Yes Islamophobia hurts, so does Genital Mutilation


On Saturday, a two hundred strong crowd gathered in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg for an Islamophobia forum. But by omitting two widespread violent practices, the Islamophobia Forum placed political point-scoring above honestly addressing the needs of women in Islam.

Nasrin Amin, one of the organisers of the event, told the gathering that “racism hurts.”

The ABC reported yesterday that, “Ms Amin wears a black veil that covers half of her face. She organised the awareness forum in part because of her personal experience, and because of the stories she heard of other Muslim women who have been attacked. Incidents included having their scarves pulled off them, and in one case, a woman had coffee thrown on her.”

I am genuinely sorry to hear that Ms Amin and others have been hurt by the actions of knuckleheads, and I understand that it is invasive and hurtful for people to tug at your clothes and pull your scarves off. Security issues aside, that sort of crass, ill-mannered conduct is not on and I don’t support those actions.

Acid_attack_victimI was however concerned that Ms Amin apparently failed to mention the hurt that many Muslim women feel when they have acid thrown on their face by members of their own community if they don’t cover their faces.

Furthermore, nor did the victims of female genital mutilation get a look in. Only a few days ago, reported that authorities have issued warnings as young girls vanish during the “cutting season.” You see every year around this time,

“Thousands of girls disappear from homes and schools for extended holidays never to return the same again.”

An Afghan girl attends a female engagement team meeting in Balish Kalay Village, Urgun District, Afghanistan, March 27. Women and children attended the meeting with the FET of Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team to discuss major issues and concerns. The FET gathers vital information from Paktika women, and uses that information to help improve their economic, educational and health issues. For the FET, this meeting was a rare opportunity to learn more about the women of Afghanistan.
An Afghan girl attending a female engagement team meeting in Balish Kalay Village, Afghanistan. Look in her eyes and tell me that of all the issues she faces, we need to focus on ensuring her scarf is not ripped off.

I recall watching a female member of Victoria Police trying to mobilise school teachers to keep watch for girls who just stop turning up for school – Sometimes the parents will off-handedly explain that their children have gone to visit relatives. The police officer (who specialised in the area) wanted teachers to report it, so the police could watch at airports and educate their Islamic communities – but the sad reality is by the time a teacher notices that a student hasn’t returned after school holidays, most likely the damage has already been done.

Despite what some will tell you, this is NOT a minority practice chosen by women old enough to make this decision. Take for example this report of the 2012 NSW court cases, where the girls disfigured were aged Seven, Six, and eighteen months.

As the article goes on,

“It’s a part of the annual “cutting season” where girls younger than 15 are sent to visit relatives only to have their genitalia mutilated using knives, scissors or pieces of glass and sometimes sewn up using thorns.”

The impulse, shared by Ms Amin, to stand up for Islamic women, is a good one. We should be engaged in the needs in our community and the issues of the day. However, the current political push to clamp down on “islamophobia” distorts these needs – and would rather talk about tugging at scarves, than the barbaric disfigurement of between 100 and 140 million women and young girls around the world – the overwhelming majority living under Islam.

While I can understand a reaction of horror, followed by an inability to speak and act directly on this issue. So much so that even those against the practice often don’t even speak the words “Female Genital Mutilation” preferring instead the vague euphemism – FGM (somewhat graphic video):

I know this is disturbing and graphic but we need to be speaking about this, and a Political-Correctness-cone-of-silence serves nobody.

In a similar way, the term ‘Islamophobia,’ quickly becoming a popular catch all slogan, is also terribly imprecise. Outrage at the “cutting off the clitoris to a process known as infibulation — where all external genitalia is removed and two sides of the vulva are sewn together… often done without anaesthetic” is NOT ‘phobia’ – it’s Compassion.

Women living under Islam may well need the community mobilised to support them – and forums can be an effective way of engaging allies – but neglecting to speak for women who have acid thrown on their faces, and their genitals mutilated – not only fails to provide support where it is most needed, but disrespectfully uses dis-empowered girls and women as political playthings.