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Tariq Ramadan Defends Female Genital Mutilation: ’Part of Our Tradition’ and an ’Internal Discussion’ for Muslims Only

Saturday 24 June 2017, by siawi3


Tariq Ramadan Defends Female Genital Mutilation: ’Part of Our Tradition’ and an ’Internal Discussion’ for Muslims Only

by David M. Swindle • Jun 14, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Last week Imam Shaker Elsayed of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in
Falls Church, Virginia, was roundly condemned after a video emerged,
courtesy of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), in which
he recommends female genital mutilation to avoid “hypersexuality.”

Elsayed has since tried to withdraw his comments and apologized,
saying "I admit that I should have avoided it. I hereby take it back.
And I do apologize to all those who are offended by it."

Elsayed’s weak-tea apology has not slowed the loud calls in the Muslim
community for the Dar al-Hijrah mosque to fire him. But on Monday,
influential Islamist thinker and activist Tariq Ramadan released a 10
minute video on Facebook expressing support for Elsayed staying on.
Ramadan stated Muslim leaders who advocate for FGM should be
understood as “brothers,” part of “our community” and Muslims who
disagree should engage them with “internal discussion” and are
instructed “not to expose them.” Here are some of the highlights from
this video.

Video here 6.20 minutes

First Ramadan starts by framing opposition to FGM as a critique coming
from “outside the community” and stating that he opposes the calls for
firing Elsayed:

"I’m reacting to what I heard and some questions that I had about what
happened in Washington with this controversy round a shaykh who was
not yet fired – I hope he is not going to be, but he was asked to stop
preaching and to stop being active within the community or within the
mosque in Washington. And I think that some of the brothers and the
sisters even wrote a letter after the controversy around female
genital mutilation and excision asking for him to be fired from the
mosque and reacting to a video that was posted about what he said in
the gathering with Muslim students, men and women. Let me say three
things about this because I think this [sic] are critical times and we
have to be quite serious about the way we are reacting to
controversies and the way we are reacting to some critiques that are
coming from outside the community and we have to ask ourselves what we
are doing."

Next Ramadan makes his argument that because FGM is defended by some
Muslim scholars it qualifies as “part of our tradition” and is
therefore worthy of being “promoted”:

"My position as a Muslim scholar, my position: it’s wrong that we
should not promote this because I think that first, it’s not in the
Koran and second, it’s part of the Sunnah that we have, and it’s
something that is done in African countries, among the Christians and
the Muslims and it’s not religious. Having said that, I cannot deny
the fact that some scholars at the highest levels of their
institutional position are supporting the fact that this is possible
that you can go for excision, not to go up to the mutilation and
infibulation as it is known in African countries, but we have this in
our tradition and it’s part of the internal discussion that we need to
have. So to please people who are attacking Islam by saying ’Oh no,
no, no, this is not Islamic. It’s illegal,’ it’s not even faithful to
our tradition. We need to have an internal discussion... So, once
again, we have to be serious. Any one of the six months of any basic
Islamic training, no one can say it’s not part of our tradition. It’s
controversial, it’s discussed... you need to take a position, but you
then cannot deny the fact that this is something which is part of our

Then Ramadan shifts to attacking opponents of FGM, decrying them as
Islamophobes, attacking MEMRI by name, and criticizing Muslims for
wanting “to be perceived as moderate, open-minded”:

"You need to ask yourself: who are these people who are using videos,
putting them and creating controversy? If you are reacting only when
Islamophobes – and the people, MEMRI, we know who they are, we know
what they want to do, we know in which way they want to make Islam
problems, not only in the United States of America but around the
world through the translation, distorting and covering in ways that
are very specific, they have a very specific objective, they have a
very specific way of dealing with scholars, intellectuals, and Islam.
These are Islamophobes, and you react to them by just exposing one of
your leaders, a shaykh that has been serving the community for more
than 30 years and you ask for him to be fired so quickly just to be on
the safe side of the political discussion in the United States of
America by saying ’Oh, we have nothing to do with this’ while your
tradition is there and it’s discussed within your tradition and
whoever is attacking you at least you have to be cautious with the
people who are using this and are putting you in a situation which is
yes, problematic, but you have to stand for your rights to have
opinions, and at least to have internal discussion and not to react so
quickly to these issues... And the last thing that I wanted to say: we
disagree. I don’t agree with the statement. I don’t with one brother,
I don’t agree with one leader. Can’t we take the time to have an
internal discussion? To say ’Look we are not going to respond to the
controversy, we are not going to fire the people just to be on the
safe side and to be perceived as moderate, as open-minded.’"

Ramadan’s concluding comments are perhaps the most revealing [emphasis added]:

At least we take the time and we let the people know these are
internal issues, these are discussions that we want to have among
ourselves and it’s not for you to decide when we have to fire somebody
or even what are our priorities, because at the end of the day the
context is now deciding for us, and people around us are deciding for
us what are our priorities, what are the main principle of Islam, and
we are not able to come with dignity, with consistency, with
confidence and say, ’Ok, this is who we are, we don’t have all the
same opinions, there are discussions, there are internal discussions,
we will take our decision, we will have our Shura, our deliberation
with it, and it is for us to decide, not for Islamophobes, not for
racists, not for people who have political agendas that are now
deciding for us... The way you have to be dignified as a Muslim is to
rely on him [points upward] to be consistent with yourself and to
respect your brothers, not to expose them, not to expose your sisters,
even though you disagree, even though you don’t agree. And no double
standards, no selective indignation, or selective rejection of some of
our brothers because they are exposed outside. And as to our internal
business, we talk about it but we let the people, we let the brothers
say whatever they want to say.

This insistence on “no double standards” is loaded with irony, as
double standards are inherent in Ramadan’s worldview. He advocates for
one moral standard for his Muslim “brothers” and “sisters” to engage
in “internal discussion” and for imams to "say whatever they want to
say." But for non-Muslims who oppose the barbaric (and illegal)
practice of FGM – that makes one a racist and “Islamophobe.”