MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A speech by the spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community, in which he appears to be urging followers in India to continue the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), has angered and upset campaigners trying to end the centuries-old practice.
The audio clip of Syedna Muffadal Saifuddin’s speech at a mosque in Mumbai, has been authenticated by several members of the community. According to a transcript, he said: “The act must be done. It needs to be done discreetly when it is a woman, but it needs to be done.”
Calls and e-mails to a spokesman for the Syedna and the administrative office of the leader received no response.
A person described as a close friend of the Syedna family told the Times of India newspaper that the remarks were a “general comment” and that people were “interpreting it differently”.
Campaigners in the city spoke out against the speech.
“The speech is a huge disappointment for us,” said Masooma Ranalvi, who was cut as a seven-year-old and leads an online petition as part of the ‘Speak Out on FGM’ campaign, which has drawn almost 50,000 signatories, including Mia Farrow, who tweeted her support on Thursday.
“Ever since we began the campaign, there has been only silence from the clergy. But now that it’s out in the open, at least there’s no ambiguity about where they stand,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Little is known about FGM in India where the ritual is carried out in great secrecy by the close-knit Shi’ite Muslim sect thought to number over 1 million.
FGM, which can cause serious physical and psychological problems, is more commonly linked to African countries which have led international efforts to end the practice.
India is not included on U.N. lists of countries affected by FGM. Campaigners say Dawoodi Bohras are the only Muslim community in South Asia to practise FGM, estimating that up to three quarters of Bohra girls are cut.
Although it is not mentioned in the Koran, the Bohras consider ‘khatna’ – the removal of part of the clitoris – a religious obligation, and debate on the subject has long been taboo.
But the practice among Indian Dawoodi Bohras hit the headlines in November when a court in Australia found two members of the diaspora community guilty of cutting two girls. A Bohra religious leader was convicted of being an accessory.
Since then, more than a dozen Bohra communities in Europe and the United States have passed resolutions against the practice.
“The strongest form of opposition to khatna is now coming from within the community,” the non-profit group Sahiyo, focused on ending FGM in India, posted on its website on Friday. “Those opposed to the practice have strong reasons for their views.”
Campaigners will now focus on petitioning the government, said Ranalvi.
“There is hypocrisy in the clergy’s stance, so the government is the most important route open to us now,” she said. “We need them to step in to protect our girls.”
(Reporting by Rina Chandran, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)
Sexual harassment of women and children is a serious problem in Pakistan
Kidnapping of girl child is also very common
It is not only a problem in Pakistan but in all countries where Islam prevails
Khaled Ahmed a senior Pakistani journalist and the consulting editor of ‘Newsweek Pakistan’ stated that raping and killing of children is a serious problem in Pakistan.
According to him three incidents were reported on January 28 from different districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A girl child was also kidnapped, raped and killed in Quetta, Balochistan.
A 24 year old man was arrested for raping and killing seven year old girl, Zainab in a city called Kasur, which lies south of Lahore in the Punjab province. This pervert is a religious person and sings songs praising the so called holy prophet of Muslims for a living. He killed seven girls before sexually assaulting Zainab for four days then killing and throwing her dead body in a rubbish dump on January 9.
Police treated her abduction as a routine matter. As per an official count ten children, five of them girls were sexually assaulted and murdered in Kasur within a short span of time.
The first of such incident was reported way back in 2015. This reveals the incompetence of Police and administration in Kasur. Khalid says these sort of unfortunate incidents are rapidly rising all over Pakistan.
Eight boys were murdered after criminal assaults in 2017. In Sargodha, the body of a violated 15 year old girl was dumped in the fields on January 11. In Pattoki, an 11 year old boy was strangled after being sexually assaulted. In Sheikhupura another eight year old girl was abducted, raped and strangled to death before being thrown in a dustbin.
In Kasur, the Police registered cases against the Plaintiffs for reporting the crime instead of arresting the offenders. The local judge incarcerated the poor parents.
