An open letter to the President of The Gambia & GAMCOTRAP-female circumcision
Mr President and Ma,
It is quite disheartening to know that you issued an executive order to ban female circumcision in The Gambia. Sometimes I wonder what kind of Islam you are propagating; one minute you are out there articulating and commanding like a devout muslim and another moment you are doing things that totally go against Islam. You recently issued directives to ban female circumcision and under 18 marriages. Do you even know what Islam says about these issues and how it addresses them? The age 18 is a western invented cap which has nothing to do with a girl’s attainment of adolescence. Most girls in this era reach puberty at the age of 13 and 14 on average which is the baseline period for marriage in Islam and not your own invented age limit. What you have done is to leave girls who have reached puberty before 18 with no option if they can’t control their urges but to indulge in premarital affairs. You keep ranting that we are muslims and will live by the book yet virtually every word and action of yours goes totally against the Quran and sunnah. Listen to your scholars and lower your wings over them so that you learn and be guided.
Now to Gamcotrap; I once listened to your radio program – “sitabaa koto” one morning as well as the comments and sentiments from diverse callers with a great mind and meticulousness in order to ascertain your justification for the fight against what you call female genital mutilation. At this point I want to confess that I have personally met both you (Dr. Touray) and Amie and am marvelled by your level of conviction, determination and zeal to succeed in your struggles including female circumcision as I call it, but I found both of you as perfect gentlewomen – a fact I cannot rubble under the carpet.
Notwithstanding, I wish to register my discomfort and disagreement with some very disturbing remarks I heard from your panel that morning regarding the status of circumcision in Islam. Allow me to quote that you said “female circumcision is not DEEN as it has not been mentioned anywhere in the Quran or in the authentic traditions of the Prophet (S.A.W).” I was even more abashed when a gentleman from Salikenia in Badibou I presume, called debunking in the strongest possible terms that female circumcision is not Islam. With all due respect gentle man and ladies, Islam is not a religion that every “fodayring” and “fodaybaa” can express his/her own personal opinion or opinions of some misguided, self centered and petro dollar scholars. I intend to demystify all these misconceptions with textual proofs from the authentic traditions of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) insha Allah and hopefully we will land at a common ground.
Firstly I wish to strongly condemn the way and manner in which the practice of female circumcision is conducted in the Gambia as it is extreme and culminate into lot of hardship and prejudice for the victims. This I would second your opinion that it is unislamic and barbaric and should be discouraged at all levels in our society. However, the fact that we have a harmful tradition in our society in this matter does not give us carte blank to condemn a practice which is considered Sunnah accordingly to the majority of the rightly guided exegesis of Islam in the likes of Imam Ahmad, Ibn Hajar, Shaikh Uthaymeen, An Nawawi, Ibn Al Qayyim amongst others. I have culled some useful references from the hadith and scholarly opinions regarding the manner in which it should be done and status of the practice in Islam (whether Sunnah or not). At this point I want to warn that it is dangerous and blasphemous for anyone to propagate the idea that female circumcision is barbaric and unislamic. Although we don’t know of reports that the prophet (S.A.W) circumcised any of his daughters but it is proven that he acquiesced to the practice through some people who were performing it and other authentic reports that could be traced back to him in no uncertain terms. Let’s examine some of the following reports and scholarly opinions that substantiate my point;
It is narrated that the prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) advised a woman who did circumcision in Madeenah as to the proper way of circumcision. It was narrated by Abu Dawood (5271), al-Tabaraani in al-Awsat, and al-Bayhaqi in al-Shu’ab from Umm ‘Atiyyah al-Ansaariyyah that a woman used to do circumcision in Madeenah, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to her: “Do not go to the extreme in cutting; that is better for the woman and more liked by the husband.” This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.
According to another report: “Take only a little and do not go to extremes.” Although I am aware of the fact that some people doubt the authenticity of this hadith but even for the sake of sheer argument there is still a mountain of evidence on this issue.
It is also indicated by the general meaning of the evidence that has been narrated concerning circumcision, such as the hadeeth in al-Bukhaari (5891) and Muslim (527) from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him): I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say: “The fitrah is five things – or five things are part of the fitrah – circumcision, shaving the pubes, trimming the moustache, cutting the nails and plucking the armpit hairs.”
In Saheeh Muslim (349) it is narrated from ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “When a man sits between the four parts (arms and legs of his wife) and the two circumcised parts meet, then ghusl is obligatory.”
According to a report narrated by al-Tirmidhi (109) and elsewhere: “When the two circumcised parts meet…”
Al-Bukhaari used this phrase as a chapter heading.
Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) said: What is meant by this metaphor is the circumcised parts of the man and the woman.
Female circumcision is done by cutting a small part of the skin that looks like a rooster’s comb, above the exit of the urethra. The Sunnah is not to cut all of it, but rather a part of it. Al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah (19/28).
