Head of section of Dawoodi Bohra community slams practice which has become a simmering, global controversy
Syedna Taher Fakhruddin, has issued a statement recently, on the simmering issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Syedna Fakhruddin, considered head of one faction of the Dawoodi Bohra community, which has been cleaved into two in a highly-publicised battle, said in his address which was released to the media and is also up on his website that, he wished to issue the statement to, “clear the confusion caused by misguided statements made by those who have usurped control of the community. They have made statements contrary to the faith, limiting the education of the girl child, forcing a glass ceiling on the role women play in society, and undermining the position women have in a marriage.” Condemning FGM and calling it, “an un-Islamic and horrific practice,” he said he was forced to take a public stand after several women from the community brought to his notice the trauma young girls undergo when circumcision is carried out in an, “irregular and improper fashion”.
Dr Abdeali Qutbuddin
Here, Dr Abdeali Qutbuddin, brother of Syedna Taher Fakhruddin, clarifies this faction’s stand on FGM, post their public statement.
Syedna Taher Fakhruddin
Q. Which women have brought the FGM controversy to Syedna’s attention?
Qutbuddin: Several Bohra women, including well-known groups like change.org, are petitioning for a stop. They have petitioned, emailed and some women have even personally met the Syedna.
Q. A statement from Syedna quotes him as saying that the khafz (khatna) of girls should only be allowed after they attain legal adulthood... isn’t that sitting on the fence?
Qutbuddin: FGM is un-Islamic and horrific, we clarified that the khafz procedure mentioned in our books is one which should be done ‘electively’ after adulthood. It is different from FGM. It is akin to the CHR procedure which is medically and legally sanctioned in many countries, which is done to “enhance” the pleasure of women, not to “suppress” it.
Q. Why have you suddenly commented on this topic? Is it, as your detractors say, not out of any concern, but to be fashionably liberal?
Qutbuddin: Syedna has been concerned and studying to find a solution to this serious problem for some time. As for being liberal? (he laughs) well, that is only a good thing isn’t it? How can it be bad? When there are sour grapes, there are bound to be such accusations.
Q. What concrete steps will the Syedna take to stop the practice of FGM? Releasing statements is one thing, would there be intervention/protection, if maybe, a woman comes with a complaint about her daughter being forced to undergo FGM?
Qutbuddin: Absolutely. There will be intervention and protection too. Syedna Taher Fakhruddin is the spiritual father, the head of the community. It is natural to take a grievance to him. This solution is one which maintains the sanctity of our faith while protecting children from this trauma. Syedna hopes that the community will follow his guidance. He may make a reference to this in a public address. As for extremist elements who oppose this, Syedna hopes they will see the light, very soon.
Q. The Dawoodi Bohra community is already divided. Your stand on FGM will further deepen that divide…
Qutbuddin: In fact, it should unify people because of the sentiment and solid logic expressed, and it protects children too, so I cannot see how it can divide the community.