Clitoral Relativism—Female Genital Mutilation in “Tolerant” Islamic Indonesia


An August 1993 report in the British Medical Journal (abstracted here) on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) stated plainly, in its summary conclusions: 

Female genital mutilation, also misleadingly known as female circumcision, is usually performed on girls ranging in from 1 week to puberty. Immediate physical complications include severe pain, shock, infection, bleeding, acute urinary infection, tetanus, and death. Long-term problems include chronic pain, difficulties with micturition [urination]  and menstruation, pelvic infection leading to infertility, and prolonged and obstructed labor during childbirth.  

Not surprisingly, FGM is outlawed in the United States and most Western countries, and there are concerted efforts to eradicate this barbaric practice, globally.  

But just today, the barbarism of FGM is indeed referred to “misleadingly” as “circumcision” in a quintessential culturally (or if you prefer, clitorally) relative depiction by Sara Corbett published in the New York Times Sunday Magazine (1/20/08). Ms. Corbett’s ~ 1000 word essay even omits any discussion of the basic acute (“severe pain, shock, infection, bleeding, acute urinary infection, tetanus, and death”)and chronic (“chronic pain, difficulties with micturition and menstruation, pelvic infection leading to infertility, and prolonged and obstructed labor during childbirth”) medical complications, described in the 1993 British Medical Journal report.  

Pace Corbett, in tolerant Islamic Indonesia, its progressive Muslim women denizens take their pre-adolescent daughters (infants, toddlers, young girls) to “free circumcision events,” apparently in droves, as “96 percent of families surveyed reported that their daughters had undergone some form of circumcision by the time they reached 14.” Here is Corbett’s nauseatingly reverent account (salvaged only by the accompanying narrative’s photos–like the one above–which capture the actual horror experienced by the victimized young girls): 

When a girl is taken — usually by her mother — to a free circumcision event held each spring in Bandung, Indonesia, she is handed over to a small group of women who, swiftly and yet with apparent affection, cut off a small piece of her genitals. Sponsored by the Assalaam Foundation, an Islamic educational and social-services organization, circumcisions take place in a prayer center or an emptied-out elementary-school classroom where desks are pushed together and covered with sheets and a pillow to serve as makeshift beds. The procedure takes several minutes. There is little blood involved. Afterward, the girl’s genital area is swabbed with the antiseptic Betadine. She is then helped back into her underwear and returned to a waiting area, where she’s given a small, celebratory gift — some fruit or a donated piece of clothing — and offered a cup of milk for refreshment.

Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (Prometheus, 2005) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism " (Prometheus, November, 2008) You can contact Dr. Bostom at

9 responses to “Clitoral Relativism—Female Genital Mutilation in “Tolerant” Islamic Indonesia

  1. Andrew, talk about a speedy response to the article! Good job. I’m not sure what’s more revolting, that FGM is still so widely practiced, or that Westerners are rationalizing this barbaric practice and telling us not to criticize.

  2. I believe that Andy’s post frimly drives a nail into the belief that FGM is mostly a N.African phenomenon. Unbelievable that a female journalist would write such a “un-detached from reality” account of a brutal practice on a small girl. It looks like it could have been written by a Muslim misogynist male.

    Perhaps she should try out the procedure herself, then write an accurate report on the true ramifications of having such a procedure.

    Is her life truly “ehanced” by having a portion of her clitoris cut.

  3.' Michael B. Schub

    The Wahhabi Saudis don’t practice this. In Somalia, however, the entire clitoris and labia minora are often excised (cut off), usually followed by infibulation (sewing together the labia majora, leaving a small opening for urination). World feminist organizations remain politically correct, i.e. silent.

  4.' Michael B. Schub

    For a lively debate on Egyptian TV on this topic, go to Clip#1555.

  5.' Julie Mckinley

    The first thing we must do is stop calling this by the wrong word. It is female CASTRATION.

  6.' Larry L. Sharp

    This is yet another example of why their premise, that Islam is a superior religion to all other religions, falls woefully short of the truth.

    It must be utterly horrifying for an Islamic woman to give birth.

  7. “There is little blood involved.” ?????

    Is Sara Corbett blind? Does she think this is just another piece for her usual Travel & Leisure beat? Perhaps she with born without a clitoris herself and for that reason, fails to see the torture here.

    Whatever the reason for her inability to recognize and denounce CHILD ABUSE before her very eyes – the NYT should give Sarah Corbett the boot.


  8. The ph0tos were worth a thousand times more than the article. I believe one of the pictures said the circumcisers were comforting a little girl when it was painfully obvious that they were restraining her, both from the look on her horrified face and her arms being stuck straight out like sticks because she desperately wants to escape the coming terror.

    And oh dear God in heaven, what kind of punishment can you possibly come up with that will suit women who would cut a nine-month-old baby.

    Miserable stinking barbarians.

  9. In Februrary 2007 Dr Muhammad al-Mussayar of Al-Azhar University, referring to reliable hadiths from Muslim and al-Bukhari, stated:
    “All jurisprudents, since the advent of Islam and for 14 centuries or more, are in consensus that female circumcision is permitted in Islam. But they were divided as to its status in the sharia. Some said that female circumcision is required by the sharia, just like male circumcision. Some said this is a mainstream practice, while others said that it is a noble act.”

    Of the four Sunni schools of sharia, it is the Shafi’is who have said that circumcision of girls is compulsory.

    The ‘Reliance of the Traveller’, a respected manual of Shafi’i jurisprudence, states “Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the clitoris” (section e4.3). [The English translation by Nuh Ha Mim Keller (certified by Al-Azhar University) disguises the true meaning of the Arabic text by offering the following bogus English ‘translation’: “For men it consists of removing the prepuce from the penis, and for women, removing the prepuce (Ar. Bazr) of the clitoris (n: not the clitoris itself, as some mistakenly assert).” ]

    As Indonesia is a country in which Shafi’i Islam predominates, it is hardly surprising that female circumcision is commonly practiced among Indonesian Muslims, from Java to Aceh.

    There is a close correlation between Shafi’i Islam and the frequency of FGM. Regions where the Shafi’i school predominates are also the places where FGM is more frequent. These include Egypt, southern Arabia, Bahrain, Kurdistan, Somalia, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia.

    The oft-recited claim that FGM is not a religious practice is proved false, not only because it is more frequently found in Shafi’i areas, but also because it was introduced, along with Shafi’i Islam, into Southeast Asia, a part of the world where it had previously been unknown.

    It is only the teachings of the sharia which account for this practice being followed in Bandung Java today, and specifically the doctrinal formulations of the Shafi’i school of sharia. Imam Safi’i may be long-dead, but he has a lot to answer for to the Muslim women of the world.