Accepting FGM

Female genital mutiliation (FGM) is the name given by critics, to the practice formerly known as ‘female circumcision’. It is also known by the more neutral term genital cutting.

In western Europe, FGM is always associated with Islam. In reality the practice is not limited to Muslims, and it does not occur in all Islamic countries. Nevertheless, the perceived association with Islam is so strong, that FGM has come to serve as a proxy for Islam itself. Christian and secular opponents of Islam cite it, as evidence of the barbarity of Islam. Opponents of Muslim immigration cite it as a reason to stop the immigration, and/or deport Muslims. FGM has become a recurrent theme for the anti-Islam movement in Europe and North America

Ann Barnhardt: Female Genital Mutilation in Islamic culture

Ann Barnhardt took her views to their logical conclusion, by burning the Koran, having first bookmarked it with strips of bacon.

The tweets below also show the role FGM plays for opponents of Islam. Click on the screenshot for the original status (it may have been removed in the meantime).


FGM is also widely quoted as an argument against cultural relativism, and in favour of forced assimilation of immigrants. Although never solely because of the FGM issue, most European states do restrict immigration to preserve national culture, and do enforce cultural assimilation.

The issue is very similar to that of immigrant rape. Opponents of immigration think that repeated rapes of ‘native’ women in Europe prove that immigration is wrong. Some of them, such as Anders Behring Breivik, see that as a justification for violence. It is 100% correct, that if there are no immigrants there will be no immigrant rapes, but that does not justify the expulsion of tens of millions of people from EU member states, or violence against perceived “multiculturalists”.

Although there is apparently no call to deport immigrants solely in order to stop FGM, all anti-FGM campaigns inevitably have some impact on them. If a political campaign against FGM is successful, and results in government policy, then that will directly affect at least some immigrants. Specifically, legal prohibition of FGM would mainly affect Muslim immigrants from Africa. In some EU states that would be mainly Somalis, Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Egyptians: in others mainly West Africans. Depending on the adopted policy, there may be some impact on non-Muslim immigrants.

In the Netherlands in 2003, the government considered compulsory gentital inspections for Somali girls. Parents would have been required to present their daughters for inspection, at their school, every six months. The final proposal was limited to making existing health checks on all children more frequent, and introducing compulsory reporting by the doctors. The debate on the issue, and the associated hostile climate, may have contributed to secondary migration. In the last decade, Somalis began to leave the Netherlands – not back to Somalia, a war zone, but to the United Kingdom.

Several EU states have now made FGM a specific criminal offence. Even though these laws are not widely applied, they contribute to the uncertainty among migrants about the political climate in the destination country. Remember that the practice is often widespread in the country of origin, socially accepted, and until recently legal. Fear of prosecution, for what is seen as normal, can act as a deterrent to migration.

It is not necessary to consider here, whether opposition to FGM is patronizing or colonialist or hypocritical. The mainstream position is that it is both Islamic and wrong, and that mainstream position determines social attitudes and government policy. It is unnecessary to even ask if FGM is wrong: the ethics are irrelevant here. They would only be relevant if FGM was the absolute wrong, evil itself – and apparently no-one takes that position.

The political fact is that some people oppose FGM, and express that opposition in the political arena, with social and political consequences. They are affected by the existence of FGM, and so are the women in question. It is legitimate for the state to consider their position and their aspirations. However, European states must also consider migration, for that is also a fact. Migrants are also affected by state policy, including FGM policy: that too is a fact.

A rational response to FGM should therefore take account of the negative effects of deliberately targeting immigrant minorities, on whatever issue. Conflicts of culture and values are inevitable with mass immigration, and there will always be some reason to introduce migrant-specific policies. Equally, it is always possible that they will act as de facto immigration restrictions, or migration deterrents. For that reason, the state must decide first on its migration policy. Migrant-specific policies, such as anti-FGM campaigns, should be formulated in accordance with that prior policy.

For those who abhor FGM, it is logical to demand that the ‘import’ of FGM through immigration should be prohibited. That implies a ban on immigration from the countries affected, and in fact on some ethnic groups, since individuals can hold a second nationality. No European state currently has such a policy, nor is it likely that they will adopt it. The option of territorial separation should therefore be considered, preferably in combination with responses to other migration and cultural issues. The creation of FGM-free zones would implement the aspirations of its opponents – creating an FGM-free society, while allowing for continued undeterred immigration into the remaining territory.