Perlis mufti decrees female circumcision optional, says no proof it cuts libido

Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin says female circumcision may cause harm among infants if done improperly. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin says female circumcision may cause harm among infants if done improperly. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 ― Perlis mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin announced yesterday that the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) or circumcision not only has no basis in Islam, but may cause harm among infants if done improperly.

The Perlis fatwa committee had decided in meeting in April 18 and 19 together with Islamic scholars and medical experts, that there is no proof that the ritual will reduce libido among women, a factor that is regularly cited as one of the reasons behind FGM.

“Female circumcision that is done by certain parts of the society without reviewing its necessity with experts is a practise that has no basis in Shariah, furthermore it may expose infants to harm if done incorrectly,” said the committee’s decision, as announced by Asri on his official Facebook page.

In Malaysia, the most prevalent form of FGM among Muslims is Type I, where midwives or doctors remove the clitoral hood of women, usually when they are still infants or children.

Some practise Type IV, a ritual form which included pricking or nicking of the genitals.

The mufti’s decree goes against a reported declaration by the national fatwa committee in April 2009 that FGM is obligatory among Muslim women.

Similarly, the office of Federal Territories mufti Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad said last year that the FGM is obligatory in Islam.

The Perlis fatwa however said that not all women are required to undergo FGM and the decision is up to “experts”.

The decree did not specify the requirement for a woman to undergo FGM, but said it is an “honour” for those who need to go through with it.

Scientific researches suggest that FGM harms women's physical and emotional health, but has no known health benefits.

Worldwide, more than 200 million girls and women are believed to have undergone FGM, according to United Nations figures.

In Indonesia, women’s minister Yohana Yembise had embarked on a renewed campaign against FGM starting last year despite opposition from religious leaders, while in Singapore, it was reported that medical clinics perform FGM in secret for the Muslim community.