To Mutilate in the Name of Jehovah or Allah: Legitimization of Male and Female Circumcision

Med Law. July 1994;13(7-8):575-622,

To Mutilate in the Name of Jehovah or Allah: Legitimization of Male and Female Circumcision



Article 24, paragraph 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, of 20 Nov. 1989, stipulates:

States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.

In 1984, the President of the Inter-African Committee stated:

An erroneous idea of Religion has played a key role in maintaining the practice of excision and other practices which tend to relegate the woman to a lower status in relation to the man.

In April 1987, the Vice-President of the Inter-African Committee reiterated:

I request more aggressive tactics to put an end to the practice of infibulation. I call for more active support especially from the religious leaders of Islam after it has been confirmed many times that this practice is contrary to the precept of Islam.

In this Committee’s opinion, religion and Muslim religious leaders play an important role in the matter of female circumcision. The goal of this study is to define this role in male circumcision as well as in female circumcision. We shall on purpose avoid any use of the word Islam, as too abstract a notion, and we shall concentrate on the written sources of Muslim law and the opinions of contemporary Arab authors, mostly of Egyptian origin.

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