Abeer Allam writes in The Financial Times that recent comments by Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi stating that the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is “a private issue between mothers and daughters” has caused an “uproar” in Egypt. Though officially prohibited by law, FGM is still widely practiced across Egypt where, according to Unicef, nearly 90% of women of childbearing age have been subject to the procedure.
Allam points out that for practitioners of FGM, “tradition and custom overrides the law, even religion.” Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt issued a fatwa against FGM in 2009–an instance where a practice has gone from being permissible to impermissible in Islamic law. The fatwa was issued after convening a group of Islamic law scholars and public health workers in a summit to consider the merits of allowing the practice with new understandings of science.
Journalist Mona Eltahawy notes that despite the opinions of high-ranking jurists, there are other clerics who continue to advocate FGM. Additionally, Allam notes that the political ascendance of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is of concern to rights advocates, who worry that they will “roll back women’s rights and reverse laws passed under the former regimes to appease their ultraconservative base.”