Gatestone Institute March 22, 2013
A global campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation [FGM], often misnamed “female circumcision,” continues. While foreign NGOs have made Iraqi Kurdistan a center of the effort to do away with this practice, many observers have argued that it is not a “Kurdish” problem.
FGM is also not just a “Muslim” phenomenon. However widespread it may be among Iraqi Sunni Kurds, its acceptance in Islam is limited. According to the German relief organization WADI [The Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation], in the four provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan, only the farthest north, Dohuk, which borders on Turkey, shows little evidence of FGM at any age. Among the remaining three “governorates,” in the province of Erbil, named for the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), 63% of women have undergone the atrocious custom; in Suleymaniya, 78%; and in Garmyan/New Kirkuk, the southernmost, 81%.
A WADI report on FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan, issued in 2010, stated that in the oldest age ranges – women between 50 and 80 years old – 80 to 95% of a statistical sample had been subjected to FGM.
Continue reading The Global Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation Continues by Irfan Al-Alawi
Gatestone Institute June 29, 2012
A campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM) in Iraq, focusing on Iraqi Kurdistan, has benefited from activism by human rights and women’s groups, but the main responsibility for ending this atrocity belongs with religious leaders. FGM is not a general requirement in the faith of Islam, although some clerics have adopted the pre-Islamic local custom and approve of it. The well-known radical preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has stated that its infliction is grounded in unreliable reports of hadith, the oral commentaries delivered by Muhammad. Nevertheless, Al-Qaradawi has opined that it is acceptable if a girl’s parents so desire.
By contrast, the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) health minister, Taher Hawrami, in appealing for condemnation of FGM, emphasized last year that “Clerics should take on the main role. People need to have better understanding of religion for them to abandon these phenomena.”
The cruel and un-Islamic practice of FGM, involving the cutting of women’s sexual organs, has been recognized internationally as a violation of the rights of girls as well as grown women and an extreme form of discrimination against women. Carried out typically by “traditional” practitioners, FGM includes any procedures that remove partially or totally the external female genitalia, or inflict other injury to women’s sexual organs for non-medical reasons. FGM may be effected by midwives or other supposed FGM “specialists” using broken glass or metal can lids, as well as razors, knives, and scissors, in unhygienic conditions.
Continue reading Campaign Against FGM in Iraq and Middle East by Irfan Al-Alawi
Folksmagazine [India] January 4, 2012
It is customary for columnists to conclude the common year with reflections on that which has just finished and predictions for that which is to come.
I make no pretensions to prophecy, aside from occasional analysis based on news reports. I am, however, a Muslim believer, and will therefore reverse the usual order of such discourses, beginning with what I and those with whom I cooperate in the Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) hope will come about, and dedicating the rest of this contribution to a look back at 2011.
First, let those of us who are Muslims pray and work for an end to violence, whether between Muslims, or inflicted by Muslims on non-Muslims and by non-Muslims on Muslims.
Let us pray and work for a positive victory over the dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.
Let us pray and work against the so-called “Boko Haram” cult that, claiming to act in the interest of Sunni Islam, has carried out brutal attacks on Christians in Nigeria.
Let us pray and work for social reform to prevail over Wahhabi reaction in Saudi Arabia.
Let us pray and work for global leaders to avoid the lure of a “new” Islamist ideology reigning over Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries – of which, more below.
Continue reading Prayers for 2012 and Reflections on 2011
by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog December 1, 2011
The Citadel of Hewlêr (Erbil), ca. 5,000 years BCE, Kurdistan – Photograph 2005 Via Wikimedia Commons.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will travel soon to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for a discussion of border disputes and trade relations, reports the Iraqi news agency Aswat al-Iraq. Ahmadinejad will meet with KRG president Massoud Barzani, who visited Tehran at the end of October with a delegation of KRG ministers and governors. Barzani, as pointed out in THE WEEKLY STANDARD by Frederick W. Kagan, Kim Kagan, and Marisa Cochrane Sullivan, was considered previously “the Kurdish leader most staunchly opposed to Iran.” In Tehran, Barzani and Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced that Kurdish rebel actions against Iran, along the border with the KRG, had ended.
