I have always admired disobedient women, especially dissenting women who speak their minds. I’d like to think that I, too, belong to the tribe of rebellious females, something that I remember my devout Muslim father complaining about to my mother as he rolled his eyes, waved his hands and looked up to the heavens for assistance. But there are times when a certain style of protest alienates the very people it supposedly represents.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali writer now touring Australia, is right to cry out against female genital mutilation. This cruel tribal custom, still rife in some East African societies, needs to be denounced by every Muslim. It is dreadful that many victims are told that it is an Islamic custom when it is nothing of the sort. It is doubly distressing that often an entire female network of women – grandmothers, mothers, mothers-in-law and aunts – believe that to be a decent Muslim woman you must be circumcised. There are times when we can’t blame men for everything.

The fact remains that the Koran does not contain any mention or justification for female circumcision. In most Muslim countries it is an alien custom that is not practised.

Long before Hirsi Ali came on the scene, Muslim women around the world were struggling to break free from customary laws. Many progressive Muslim men have joined them in their struggle, for not all Muslim men are “bastards” as some anti-Islamic campaigners would have us believe. Neither are they the one-dimensional villains lurking inside the covers of many “harem-horror” novels sold in our bookshops.


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