Bohra men must speak up to save their daughters from female circumcision

Published: May 12, 2016

Mufaddal Saifuddin, the new spiritual leader of India's Dawoodi Bohra Muslims, visits the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, Iraq, on March 1, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

The fatwa given during the Zikra majlis by Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin in favour of female circumcision dug up the wound that still exists in my heart and eventually made me write this post.

Listening to parts of the audio clip leaked from the majlis, at one point, Saifuddin says what translates to English as;

“It must be done. If it is a man, it can be done openly and if it is a woman it must be discreet. But the act must be done. Do you understand what I am saying? Let people say what they want.”

The Syedna made no direct mention of the word “khatna” or “khafz”, but asks that the act be done discreetly for girls so that the community does not get tangled in any legal trouble. He cryptically says,

“Do you understand what I am saying?”

It was a clear reference to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It is obvious that this was in response to the raging debate on FGM that has occurred in public after three Bohras were convicted in Australia for practicing khatna on two minor girls. No one from the clergy has come forward to participate in this debate, and the Syedna in his fatwa said,

“We are not willing to talk to anyone on this issue”.

The reason this issue dug up a wound in my heart is that a couple of years ago my daughter was made to undergo this barbaric ritual, against my wishes, under the pressure of elders and the ladies in particular.

A year before my daughter turned seven, my wife told me that when our daughter turns seven we have to do her khatna. Unlike most men in the community, I was aware of what khatna or FGM is and I told her that I will not allow this. I told her this practice was started centuries ago by Bohras who wanted to curb the sexual desire of their women, as they frequently travelled for business.

I added that there is no scientific/medical basis for khatna or FGM. There is no mention of it in the Holy Quran and other Muslim sects do not practice it. I even informed her that it is illegal in the western world and has been declared a violation of human rights by the United Nations.

I also initiated a discussion within my close Bohra friends circle. I raised the issue as to why a girl who doesn’t understand what’s being done to her has to go through this, especially when the ones taking her for the cut are people she trusts. One reply I received from a female friend in the group is etched in my memory. She said,

“Would you want your daughter to have multiple sex partners and have extra marital affairs?”

I was taken aback by the reply, particularly as this friend is a well-educated person otherwise! It left me in despair on realising the extent of falsehoods that have been propagated within the community, with people being brainwashed into believing something as barbaric as khatna, which has no scientific basis, no religious basis and is a violation of human rights was acceptable. Forcibly doing something that is thought to curb sexual desire is in itself a violation of human rights. If educated young women of the community think in this manner, what can we say about the elders who still dominate decision making in a majority of Bohra households?

My wife agreed with me and was reluctant to put our daughter through the horror. She told our mothers that I was against the decision. Yet in return, she was told that there would be no argument and this centuries-old practice had to continue, just like they went through it.

I, being the only son, live with my parents. My wife was torn between me on one side and my mother and her mother on the other. Talking to my parents did not help and ended with the usual invocation that it is a “religious obligation”. Moula, tears, emotions etc.

My wife and I left the matter there hoping that when the time came, we could fake it. But, when my daughter turned seven, my mom said she would accompany us to take our daughter to get her khatna. She wouldn’t let us go alone. She made sure the appointment with a Bohra gynecologist (sigh!) was made.

My daughter was put under the blade. The fault is mine. Maybe I wasn’t strong enough or forceful enough then to protect my daughter from this atrocity. But, now that there is a perfidious attitude where on one hand there is this fatwa in favour of the practice, while on the other hand, jamaats in western countries have issued letters telling citizens to refrain from the practice, I thought it is time we men from the community spoke out against it. It is time for Bohra men to be informed about this evil practice and come out against it to save their daughters.

As it is well-known that openly raising your voice against the Syedna has dire consequences, it is going to be difficult to get rid of this practice by mobilising support from within the community. Some people may be against it, but they are not open about it.

In my opinion, building support in the larger civil society and legal recourse is the best way to end the practice. Maybe Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India will get a positive result. There is already a raging debate in India over triple talaq (divorce) after a lady filed a PIL against it, and it has gained larger public attention and support.

I commend the members of Sahiyo who are fighting against FGM. This post is my small contribution in support of their effort for a common good.

Are you for or against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?

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This post originally appeared here.