Iran is looking for auxiliaries to its considerable and menacing influence over the Iraqi central government, perhaps out of mere desire for aggrandizement. But Tehran may also fear that Arab Shias in Baghdad will prove a troublesome partner in its anticipated alliance of Shia-ruled Middle East states, once the U.S. leaves. Iraq’s Shias, a majority of the country’s population, do not accept the political model of the Iranian clerical state, or “vilayet-e faqih” (governance by religious jurists). Hostility between Iranian and Iraqi Arab Shias, as described by Nathaniel Rabkin writing for THE WEEKLY STANDARD in 2007, is reflected in religious literature produced by Iraq’s Shia religious authorities, or marjae. And of course the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88 has not been forgotten.
Continue reading Iran Interferes in Iraqi Kurdistan by Stephen Schwartz
Hudson Institute New York August 18, 2011
Kurdish Regional Parliament, Arbil, Iraq, 2005 — Photograph (c) Hawi Afandi, via Wikimedia Commons
In June, the parliament of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) adopted a ban on domestic violence, including female genital mutilation (FGM), a “procedure” that is widespread among Iraqi Kurds. The law will come into effect once it is signed by KRG president Mesud Barzani, who represents the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
But a local cleric, Ismail Sussai, in the major Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil, has delivered a televised sermon in which he described FGM as “obligatory,” called on fathers to kill themselves, on pain of losing their “honor,” if they are legally prevented from abusing their daughters for using mobile phones; and he defended the beating of wives and children.
The Kurdish cleric was particularly offended by use of mobile phones among girls, as well as by suggestions that the beating of women and children should be legislatively curbed, along with the FGM that was inflicted on the mothers and grandmothers of present-day Iraqi Kurdish leaders, and is still suffered by a majority of Kurdish girls.
He went on to threaten political opposition to the KRG if Barzani signs the law against domestic violence and FGM.
Continue reading Female Genital Mutilation “An Obligation” According to Iraqi Muslim Cleric by Irfan Al-Alawi
Hudson Institute New York
DiTiB Mosque in Brackwede, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, 2005 — Photograph via Wikipedia Commons
Of the many signs that point to the growing influence among Turks and Kurds living in Germany of the Justice and Development Party [AKP], which represents an “updated” Islamist ideology, the worst aspect of it is that it will likely go unopposed.
The June 2011 election victory in Turkey by AKP, headed by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, provoked debate in both Western and Muslim countries, but few commentators have analyzed the impact of AKP’s third triumph at the polls on Germans of Turkish and Kurdish origin or heritage – the main Turkish immigrant community in the West, with as many as four million members, or five percent of Germany’s total census.
Turkish residents of Germany have the right to vote in Turkish elections. According to the leading organization representing the Sunni Muslim majority among them, the Türkische Gemeinde Deutschlands (Turkish Community of Germany or TGD), 63 percent of German Turks participating in the vote cast ballots for AKP and Erdoğan. Kenan Kolat, federal chair of TGD, told media that the pro-AKP result among German Turkish voters in the Turkish poll was a “legitimate representation of Turkish opinion.”
Continue reading Islamist and Nationalist Radicalism Among German Turks
by Veli Sirin
Islam Sight [Malappuram, Kerala, India], July 25, 2011
1. THE TWO FACES OF ISLAM is your masterpiece. I never read any book that deals with the history and present character of Wahhabism so deeply, aside from it. What led you to write such a book?
Thank you for your high compliments, which I treasure.
I became aware of the negative role of Wahhabism in present-day Islam during the Bosnian war, with the interference of Wahhabi “mujahidin” who came to Bosnia and did not contribute properly to the Bosnian struggle but did attempt to impose their deviant interpretation on the Balkan Muslims. I read everything then available in Muslim sources on Wahhabism and when I went to live in Bosnia was prepared to confront it.
When I came back from the Balkans, the events of September 11, 2001, and the involvement of Saudi subjects in the terrorist atrocities of that day, made my knowledge of Wahhabism suddenly relevant.
I had intended to write a book on Islam, and, with no warning, a specific topic – Wahhabi radicalism – was thrust upon me. I took up the challenge, but all such abilities are gifts from Allah subhanawata’la, so finally must say I wrote the book because I was guided to do so. I was presented with a task, and did my best to fulfill it, and, alhamdulillah, have been rewarded for it in this life. It is perhaps a matter worthy of irony that when I was writing The Two Faces of Islam some of my non-Muslim colleagues were surprised when I said I was writing the book more for Muslims than non-Muslims. They presumed that Muslims would not read my book. But my book has had a greater impact in the Muslim countries than in the West, which is very gratifying to me.
