more than 3 million female children and girls in 32 countries – including more and more thousands in Europe from an immigration population – are still being brutally mutilated each year. Here in Geneva, it has reached 1500 and more than 10,000 in Switzerland alone, with tens of thousands in almost all the other Member States of the European Union.
Sir, of these 32 countries, 29 are Members of the OIC and in many of them it is the Shafi’i fiqh ruling on female excision that helps explain why the FGM figure in Egypt remains at over 95% [every year], despite the law of 1994 ; and in [North] Sudan over 90%. We have here the Arabic and the English translation of that law [the speaker raises the page in his left hand - see this text below].
We feel it would be well to consult in document A/HRC/33/67, the report of Mona Zulficar* where she explains, under the heading:
Defense of the Ministry of Health decree of 1996 banning female genital mutilation:
[This was a challenge before the Administrative Courts brought by a group of fundamental doctors against the decree by the Ministry of Health banning female genital cutting, on grounds that such a decree was a violation of Sharia law. She joined the defense of this decree on behalf of three NGOs, including Women's Health Improvement Association which she currently chairs and succeeded to help obtain a court judgment upholding the decree in 1998]
That: Female genital cutting is now banned by law and the relevant decree became immune to any challenges – in 2007, in response to the death of a girl child [while undergoing circumcision, the Minister of Health issued a further decree prohibiting this practice in absolute terms...]
This is correct, sir, but we believe, and have said it now for at least 18 years, that until an Al-Azhar fatwa is passed by the Grand Sheikh, this terrible barbarism will continue because the law doesn’t stop it.
Thank you Mr. Chairman [Gavel by vice-president, just as the speaker had stopped after 2 min. 12 sec.]
Vice-President: There’s a point of order. Egypt, you have the floor.
Egypt (lady delegate): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Not only is the issue that the speaker’s talking about completely outside of the item of the debate – it’s completely baseless… although… I don’t feel that I’m in any position or requirement to answer what he’s saying, but I think it’s quite obvious to the Council what kind of measures are being taken in the Sudan [?], so that I would please request him to please remain focused on the item under debate. Thank you.
* Mona Zulficar is an expert lawyer nominated by Egypt in January 2010 as a Member of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee. For her Biographical Data, A/HRC/13/67, Annex, pp. 4-12 (on Human Rights) 5.1 (a)