The author is a guilt-ridden and remorseful father belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra community.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Mariam

    Me and my husband decided not to put our daughter under the blade. And we are so glad that we made this decision. Although it’s still a secret from my family and in laws. In religious gatherings and friends circle I have to lie that I support it. But I see things changing now and people are speaking up. This barbaric act has to stop and Pakistani government has to take step against it just like in India and Australia. Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    He must take his case to a Court of Law.Recommend

  • Voice of Reason

    Express Tribune, if you have proof that he is part of the Dawoodi Bohra community, then please provide it. You cannot let anyone claim to be part of the community and then write a blog that is entirely against them.
    It is common sense that you associate yourself with a community only when you believe in them, the writer does not!
    Keep the defamatory blog, in the name of freedom of speech if you want, but you cannot describe this ‘Yusuf’ as part of the community. Show respect to your business of journalism.Recommend

  • ارشد حسین

    The reason that it is centuries old tradition is not a valid point. I am not Bohra and this is not practiced in my sect. But your column is Just typical Western influenced and Complex-ed Eastern men styled.Recommend

  • Ali S

    The worst part is that mothers themselves support it – they’ve internalized the narrative and believe that sexual pleasure (even with their husbands) is a sin that they must be kept away from, even if that means chopping off the most nerve-sensitive organ of the female body (I can not even imagine the pain that a 6-year-old would go through for this).

    Bohras, who are otherwise a fairly educated lot, would be better off without this practice – both men and women. For one thing, their married lives would be a lot more satisfying.Recommend

  • vinsin

    What about Male Circumcision?Recommend

  • Amin Amin

    21st century does not need religion.Recommend

  • Adil

    Basically this is not Islam as it is not written in Quran or proved by Sunnah or hadithRecommend

  • FayezNoor

    I heard about this practice a long ago and thought it is another conspiracy. Then I heard this from a Bohra guy i met in UAE and I thought he is making a lame joke but it turned out to be true. really sad that 1000 years old tradition is still practiced today and where are Human Right activists…and why this crime is being ignored by authoritiesRecommend

  • ارشد حسین

    So do we don’t need you too.Recommend

  • ارشد حسین

    And let you threat the same guy. How Genius you are.Recommend

  • Arman Zain

    There is no prove of FGM in Islamic law but it is obligatory for males.
    Scientifically FGMs are not recommended for female but it is still an open debate for males.Recommend

  • siesmann

    So you agree with the West that Islam allows this barbaric practice ?!!!!Recommend

  • siesmann

    Mullahs again ! Never something rational comes out of them.Recommend

  • UzairH

    Yusuf, I feel so very sorry for your guilt-ridden state and for your daughter.

    Nothing in our bodies in meant to be chopped off, and these incredibly idiotic traditions are the product of a mindset that also engaged in many other atrocious cultural acts that are now thankfully forgotten and considered too backwards. The very idea that a man or a woman is not entitled to the pleasure that accompanies procreation is barbaric and the holders of such ideas belong in the stone-age, not the current era.

    I hope you can get away from your relatives and the larger community. They love their traditions more than their children, and DON’T deserve you or your daughter’s love and presence in their lives.Recommend

  • taher

    True followers of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin wount argue about it. Those fighting against it are not dawoodi bohras. We do it willingly and not under pressureRecommend

  • Yousuf

    My friend why u r believing in prophet mohd pbuh as he n his pratices are also more than 1400 yrs older.

  • Jhandu Balm

    @FayezNoor:disqus Well, don’t you follow 1400 year old traditions or rules, some of which were suitable & appropriate for the Arabian region in that time!Recommend

  • Usman Khan

    So Mr. Yusuf, I am not sure why you thought it was a better idea to write a blog about the whole ordeal your daughter went through while you did not stand up for your daughter when you had a chance. I have no words to describe my anger towards you. Daughters look up to there fathers and You let your daughter down the only and probably the last time she looked up to you. Recommend

  • Voice of Reason

    A disclaimer from Express Tribune that they have verified his/her identity would suffice.
    If you paid attention, then the blog is directed more towards defamation than FGM. It is important that we do not malign any one community. As a disconnected reader, I would have accepted this blog if the person did not claim to be part of the community, it makes his view impartial and aligns with true journalism.
    If you are simply a commentator, then I have nothing more to say to you.Recommend

  • Anwaar

    i dont think male circumcision is to curb sexual desires ? ?!! .. i think .. maybe there r some other reasons for that ..which i dont know honestly :DRecommend

  • Anwaar

    cant even believe that there are 38 votes in favour of this … how can there be any one ??!!Recommend