Continue reading Wahhabism, Terrorism, Islam
Interview with Stephen Suleyman Schwartz
by Lukhman Karuvarrakund
Hudson Institute New York, June 27, 2011
The parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan registered an important victory against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on Wednesday, June 22, when it passed, by a large majority, legislation banning the practice. The brutal and un-Islamic custom of FGM has now been criminalized in the Iraqi Kurdish region, even as Western European countries have vacillated on its prohibition.
The success of Iraqi Kurdistan’s anti-FGM law has been partly credited to sustained investigative and lobbying work by a German/Iraqi non-governmental organization, WADI. The group has conducted surveys, beginning in 2007, revealing the wide incidence of infliction of FGM among Iraqi Kurds. WADI has disclosed that more than 60 percent of women and girls in Iraqi Kurdistan have been subjected to genital mutilation.
FGM has been criticised widely as a medically indefensible form of abuse producing serious physical and psychological trauma. Anxiety, permanent discomfort, and infertility are common in females who have suffered the operation, which is typically carried out by untrained “specialists,” usually older women, without hygienic protection.
Continue reading Iraqi Kurdistan Passes Law Against FGM by Irfan Al-Alawi
NewsGram [India], April 9, 2011
On Tuesday, 5 April, the Egyptian newspaper Almasry Alyoum reported that professor Ahmed Al-Sayeh of Al-Azhar university, the supreme academic institution for Sunni Muslims, had asked his relatives in Upper Egypt to send him a machine gun. He intends to use the weapon to defend the shrines of spiritual Sufis, which abound in the land along the Nile, against attacks by Islamist fundamentalists, who call themselves “Salafis” but who others call “Wahhabis,” based on their inspiration in the Saudi kingdom.
Professor Al-Sayeh is not alone. In the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution, which brought so much positive expectation to the Arab and Islamic world, as well as to those outsiders observing it with interest, the complex networks of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) have appeared to many as prepared to assume political leadership of the country. While the Brotherhood now disclaims violence and radicalism in religion, it shares an extensive history with the more aggressive, so-called “Salafis”. All the strains of Islamist fundamentalism claiming authority over Sunnis have a common basis, from Saudi Wahhabis beginning in the 18th century, through the MB and its recent imitators in the Turkey, the Justice and Development Party (AKP). This essence is incorporated as well in the South Asian jihadist followers of Abu’l Ala Mawdudi (1903-79) and the present-day Pakistani-Afghan Taliban, which draws its inspiration from the purist Islamic movement founded at Darul-Uloom Deoband in India a century after the Wahhabi outbreak in Arabia. That is, all have embodied an ideological fantasy of return to an idealized, primordial Islam – and an Islamic state – imagined as pristine and unaffected by 14 centuries of historical and cultural change, as well as by interactions with and borrowings from local and global non-Muslim societies.
Continue reading The Widening War Against Sufism by Stephen Schwartz
Hudson Institute New York, December 6, 2010
As reported to the Centre for Islamic Pluralism by the non-governmental organization Stop FGM in Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, on 25 November, officially admitted the wide prevalence in the territory of female genital mutilation (FGM). Recognition by the KRG of the frequency of this repellent custom among Kurds came during a conference program commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Kurdish infliction of FGM distinguishes the local culture from most Muslim societies. FGM is most common in Black Africa, Egypt, southern Saudi Arabia, and among African, Arab, and Kurdish immigrants in Europe. It is also known in such pre-modern, isolated societies as that of the Embera, an indigenous community in Colombia, according to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.
FGM has no basis in the foundational texts of Islam but has been legitimised by clerics such as the notoriously retrograde Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Egyptian-born and based in Qatar. Al-Qaradawi has admitted that the supposed justification for FGM is based on unreliable reports of hadith, the oral commentaries of Muhammad. While Al-Qaradawi declared that FGM is not required in Islam, he supported it if a girl’s parents wished it be done. FGM is typically carried out by midwives using unsterilized razors, and also may involve knives, scissors, broken glass, or pieces of tin. Girls who have suffered FGM may then have their vaginal openings sewn shut. Among Africans living in the Saudi kingdom, it is reported that genital “reopening” is necessary at childbirth and that further genital mutilations may be repeated.
Continue reading Iraqi Kurdistan Confronts Female Genital Mutilation by Irfan Al-Alawi