EGYPT: Female Circumcision Holds Sway In Egypt.
"My three girls have already been circumcised because this protects their chastity and is in line with our religious teachings," says Sayeda, a 38-year-old Muslim, who lives in a slum on the outskirts of Cairo.
"My neighbours have circumcised their girls too. I have been told that only Jews do not circumcise their girls."
'Form of violence'
The death of Bodour, 11, in a village in the Upper Egyptian town of Minya last month during a circumcision operation at a private medical clinic prompted the Egyptian authorities to ban the practice at all public and private medical centres.
During a recent meeting on violence against children, Egypt's First Lady Suzanne Mubarak branded the practice, widely known as female genital mutilation (FGM) as "a form of violence against our girls". She is also pressing for a law to criminalise the practice.
Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, who is the country's top Muslim cleric, recently decreed that female circumcision is haram or religiously prohibited.
He told Reuters in an interview that the practice is not supported by Quran and that it is only mentioned in certain sayings of Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him), which are "religiously weak".
"The law is unlikely to make a radical change," said Hafez Abu Saeda, the Secretary-General, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR).
"The practice is linked to mentality of the people and their cultural heritage," he told Gulf News. "I think there should be a greater role for men of religion to disseminate awareness about the grave harms of female circumcision and that it has no religious grounds."
98% underwent surgery
The government's National Council for Childhood and Motherhood says that nine villages are already "free of FGM" since it launched a scheme to uproot the practice in 2003.
About 98 per cent of Egyptian girls have been subjected to circumcision, according to a survey carried out by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2000. The same survey found out that 75 per cent of Egyptian women supported female circumcision.
AUTHOR: Ramadan Al Sherbiny
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