The Shaafa’is, the Hanbalis according to the well-known view of their madhhab, and others are of the view that circumcising women is obligatory. Many scholars are of the view that it is not obligatory in the case of women; rather it is Sunnah and is an honour for them.
But we would like to point out here that it has medical benefits to which attention should be paid, regardless of the difference of opinion among the scholars as to whether it is obligatory or mustahabb (liked).
In light of all these insurmountable evidences accentuated above; how can anyone declare all out war against a tradition that is already legislated as per the life the Prophet (s.a.w)?
Finally, I am appealing to you Mr President and the executive of GAMCOTRAP to look back and reflect on the course you are fighting.
I hope this letter would serve as a gentle reminder for you and please fear Allah in this regard.
Your brother in Islam
BBC Sanneh, your article is well articulated and hands up well written. however, my argument here is based on the purpose of the article. Dr Touray, as far as I know is not an islamist nor is she an antagonist to Islam.
I will therefore urge us all to critically look at what she stands for as a presidential candidate, representing no single religion or culture of our diverse people.
Thanks Bakary. My article isnt in any way an attack on Dr. Touray’s capacity as Presidential candidate but rather in her capacity as an activist in the fight against FGM and so called child marriage. I personally have so much respect and regard for her so pls dont take it as a deliberate sabotage of her presidential ambitions. If you look beyond her political ambition, you will see the moral of my case.
Well if that is the case, then your reaction is rather belated. If you attack her now, it can only be interpreted as an attack on her capacity to lead the country because your reaction came just as she prepares to announce her candidature. Her suitability or timing to stand for election will be an ensuing debate. Towards which I look forward to.
But I think the attacks, which are supposedly to protest against her campaign against FGM, are rather personal dislike and has nothing do with merits or wrongs of FGM. Remember She is also a offspring of the same culture and upbringing like the majority of the people who practice FGM.
Hence it is only right that one of us take the bull by the horn and campaign against practices, irrespective of our cultural or religious beliefs, which are detrimental to our girl child.
One must ask themselves if this article is not an attempt to cast aspersions on Dr. Tourays candidacy, why write it now? Why publish it the very same week that news of her candidacy got out? This has been a life long cause for Dr Touray, and FGM was banned in The Gambia last November. So why now Bb sanneh?
Gentlemen I believe my article speaks for itself in terms of arguements for and against FGM and early marriage. I have no interest in being critical to Dr. Touray’s political aspiration so let’s discount politics out of this.
Certainly Islam does not frown upon female circumcission or early marriage as i substantiated in the article. Yes indeed, it will frown upon the abuse of these practices and as such regulate them but not ban them completely.
In fact there is no single unequivocal statement in my entire piece that can be argued to be a personal attack on her or her presidential aspiration. I purely focused on her fight against FGM and early marriage in the context of Islam. Let’s not loose sight of the bigger picture.
Timing is everything! Let sleeping dogs lie or wait until another debate on FGM flares up. For now keep your guns to your chest or point it to where It may help bring back sanity.
Why now BB Sanneh ?????????????????
My people, we need to be very careful. This piece could be more presentable at the time before the ban was put on FGM. Why should that be published now when it is not about being against her Candidacy? Some times I wonder if we really want a change of Government in the Gambia. No doubt, some of this authors are progovernment agents who would like to see the Gambia in this same situation bcoz its in their interest even though the others countinue to be falsely arrested, charged, sentenced, kidnap, killed, maimed and disappeared dailly. Lets be minful.
Dr Touray’s interest in the presidency is news to me, but very interesting. Is she standing under any group(s) or as an independent…?
My reaction, with regards to the subject of female circumcision (not mutilation), is total disbelief. I cannot believe that in spite of all the scientific and medical evidence we have on the subject today, and our knowledge of its negative physiological and psychological effects on the wellbeing of the female, there still are very intelligent people willing to put forth arguments in its support..
The arguments being advanced by supporters of the practice, from either the religious, social or (believe it or not) health perspectives, are so weak that it is even embarrassing that they are still being put forth..I hope those who still defend the practice will share with us its benefits to the overall wellbeing of the woman.
Personally, I think our forebears may be excused for indulging in the practice, because they were not blessed with the information we possess on the subject today, but we have no excuse whatever, to be stuck with a practice that can cause so much pain and distress to the woman, and even endanger her life at child birth.
And if Dr Touray is indeed planning to announce her candidature in the forthcoming elections, then the timing of this piece very curious and questionable, at the very least.
Dr Touray should support udp and realize that udp is the only political party which has been fighting for constitutionalism and democracy. She too was a victim of this regime but she has prevailed. Dr Touray is a respected activist who care about the well being of Gambian women.
