Theater of Cruelty

On our tall horse

Associating circumcision with Islam obscures reality. In European medicine it has also been common to remove women's clitoris.


In week 35, Dagbladet in collaboration with Hege Storhaug's Human Rights Watch had a series of articles about circumcision of Norwegian girls in Gambia. "It is so according to Muslim law," says one of Dagbladet's sources. This is left unchallenged. The spotlight is also on the imam and the leader of the Koranic school for the Norwegian girls, Mohammed Sey. He defends circumcision. Sey, of course, refers to the Qur'an, because most people fight against monotheistic rhetoric in vain. But he can only say that the Prophet Muhammad did not distance himself from circumcision. In the Qur'an, Mohammed has not commented on the matter. The link between Islam and circumcision is still not new, and the native engaged comments on Dagbladet's blog pages: "Circumcision of both girls and boys is a manifestation of a religion that is racist, submissive and violent (…) I see strong parallels to Nazism – just yet rawer! ».

There are several Imams with Sey's attitude, but all religions can justify abuse. By contrast, Muslim countries such as Tunis, Algeria and Morocco have as little circumcision as Norway, so the link is not waterproof. Moreover, the custom dates back to the time of the Pharaohs, long before Islam was contemplated, and it also occurs in Christian communities. The reasons have varied.

Much of the content in Dagbladet's series was also disputed in the newspaper September 2 by social geographer and Gambia expert Kirsten Øvregård. African-German scientist Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana writes in her dissertation Feminine Genital Mutilations (MGF) that European doctors cured women's hysteria, migraine and epilepsy with clitoridectomy (removal of clitoris), among others. The most prominent was the British gynecologist Isaac Baker Brown (1812-1873). Baker Brown was convinced that nervous disorders were due to masturbation. To stop the creature, he removed the clitoris. A 21-year-old woman with back pain and bleeding after riding also had her entire clitoris cut away when Dr. Baker Brown fixed ulcers on her external genitals. After the procedure, the doctor was satisfied that the woman was rid of the back pain. Sometimes he also removed the little genitalia.

Baker Brown wrote much of his work. He was then attacked for operating on women without the permission of fathers and husbands. Most of all, he was skinned to take the credit for clitoridectomy. But Baker Brown acknowledged his debt to, among others, two of the ancient writers and a German researcher's work on removing the clitoris in nymphomaniacs and the insane (1834). For one year, his method was intensely discussed in medical settings. In 1867 he had to resign his position as president of British Medical Society. Clitoridectomy officially disappeared from the operating rooms, but in 1871 a doctor announced that he had used Baker Brown's method to heal a patient.

Probably a factor as to why they're doing so poorly. Just as Sey is probably also in good faith when, according to Dagbladet, he says that "HIV and AIDS would have been eradicated if people followed the Koran and the women covered themselves. Then the women are safe and can go in peace ». As Øvregård emphasizes in its attack on Dagbladet's cultural arrogance, genital mutilation is often associated with a lack of education. In almost all African countries where circumcision is widespread, the authorities have nevertheless banned it.

According to Herzberger-Fofana, European colonial masters regarded the custom as a curiosity. At other extremes, zealous Western feminists have tried to overthrow the struggle of African women. At a women's conference in Copenhagen in 1980, Western activists had published pictures of mutilated African genitals without asking them. The dialogue broke down. The Egyptian doctor and author Nawal El Saadawi (himself circumcised) devoted his life to circumcision and wrote: “Of course it is good to fight circumcision. But by focusing unilaterally on this, there is a risk that the most central problems of social and economic development will be bypassed, and that effective action will be replaced by a feeling of belonging to a higher value part of humanity… This can blind thoughts and feelings for the liberation of women ».

Søren Kierkegaard said that helping is following, not leading. There's something in it.

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