I have been moved to investigate the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) partly by my interest in the rights of women and children, and partly by my perception that what appears to be truth about FGM has become taboo in mainstream discourse.

At the heart of this site is an extended investigation into the nature and origins of FGM. I am publishing the whole investigation, but because of its length, and because transferring it from paper to the blog format offers so many fresh opportunities and challenges, I have decided to publish it chapter by chapter, rather than all at once.

I am, of course, aware that few will have the time, patience or inclination to read through the whole of this investigation. With this in mind I will eventually be publishing much shorter versions of the investigation: ‘condensations’ which can be read in a single sitting, as well as other resources that will, I hope, contribute towards a better understanding of FGM.

If you wish to be notified whenever a new chapter is published you will find ways of following this blog at the bottom of the page.

Chapters published so far

FGM Today

A Typology of FGM
The Harm & the Benefits of FGM
Problems With FGM Statistics
The Distribution & Prevalence of FGM
An FGM Epidemic?

The Correlates of FGM

The Condition of Girls & Women
Sexual Violence
Religion (Part 1)
Religion (Part 2)
The Correlates of FGM – Conclusion

Religious Doctrine & FGM

Religious Doctrine & FGM
The Hermeneutics of Islam
The Anatomy of the Hadith
The FGM Hadith
Male Genital Mutilation (MGM) & Islam

Modern Islam & FGM

FGM and the Schools of Islam
Fatwas by Classical Scholars Favourable to FGM
Modern Fatwas Favourable to FGM
Fatwas Critical of FGM

FGM Before Islam

FGM Before Islam: Non-Islamic Sources
S. B. Zaki’s “Arab Women Before and After Islam”

Gerry Mackie’s ‘Convention Hypothesis’ of FGM

The Origins of FGM (Gerry Mackie’s Convention Hypothesis)
The Persistence of FGM: Game Theory
Mackie on the Persistence & Spread of FGM – Part 1
Mackie on the Persistence & Spread of FGM – Part 2

Evaluating Mackie’s Hypothesis

Islamic Doctrine & Questions of Distribution
Defining ‘Extreme’ Polygyny
The ‘Benevolence’ Assumption
The Footbinding Test

Social Conditions Favourable to FGM
Non-Islamic FGM
The True Functions of FGM
The Origins, Spread & Persistence of FGM: Towards a Comprehensive Theory of FGM

Towards a Comprehensive Theory of FGM

Addressing Objections

1 – A Response to ‘Delinking Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting from Islam’
2 – A Response to ‘Delinking Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting from Islam’
3 – A Response to ‘Delinking Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting from Islam
4 – A Response to ‘Delinking Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting from Islam’
5 – A Response to ‘Delinking Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting from Islam
6 – A Response to ‘Delinking Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting from Islam’

Appendix: Case Studies

What Percentage of Global FGM Are Moslems Responsible for ?
Articles Published Elsewhere

One thought on “An Inquiry Into the Origins, Spread & Persistence of FGM

  1. For Oners82

    My workload is such that this is going to have to be my last contribution to this exchange.

    >”Islam certainly tolerates it, but clearly does not oblige it.”

    How would you view a society that ‘tolerates’ (and/or recommends) child sexual abuse but doesn’t ‘oblige’ it? Societies where CSA was allowed were, not surprisingly, rife with CSA. Is it surprising where FGM is tolerated/recommended/obliged should be rife with it?

    >”Overt way? Where? Can you quote the Sunnah whereby it “overtly” advocates FGM?”

    – – “Abu Hurayrah said: I heard the Prophet say: “The fitrah is five things – or five things are part of the fitrah – circumcision, shaving the pubes, trimming the moustache, cutting the nails and plucking the armpit hairs.”” Bukhari 77:106

    – – ““Abu al- Malih ibn `Usama’s father relates that the Prophet said: “Circumcision is a law for men and a preservation of honour for women.”” Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75; Abu Dawud, Adab 167

    – – “[…] The Messenger of Allah said: When anyone sits amidst four parts (of the woman) and the circumcised parts touch each other a bath becomes obligatory.” Sahih Muslim 3:684 (‘sitting amidst etc’ is a euphemism for sexual intercourse)

    – – “Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.” Sunan Abu Dawud 41:5251

    These all come from SAHIH (arabic for ‘authentic’ or ‘sound’) Hadith collections & are considered as authoritative accounts of Mohammed’s life & teaching. There are also several Adabs (Hadith pertaining to Mohammed’s followers) showing that FGM was obligatory for Moslem females during Mohammed’s reign.

    >”FGM is better predicted by geography, rather than religion”

    What relevant geographical factor connects FGM hot-spots such as Somalia, Mali, Iran, Egypt, Birmingham (England), Indonesia, Oman, Detroit (USA), Kurdistan, Malmö (Sweden), Sydney (Australia)…?

    Isn’t the best question: “What do those inhabitants of Detroit, Iran, Indonesia (etc) who cut their daughters’ genitals all have in common?”

