Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Female Genital Mutilation and Islam (WARNING: Graphic content)

UnknownAyaan Hirsi Ali’s beautiful and inspiring memoir is titled Infidel. Born in Somalia, she escaped to the Netherlands from an arranged marriage; became a member of parliament; worked with Theo Van Gogh on a film critical of Islam; he was murdered by a Muslim fanatic; and she wound up in America, at a think tank. Along the way she freed herself from religion.

Hirsi Ali had lived in Kenya and Saudi Arabia as well as Somalia, her father usually absent on revolutionary organizing. As a young woman she tried to be the perfect Muslim. But the Koran’s fulsome verbiage about Allah’s justness jarred with how unjustly she saw women treated.

This is heart-rendingly portrayed in the unhappy saga of Hirsi Ali’s mother. But she was almost fortunate to have an absent husband, because domestic tyranny and wife beating is the norm to which Muslim men are acculturated. The picture contrasted harshly with my own loving marriage.

Unknown-1The twisted Muslim mentality about male-female relations is epitomized by the cover-up fetish. Hirsi Ali’s culture insisted that glimpsing female skin or hair* would make men crazy – so she was astonished that in the West, bare limbs hardly rate a glance, and men don’t lose it even on beaches with practically naked women. images-1To my eyes such scenery provides a pleasurable frisson but nothing more, thus it’s wholly innocent. In Muslim societies there is no innocence; the men seem unhinged by the very concept of feminine sexuality.

Female genital mutilation is widely practiced, mainly in Muslim Africa and the Middle East. It’s been done to an estimated 125 million women. Muslim immigrants bring it to their new countries. It was endemic in Hirsi Ali’s Somalia. “Circumcision” is a euphemism; it’s in no way analogous to the procedure for males, which normally has notable benefits and no real downsides. For girls it is an atrocity of sexual mutilation.images-2

I first learned of it long ago from a big New York Times feature, which puzzled me because it gave no clue why this is done. In fact, it’s to curb infidelity by preventing females from enjoying sex.

Muslims are obsessed with female “purity” and in genital mutilation this goes to an extreme. Not even virginity is enough; an uncut girl is not considered pure. (“Pure from what?” a Western friend once asked Hirsi Ali, unsettling her.)

Use your imagination

Use your imagination

Infidel graphically describes Hirsi Ali’s own mutilation at age eight: cutting out the clitoris and labia, usually without preparation or anaesthetic – obviously exceedingly painful and traumatic. The wound is sewn up, so scar tissue forms to largely close the vaginal opening.** Lifelong pain and complications are common. The death rate is significant.

Hirsi Ali says that “excision” doesn’t even actually keep girls from wanting sex. In her own case, reading novels – specially Harlequin romances! – revved up her hormones, and she fell in love and into a quickie quasi-legal marriage with a cousin. She lusted for him – but the wedding night was a grotesque disappointment.

What I never realized until reading her book is that for sex the man must tear through the scar tissue sealing the opening, and not only is this of course agony for the girl (it took her weeks to recover), it’s really hard work for him (often an extended process, even requiring a knife). imagesCan’t be much fun for men either. Maybe the frustration helps explain all the wife beating and other “Muslim rage.”

We constantly hear the words “sick society” applied to ours. While multiculturalists say one society’s practices aren’t better or worse, just different. And I’ve reviewed here a book that used “the Muslim question” as a pretext to focus on supposed “oppression” of women in America and the West.

Hirsi Ali is clear-sighted about what garbage that all is. It was a joy to read of her culture shock upon arrival in the West, which she’d been taught all her life to despise. While many Muslim immigrants do sustain that attitude, not Hirsi Ali.*** One of her first encounters was with a policeman – helpful, not predatory. Unknown-2That blew her mind. She grasped immediately that here is a society that works – far better, in enabling human happiness and flourishing, than any of the Muslim ones she’d known. Especially for women.

Hirsi Ali wanted to understand the root of this difference. She came to trace Muslim dysfunctionality to Islam itself – the very word means “submission,” denoting a master-slave relationship with God. A religion of fatalism. And assuredly not one of peace – the Koran incites a culture of sacralized violence. Genital mutilation fits right in, but Muslim societies are more violent in numerous other ways. Whereas the West had managed to confine its soldiers of faith to their barracks, Islam has not. Nor has there been a Muslim equivalent of the West’s Enlightenment. images-6“We had been hiding from reason for so long because we were incapable of facing the need to integrate it into our beliefs,” she writes. “And this was not working; it was leading to hideous pain and monstrous behavior.”

Our society, where men and women can relate to one another as free and equal human beings, is virtuous. A society that tyrannizes, brutalizes women – one that cuts out their genitals – is vile.

