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The NYT jumps on genital mutiliation bandwagon, so to speak, with an article about how Egyptians are bonding together to fight so-called Female Genital Mutilation. This at the same time that a trial is underway in Washington State on the male variety. I find efforts to equate these two customs as stretched.

Circumcision, as supporters call it, or female genital mutilation, as opponents refer to it, was suddenly a ferocious focus of debate in Egypt this summer. A nationwide campaign to stop the practice has become one of the most powerful social movements in Egypt in decades, uniting an unlikely alliance of government forces, official religious leaders and street-level activists.
Though Egypt’s Health Ministry ordered an end to the practice in 1996, it allowed exceptions in cases of emergency, a loophole critics describe as so wide that it effectively rendered the ban meaningless. But now the government is trying to force a comprehensive ban.
Not only was it unusual for the government to shut down the clinic, but the health minister has also issued a decree banning health care workers— or anyone — from conducting the procedure for any reason. Beyond that, the Ministry of Religious Affairs also issued a booklet explaining why the practice is not called for in Islam; Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, declared it haram, or prohibited by Islam; Egypt’s highest religious official, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, called it harmful; television advertisements have been shown on state channels to discourage it; and a national hot line was set up to answer public questions about genital cutting.
But as the men in this village demonstrated, widespread social change in Egypt comes slowly, very slowly. This country is conservative, religious and, for many, guided largely by tradition, even when those traditions do not adhere to the tenets of their faith, be it Christianity or Islam.
For centuries Egyptian girls, usually between the ages of 7 and 13, have been taken to have the procedure done, sometimes by a doctor, sometimes by a barber or whoever else in the village would do it. As recently as 2005, a government health survey showed that 96 percent of the thousands of married, divorced or widowed women interviewed said they had undergone the procedure — a figure that even astounds many Egyptians. In the language of the survey, “The practice of female circumcision is virtually universal among women of reproductive age in Egypt.”
Though the practice is common and increasingly contentious throughout sub-Saharan Africa, among Arab states the only other place where this practice is custom is in southern Yemen, experts here said. In Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive, cannot vote, cannot hold most jobs, the practice is viewed as abhorrent, a reflection of pre-Islamic traditions.

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