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1994-1995 Third World Legal Stud. 73 (1994-1995)
Islamic Law and the Issue of Male and Female Circumcision

handle is hein.journals/twls1994 and id is 91 raw text is: ISLAMIC LAW AND THE ISSUE OF
Sami A. Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh*
Chapter I. Definitions and Erroneous Distinctions
I. Male and Female Circumcision
Female circumcision has triggered a passionate public debate in
the West, with many national, non-governmental, and international
organizations showing their concern. This debate has found somewhat
of an echo in the Arab world. Feminist circles demand its abolition,
while simultaneously the Muslim religious circles continue to justify
female circumcision, only in the form called sunnah, which means the
one conforming to the tradition (sunnah) of Muhammad (see chapter
II, paragraph I). Unlike female circumcision, male circumcision does
not really interest anyone. The debate on the topic is still taboo.
During the UN Seminar in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), the
majority of participants agreed that the justifications for female
circumcision must be assimilated to superstition and denounced as
such since neither the Bible, nor the Koran recommend that women
be circumcised. ' They recommended that male circumcision and
female circumcision be dissociated; the former is a procedure for
hygienic purposes, the latter, a serious form of assault on women's
physical integrity.2
This reasoning is groundless and extremely dangerous. If one has
to apply all that is said in the Bible and the Koran, we might end up
legitimizing the application of many inappropriate norms such as the
law of retaliation. And suppose that female circumcision was in the
Bible or the Koran, would it be allowed no matter what?
*Staff Legal Advisor on Arab and Islamic Law, Swiss Institute of Comparative Law, Lausanne.
'Report of the United Nations Seminar related to Traditional Practices affecting the Health of Women
and Children, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, April 29-May 3, 1991, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/48, Jun.12, 1991,
p. 9.

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