— DEVE Committee Press (@EP_Development) February 7, 2018
During a speech for the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) on 25 June 2015, then a few months into her term as High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini spoke about Islam in Europe. Unfazed by centuries of ‘cultural contact’ between Islam and Europe, she said that:
“The idea of a clash between Islam and ‘the West’ – a word in which everything is put together and confused – has misled our policies and our narratives. Islam holds a place in our Western societies. Islam belongs in Europe. It holds a place in Europe’s history, in our culture, in our food and – what matters most – in Europe’s present and future.”
But should elements of Islamic culture have anything to say about female private parts? On 7 February 2018, European Parliament issued a press release, called Zero tolerance for female genital mutilation. The statement came hard on the heels of the United Nations’ International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on 6 February. It’s not hard to see why. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is, quite frankly, horrible. Mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15, it causes severe bleeding and health issues. These include cysts, infections and complications in childbirth, all in addition to the risk of infertility. It is no small wonder that the EU seeks to protect
“young girls from some immigrant families [who] are not safe even in the EU, where FGM is considered a crime. In fact some 500,000 women across Europe have been subjected to FGM while a further 180,000 women and girls are at risk of being subjected to this practice every year.”
But while this defense is laudable, the fact that both the United Nations and the European Union do their utmost nót to involve Islam in the topic is not. Neither the text adopted by European Parliament, nor the At a Glance information sheet on the topic mention Islam. Yet a look at the United Nations dedicated event page makes abundantly clear where the problem originates:
– Globally, it is estimated that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM.
– Girls 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut, with the highest prevalence of FGM among this age in Gambia at 56 per cent, Mauritania 54 per cent and Indonesia where around half of girls aged 11 and younger have undergone the practice.
– Countries with the highest prevalence among girls and women aged 15 to 49 are Somalia 98 per cent, Guinea 97 per cent and Djibouti 93 per cent.
Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea, Indonesia, Mauritania, and Somalia are all countries with a Muslim majority population, with Mauritania officially being designated as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. And while UNICEF does its best to ‘delink’ Islam from FGM in a 2015 report (PDF) on the subject, turning itself into a body that can judge religious scripture in the progress, it can do no better than concluding on page 69 that:
“(…) the belief that it is a religious requirement contributes to the continuation of the practice in a number of settings. As illustrated in the previous section and confirmed by ethnographic studies, in certain settings FGM/C is widely held to be a religious obligation.”
Despite the efforts (PDF), mainly funded by the “put together and confused” West, to argue that if you look at it correctly, FGM is not Islamic, the high prevalence of this practice in Muslim majority countries seems to suggest otherwise. Unless the EU start taking the religious component behind FGM seriously, it will probably not disappear. But then again, when has the EU ever nót taken steps to shelter the Islamic religion? In Mogherini’s own words:
“Some people are now trying to convince us that a Muslim cannot be a good European citizen, that more Muslims in Europe will be the end of Europe. These people are not just mistaken about Muslims: these people are mistaken about Europe, they have no clue what Europe and the European identity are.”