Ilhan Omar refuses to condemn female genital mutilation
US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar
Thursday 25 July - Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) became agitated when asked at an event in Washington D.C. this week if she and fellow Muslim congresswoman Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) would condemn female genital mutilation.
Awkwardly, the question came from Ani Zonneveld, president of Muslims for Progressive Values and also a featured speaker on the Muslim Caucus Collective for Equitable Democracy event, where the exchange took place.
Zonneveld drew attention to a Detroit judge’s ruling last November that a 22-year-old federal law making female genital mutilation (FGM) a crime was unconstitutional. As a result, charges against nine people accused of subjecting nine young girls to FGM were dismissed.
'Would you be able to make a statement against FGM because that’s an issue in Detroit,' Zonneveld asked Omar. 'And it would be really powerful if the two Muslim congresswomen, yourself and Rashida, would make a statement on this issue.'
Omar described the question as 'appalling.' She went on to ask whether she needs to 'make a schedule' to ensure she makes statements regularly condemning al-Qaeda, condemning FGM, or condemning Hamas.
'I am quite disgusted – to be honest – that as Muslim legislators we are constantly being asked to waste our time speaking to issues that other people are not asked to speak to, because the assumption exists that we somehow support these issues.'
Omar said what she was looking for was that people did not have:
'assumptions about what our value basis might be because of where we come from, and who we pray to.'
Omar was born in Somalia, a country that according to the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF has the highest rates of FGM in the world – an estimated 98 percent prevalence.
After Somalia, the next countries identified by UNICEF with high prevalence levels are Guinea (96 percent), Djibouti (93 percent), Egypt (91 percent), Eritrea (89 percent), Mali (89 percent), Sierra Leone (88 percent), and Sudan (88 percent). Except for Eritrea, those are all Muslim-majority countries.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the bloc of Muslim-majority states, has rejected claims of a link between Islam and FGM. During a U.N. Commission on the Status of Women session in 2013, the OIC called FGM a 'cultural' practice that is 'disguised as part of religious tradition.'
Author's comment: How hard would it have been for her to say 'Certainly I condemn it'? The questioner was not some greasy 'Islamophobe,' but the president of a group called Muslims for Progressive Values. FGM is a big problem in the Detroit area, and so to have a Muslim Representative come out strongly against it could well make a difference.
Questions arise about Omar’s stand on this because she obviously adheres to Sharia, as is evidenced by her hijab, and FGM is mandated in Islamic law.
Why does it matter whether or not FGM is Islamic? Because the practice will never be eradicated if its root causes are not confronted. As long as Muslims continue to believe that Allah and Muhammad want it done, that will override all other considerations.