The victims of a gang of rapists even went to Lahore and protested in front of the assembly, after which the Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif heard their grievances for four hours. He promised to help the victims with lawyers and transportation but ultimately Sharif didn’t provide any assistance. (1)
‘Bacha bazi’ an old tradition of Afghanistan has been documented in the award winning film ‘The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan’ featuring journalist Najibullah Quraishi. The film depicts accounts of Afghan boys subjected to sexual slavery.
According to ‘The Guardian’; “The bacha (child) dancers are often abused children, whose families have rejected them. Their owners or masters can be single or married men, who keep them in a form of sexual slavery as concubines.”
An Afghan boy Omid says that he is paid approximately $2 for the night and often gang-raped. He mentioned that he cannot go to police for help because the perpetrators are powerful and rich men. The police cannot do anything against them.
The ‘New York Times’ wrote that American soldiers are ordered to ignore the screaming cries of young boys sexually abused by their Afghan allies. The Americans are told to turn a deaf ear to this aspect of ‘Afghan culture’.
‘Pakistan’s Hidden Shame’, a documentary directed by Mohammed Naqvi and produced by Jamie Doran tells deeply distressing stories of vulnerable children from Peshawar.
These unfortunate kids try to ease the pain of their lives by using narcotics or resorting to self-harm by cutting themselves. They get regularly raped as well as gang raped.
According to one man, “Once there was a boy on the bus and everyone had sex with him”. This pervert boastfully admitted to raping 12 different children during his career as a bus conductor. (2)
More than 150 women filed criminal complaints, three quarters of them for sexual assault. Two cases of rape were reported in the infamous mass sex assault by Muslim asylum seekers on girls and women in the German city of Cologne on New Years Eve of 2016. (5)
David Spicer led a review in the wake of ‘Operation Sanctuary’, which saw 18 people jailed for the sexual abuse of young women groomed in Newcastle, U.K.
The exploitation was not recognized in adults. This operation identified approximately 700 victims across the Northumbria Police area, 108 in Newcastle.
Mr. Spicer carried out the serious case review for the Newcastle Safeguarding Adults and Children Boards. He said that “adults were being targeted, groomed and exploited besides children” but the authorities did not have the powers to intervene with adults to stop them from ‘making bad choices’ or forming ‘inappropriate relationships’.
The report also examined the exploitation of boys and men but said it was complex as well as hidden and operated differently to female victims.
Mr. Spicer stated, “The low incidence of identified cases is likely to be a significant under-representation of the abuse occurring”
One of Spicer’s 33 recommendations includes a need for research into the cultural background of abusers, majority of which are from a ‘predominantly Asian or British minority ethnic culture or background’.
Most of these abusers are British born but came from Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish Muslim communities.
The Quillam Foundation think tank, which focuses on counter-extremism said 84% of the 264 convicted offenders of gang grooming between 2005 and 2017 were of South Asian Muslim heritage.
David Spicer mentioned that the perpetrators he spoke to ‘displayed no regret and spoke in a derogatory manner about lack of morals in British girls”. (3)
Muslims consider Mecca in Saudi Arabia as their most sacred pilgrimage site. A woman named Sabica Khan took to Facebook to share her #MeToo moment at the aforesaid place.
Sabica says; “It’s sad to say that you are not even safe at holy places. I’ve been harassed, not once, not twice, but thrice. My entire experience at the holy city is overshadowed by this horrible incident”
As soon as Sabica’s post went viral on social media, a large number of Muslim women started sharing their sad experiences of sexual molestation at religious places with the hashtag #MosqueMeToo.
“Each time my mom and her sisters went to Hajj, they were groped-disgusting ppl w/no morals. Toxic patriarchy; keep doing what you’re doing, Mona”- Hassan Saleh.
“Had to stop going for Taraweeh and Qiyam one Ramadan because of some gentlemen. Stayed mum because I thought no one’d believe me, or I’d be accused of having an overactive imagination. #MosqueMeToo is our skeleton in the closet”- Kali. (4)
It is quite clear from the above mentioned ghastly criminal acts that Islam has a chronic problem regarding sexual abuse of children and women.