Mr BB, I want to emphasize what most people here said, that is your article is too late on the said topic and the timing is not good. Nevertheless you have every right to publish anything you want. FGM is now banned and Jammeh did that for his political interest because he want to silence certain “individuals” who has top secret about him. The main objective of Banning of FGM has nothing to do with the interest and welfare of the Gambian women but it was surely done to safeguard and protect Yaya jammeh’s interest. We must remember that for 20 years, Dr Touray and her group has been lobbying statehouse and president Jammeh to either ban FGM or pass a legislation to discourage its practice but he refused. In many of Jammeh’s private discussion with different people, he indicated that his mother Asombi Bojang was strong advocate for FGM and therefore he was not going to support its ban and he has been silenced on this issue for 22 years, then all of sudden, dictator Jammeh passed executive order to ban FGM and even went further to threaten Gambian people about the practice of FGM. We need to use our brain to think why Yaya Jammeh suddenly banned FGM without any demand from Dr Touray and her group who has been fighting for FGM their entire life. Gambians must remember that any decision Yaya Jammeh has taken for the past 22 years has to involve his personal interest, that is political, economic, security and sexual interest. I refer to these interests as “PESS”. This is how Jammeh operate. In another word, Yaya Jammeh will PESS or piss off Gambians with his sudden announcement to ban whatever he want which has to do with his PESS then the whole country will immediately begin guessing game as to why he suddenly make a ban. He will never explain the main reason behind such moves but as usual it is presidential directives with constitutional provisions from the statehouse which will silence even his critics. Gambians continue to be fooled and PESS every time Jammeh want to fulfill his interest which in most cases has no benefit for the country and her citizens.
Quoting your ridiculous statement because how come you are trying to articulate with pomposity on every article, thread and wrote many slanderous political articles published but still don’t get the dynamics at play with Gambian politics?
“Dr Touray should support udp and realize that udp is the only political party which has been fighting for constitutionalism and democracy.”
Interesting and laughable…….??? Politics is a dynamic process!
Dawda , udp has scar , wound and even dead bodies to show everyone that they are indeed in a fight with APRC regime . You cannot claim to be a war veteran when you have not been to a war zone , no scar, no wound , dead bodies or not able to carry basic training for deployment. Writing a million letters to the dictator and ask him to release his victims or to play by the rule did not qualify you to be a war veteran when you have never been to a war . Udp are foot soldiers who are facing Ied’s , bombs or AR 15 / Ak 47 every day . They have hundreds of victims to show for . Can you say that about your celebrated three contingent troops who has never been to a war zone but still claimed to be fighting for freedom . Freedom is not free , you must pay the price for it before you get it . Udp is paying the ultimate price every day while other opposition parties didn’t want to see the gate of Mile two prison . By the way , if your leader was able to prevent kidnaps , that doesn’t mean he is a war hero or war veteran. Yes he was a hero to save someone’s life but he cannot be equated to war veteran who has participated in real fight to gain his freedom . Halifa has acted to prevent kidnaps of citizens which was a good thing , please he is not war veteran. A true veteran never leave his comrades behind , he either die in the process to rescue him or free him from his captors or he too is captured in the process. Think about that.
Hi everyone, I’m from canada and I was curious about you culture and country. I was raise with western christian education, but had an interest in many other culture and religions like bouddhisme, islam, etc.
In every civilisations around the world trough history, when religion interact with the way the country is managed, the leadership is affected in 3 ways. First, it is impossible to guarantee liberty to all citizens if some decisions are based on religious perceptives (religions and beliefs are personals, imposing them to a population trough law is again liberty). In second, science often contradicts beliefs made century ago. For exemple, many dogmas made in the catholic religion where proven false trough time, like the fact that the world is not flat. If the Italian leader would not have accepted this new concept, they would never have sent Christophe Colomb, therefor placing limitation on the country itself. In third, law should enable people to make decision for them self and prevent irreversible contraint against the liberty of the individual.
In regards of that : Making a law against female circoncision and prohibiting wedding before 18 is against liberty as it’s a politic intervention on religious maters, I must agree to that. But, what was the goal behind these laws ? In a way it is directly linked to the third point, circoncision is something irreversible asked/imposed to someone based on religious beliefs. Often it is the family that impose this mesure on the girl, it’s not a choice. The law should have been the prohibition of imposing irreversible choice to others. Therefor the same result would have been obtained and it would not have been aimed at a specific belief but at a inhumain comportement that all must agree on. After all, what make us humain is the capacity to choose our own path and make our own decision and yes often make our own errors.
As for the legal age it’s the same question, if the girl is old enough to marry she is old enough to make her own choices, to choose her own husband or wait for the right one. Control over an other individual on irreversible action should not be granted to anyone. You would not like the fact that someone else could make a decision for you against your will. Of course not, as it’s exactly what you are complaining against in this article. You don’t like the law coming against what you would have chosen. Legal age is established not on the capacity to have sexual activity but on the capacity to make the right decisions for yourself. If you can’t force someone to do as you wish (the right thing to do), the best option is then to make sure they have the capacity (age) to make the right choice and by understanding the consequences and her alternatives options.
This is really a personal point of view, I open to alternative or discussion over it as it may not be perfect (as all point of views). I did not wish to make any judgment on any custom you have, just to point out what is liberty for me (in pursuit of truth, freedom and liberty…).