The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is denying reports that it organized medical convoys involved with female circumcision. According to a report carried on the organization’s Web site:
Al-Youm Al-Sabea newspaper headline, May 13, claims a Freedom and Justice Party medical convoy performed female genital mutilation in Minya province; an allegation vehemently denied by party officials. The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Minya Secretary Dr. Diaa El-Maghazy said, ‘This report is completely false. The newspaper has republished it, although the FJP and Minya province health officials did refute the claims when first published by other papers and certain websites, three weeks ago’. El-Maghazy affirmed that the medical convoy in question was absolutely innocent, pointing out that it was organized and run under the supervision of Ministry of Health officials, and included the local Health Office Manager, the Vice President of the city’s board of trustees and a member of the local health unit. FJP Legal Committee Chairman Mukhtar Ashri affirmed that there were ongoing deliberate and ferocious attempts to taint and vilify the party’s image prior to presidential elections, pointing out that these lies will be dealt with through forceful legal action, if the paper does not publish a correction article rectifying the erroneous report and commit to professional press code of honor. ‘The issue of female circumcision, called Female Genital Mutilation or FGM by some, was never proposed by the FJP in parliament. Dr. Mohamed Morsi denied it totally, when asked about it recently. So, continuing to spread accusations, lies and rumors about it is completely unacceptable’, Ashri said.
A post from last week discussed the Egyptian media reports about the alleged convoys which were said to be the subject of complaints by Egyptian human rights organizations.
In 2008, a post reported reported on opposition by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to a new law intended to protect the rights of children, including provisions reinforcing a standing ban on female circumcision. The Christian Science Monitor article which was the subject of that post discussed female genital mutilation and raised the issue of Muslim Brotherhood support for the practice:
Supporters of the law accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of playing politics with children’s rights and argue that changing cultural attitudes that endanger young people is the exact intention of the law. “We wanted the law to be stringent or extreme because we want it to challenge some of the prevalent norms and values in our society, particularly female genital mutilation (FGM) and the practice of child marriage,” says Hany Helal, who directs the Egyptian Center for the Rights of the Child and helped the government write the law…. Egypt has one of the highest FGM rates in the world. According to a 2005 study conducted by UNICEF, 96 percent of women between the ages of 15 to 49 who had ever been married are circumcised. A recent study by the country’s Ministry of Health and Population also found that 50.3 percent of girls between the ages of 10 and 18 had been circumcised.Katatny says that the Brotherhood is not in favor of female circumcision, but opposes banning it because it is a tradition that should remain an option for medical reasons and “beautification” purposes….Human rights activists suggest that the child law’s religious opponents are more concerned about embarrassing the government than protecting children. “This is a law the government wanted. It was a big investment for them,” says Clarisa Bencomo, a Cairo-based researcher in the children’s rights division of Human Rights Watch. “There is a lot in this law that makes Egypt look good internationally, but it is also something that makes it easy for the Muslim Brotherhood to put its finger in the government’s eye.
Despite the denial of support for female circumcision, a another previous post has reported on an Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood MP who “objected to the criminalization of female circumcision” during a discussion in the Egyptian Parliament. As that posted noted, although the Muslim Brotherhood generally claims to be upholding the rights of women, these are not the only demonstrations of support for female circumcision within the ranks of the global Brotherhood. In 1998, Dr. Ali Abu Shwaima, an Italian Brotherhood leader and former officer of the Federation of Islamic Organization in Europe (FIOE), was implicated in the operation of a clandestine circumcision clinic where operations were performed in unsanitary conditions. Dr. Shwaima was sentenced to five months in prison in connection with these activities.