    >”My point is that we are not rational beings, we are rationalising beings and so we appeal to texts to confirm what we already believe/practice (hence the term “cherry picking).”

    Can a Xtian ‘cherry pick’ FGM from the Old or the New Testament? A Jew from the Tanakh? Aa Hindu from the Upanishads?
    And if the texts you believe in actually allow/recommend/oblige FGM then it’s not ‘cherry picking’ – it’s just “obeying the texts”. (Here’s a fatwa which cites the Sunnah/Hadith as justification of FGM – https://tinyurl.com/yazz855y)

    >”I said that it in many regions it is just as prevalent among non-Muslims as Muslims.”

    In a FEW regions, not ‘many’. & those regions are all moslem-dominated., either today or historically. And ‘prevalence’ is not the same as ‘incidence’ – you used the example of Mali where the Xtian population is 5% and the Moslem population 90% – well-documented sociological mechanisms predict that isolated minorities under pressure tend to adopt majority practices, especially kinship practices.

    >”Everybody is responsible for the predictable consequences of their actions”

    Agreed. But you seem to be arguing that ideologies should not be held responsible for the predictable consequences of THEIR teachings.
    Are you suggesting that Nazism should not be held responsible for the Shoah, despite it explicitly advocating the extermination of Jews?
    Are we going to allow ideologies to take credit for the ‘goods’ their doctrines cause, but exempt themselves from responsibility for any ‘ills’ that their doctrines cause?
    If I remember from the start of our exchange, you seem comfortable enough holding ideologies you despise or wish to destroy (e.g. the ‘West’) responsible for the ills they engender, but seem reluctant to do the same for ideologies you support or are beholden to (are you familiar with the concept of dhimmitude?).

    >”Islam spread throughout the world a consequence was also the exportation of Arabic culture which is obviously highly regressive and patriarchal. It was via this cultural shift that things such as FGM spread, rather than via the religion per se”

    That’s a bit glib – it’s like saying ‘German culture’, not ‘Nazism’ was responsible for the Holocaust. Strictly speaking that could be true, but then you’ve got to justify excluding ‘Nazism’ from the concept ‘1930s German Culture’.

    And you provide no evidence to support your hypothesis.

    And how do you define:
    1/ ‘things’ in ‘such things as FGM’? (That’s suspiciously vague – I suspect you just mean ‘bad things’)
    2/ ‘cultural shift’ in such a way as to distinguish it from ‘religious shift’?

    & good luck arguing that Islam is not inherently ‘regressive and patriarchal’. Do you agree that if something is allowed/recommended/commanded by the Koran it must be ‘Islamic’? Because the Koran authorises all of the following: slavery, sex-slavery, dowries, child marriage, polygyny, wife-beating, marital rape, the chattel status of women, half-inheritance for women, women’s testimony being worth 1/2 of that as a man…

    & good luck distinguishing ‘Islam’ from ‘Arabic culture’. Islam regulates every aspect of life down to which foot you must leave a latrine with. It dictates custom, belief, law, dress, kinship, diet, sexuality, education, the ‘Art’s’, international relations, economics, military conduct, medicine, the circumcision of boys and the mutilation of girls…

    Atran seems to be swapping the word ‘culture’ for ‘religion’ according to the following heuristic: ‘good things’ are attributed to ‘Islam’ and bad things to ‘Arabic Culture’. But if he’s going to make that argument he need to establish some epistemological way of distinguishing commands in the Koranhe likes from ones he doesn”t (good ones from bad ones) – because the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ are written side by side in those texts, written and recorded by the same person, or persons.

    He’s been manipulated into adopting the ‘islamist filter’: that islam is perfect, and that anything ‘bad’ associated with it must be attributed to Misinterpretation, Culture or Islam’s Enemies.

    As an atheist you should be wary of adopting this this mindset. You can test whether this correctly describe your condition: in your reply try list bad things about Islam – if you find yourself, for whatever reason, struggling to do this, or attributing those bad things to something other than Islam, then you have adopted the Islamic ‘no-true-Scotsman’ filter.

    Re Indonesia: its colonisation was done by Shaafi moslems – a school of islam that considers FGM as obligatory. Shaafi societies tend to have 90%+ FGM rates. Would Atran attribute this to ‘culture’ and not Shaafi doctrine? Does he think that doctrine has no effect on people’s behaviour? Or it does, but only when that behaviour is ‘good’?

    & how would he explain that apostate Shaafis don’t FGM their children & are almost always against it? The only changed variable is ‘religion’.

    >”Oh, and thanks for the maps but as I have already told you they are irrelevant. “

    I don’t see how the world distributions of FGM, Islam and Christianity can be ‘irrelevant’ to this discussion.
    I could waste words untangling your misrepresentations of my position – but in the final analysis you should just look at the maps with your own eyes & mind, & state the conclusion they remorselessly point towards, instead of stalling and trying to peer round the edges of the elephant filling the room.
    Here they are again:


    Liked by 1 person

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