* BTW, I’ve read the Koran, and it merely tells women to dress modestly, that’s all.

** Hirsi Ali relates accompanying another Somali girl to a Dutch gynecologist who recoiled in horror at the sight.

*** Muslims were inundating the Netherlands, whose values of freedom and tolerance empowered those immigrants to undermine those very values. Defending those Western values against the multi-culti onslaught was what brought Hirsi Ali to prominence.

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9 Responses to “Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Female Genital Mutilation and Islam (WARNING: Graphic content)”

  1. Sarah E. Says:

    This brings so much pain in my heart for so many women. Thanks for this thoughtful article, we are all better from becoming aware of inhumane treatment in the world…and hopefully we can stop this!

  2. Dan Farek Says:

    After reading your blog it is my opinion that Muslim males are raised in a culture of sexual repression. They therefore grow up to fear females and the sex act, so have to oppress the females in order to feel superior. Maybe you can write about prostitution in the Muslim world and how it relates to the attitude toward females.

  3. rationaloptimist Says:

    Any girl who is not (or may possibly not be!) a virgin is commonly labeled a “prostitute.” This apparently relates to the fact that any sex outside marriage is considered illegitimate. Of course, there are actual prostitutes, and males patronize them. In Iran, in particular, it is customary for “holy” men who patronize prostitutes to avoid staring the hypocrisy in the face by marrying the woman first (by just saying some words) and divorcing her after (again with just some words).

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Well, this is so saddening. The whole FGM thing is just inhuman. Though I hate the generalisation ‘Muslims’. I am a Ugandan muslim girl and here in Uganda, FGM is not a muslim thing. It exists, yes – but on a cultural (tribal) level and it was outlawed by our government. The Quran says nothing about FGM and I believe it was never mentioned because it is a non-muslim practice. Am saddened that the writer underwent this pain; I imagine it is painful on so many levels but could she state facts here. It is the society from which she originates and not Islam the religion that condone that.

  5. rationaloptimist Says:

    Many thanks for your comment. It is true that FGM is not specifically Muslim, and may even have been “tribal” in origin, but the fact is that it overwhelmingly occurs in Muslim societies. It is also true that almost every nation outlaws it — in theory — but in practice such laws are widely ignored.

  6. erobinson100 Says:

    You mention in the reply above that FGM “overwhelmingly occurs in Muslim societies.” This may be true, but that does NOT mean that the overwhelming majority of Muslim women experience FGM–a point that I think should have been made more clear in your original post.

    Having now spent six weeks in a very conservative part of Oman, there are a few things I’d like to add. While I haven’t discussed FGM with any of the locals, I did have a very frank conversation with a young Omani woman about sex education in Oman. To my great surprise, it does happen, albeit not until the last year of high school, right before the first wave of women get married (more and more women are waiting until they finish college, however). The course covers STDs, birth control (which appears to be common here), and the biology of sex. The young woman was very supportive of the idea of sex education, was surprised to learn that some Americans reject the idea of birth control, and she did not seem uncomfortable in the least discussing these issues.

    It is still true that most marriages in this part of Oman are arranged, and that usually cousins will marry each other (the Omani woman I spoke with rejected the notion of marrying one of her own cousins, however). Sex–or really any relations with people of the opposite sex before marriage–is not accepted here.

    From a Western perspective, there appears to be a great deal of inequality–and even discrimination–between men and women, though the Omani women with whom I’ve spoke insist that there is perfect equality between the sexes in all spheres of life.

  7. rationaloptimist Says:

    Thanks. Of course there isn’t one “Muslim world,” and cultures differ greatly from place to place; some more enlightened than others. As to your last paragraph, Hirsi Ali’s book notes that the men in her early life always insisted that the sexes are equal — but the reality starkly belied this. For example, a wife needs her husband’s permission to go anywhere, but not vice versa.

  8. Marieinbethpage Says:

    The Moslem religion and culture are an extension of their race. Their problem isn’t Islam , it’s DNA.

  9. FGM&MGM Says:

    >>“Circumcision” is a euphemism; it’s in no way analogous to the procedure for males, which normally has notable benefits and no real downsides. For girls it is an atrocity of sexual mutilation.<<

    I wish people would stop repeating this non-sense. While the MGM is not as damaging as FGM, it still is a mutilation and there are no scientifically proven benefits ("notable benefits"? you surely must be joking), quite the contrary, it decreases sexual pleasure and in some not so rare cases, the boy grows into an adult with a dysfunctional mutilated penis.
    I won't even go into the philosophical issue of taking a knife to a human unable to consent in a context other than a medical urgency or necessity.

    The west, especially the US, should stop this barbaric practice on boys before shouting about FGM performed in other societies. Clean your own house before going out to clean other's.

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