  • Hasnain

    the condition mentioned in the above reported statement clearly indicates that it is a case of Clitoral Unhooding, where in the hood of the clitoris is removed and which is a legal procedure throughout Australia and throughout the world. It is a part of Hoodectomy and Labiaplasty both legally practised in Australia. Any Labiaplasty surgeon will be able to clarify any doubts that anybody may have in this case. Clitoral Unhooding is what Female Circumcision is and it is not FGM. You can check out the reference on the internet. By associating the process to FGM and petitioning against it would clearly show the biased view of the author towards the matter. It is great misfortune that the crusaders against FGM are not aware of the basics of FGM and consider any process like clitoral unhooding to be FGM. FGM should be eradicated but only after ascertaining the particular process is really FGM or not. Female Circumcision, clitoral unhooding is not illegal in any country but it clearly comes under Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery (FGCM). You can again check the internet for further reference and there are hundreds of research papers and books written about it stating that it is beneficial for women. Being a women yourselves the FGM Crusaders should know this fact and not forcefully associate a perfectly legal surgical procedure like female circumcision, clitoral unhooding with FGM just for some personal gain or publicity. Otherwise it would be a definite possibility people would begin to say that the FGM crusaders themselves do not know what they are fighting against.Recommend

  • Yousuf

    @ amin..No religion no believe. It is better that u called urself atheists.
    Do as you like as there is no concept like day of judgement.Recommend

  • Umme Aiman Iqbal

    Well thought. Well said. And the part about the pain? Describing it like it happened to me – its like applying acid on an open wound. The shock to the child while being cut is unthinkable. Just how brainwashed we bohras have become that we have lost compassion and mercy for our very own flesh and blood. Recommend

  • San

    Dear Yusuf, what your daughter underwent was a clear case of clitoral unhooding, female circumcision or khatna (arabic meaning is ‘to cut around’)] where in the hood of the clitoris is removed, a legal procedure throughout the world, a part of Hoodectomy and Labiaplasty which is not FGM but a part of Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery (FGCM). And the case you are referring to is also a case of Clitoral Unhooding. Refer this article about the case in The Guardian titled ‘Three sentenced to 15 months in landmark female genital mutilation trial’ for “…the FGM… involving the cutting or partial removal of their clitorises without leaving a scar.” Doctors would clarify that FGM is impossible without leaving a scar. Especially if a part of the clitoris is cut then it would be missing as clitoris does not grow back. Another news titled ‘…how a bright young girl convinced a jury’ in the same newspaper states the court jury had passed the conviction on ‘…medical evidence was inconclusive, which meant the outcome turning on phone tapping – and also the testimony of two young girls’. It was a clear case of Clitoral Unhooding. It is a legal procedure and is also used in the treatment of many cases of sexual dysfunction and treatment of many genital diseases. Associating it with religion would greatly decrease its medical value. The truth is that this is not a religious custom or religious practice at all in most religions but that Female circumcision was made a part of religious practice in various religions due to its medical benefits.

    If you would want to investigate the scientific basis you can search the internet and you will find thousands of articles written in favor of Female circumcision. It does not violate the rights of your daughter but it has actually saved her from many diseases and in some cases from sexual dysfunction. It does not curb sexual desire in anyway but in some cases it is seen to enhance it.

    Your daughter did not go under a blade. A blade is used for FGM. For Female circumcision a phimos clamp is used and that makes this small surgical procedure very safe and almost painless, you can ask for more details from the gynecologist you are referring to or you can search the internet. Your daughter has undergone Female circumcision, clitoral unhooding and not FGM and she is not harmed by it in any way. Sahiyo is an organisation fighting against FGM. But this is not FGM.

    I understand your concern for your daughter but you should do a detailed study before speaking out on an issue that has the potential to benefit your daughter and the daughters of many other people.Recommend

  • siesmann

    The Shafi’i school of Islamic jurisprudence considers female circumcision to be wajib (obligatory).[21]

    The Hanbali school of Islamic jurisprudence considers female circumcision to be makrumah (honorable) and strongly encouraged, to obligatory.[22]

    The Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence considers female circumcision to be sunnah (optional) and preferred.[22]

    The Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence considers female circumcision to be sunnah (preferred).[22]Recommend

  • citizen

    proud of you MariamRecommend

  • aSian

    The middle easterners were animalistic in heir pleasure seeking for sex. Thats why they do it to prove to the rest of middle easterners tht its important to contro ldesire by chipping hte male tip….. but imagine teh jewish from middel east took thisto rest of western world which had no-circumcision… adn used it by providing false medical justification…

    Same way.. the older bohra traders wanted to reduce their women’s desire.. so they removed the clitoris by FGM…….

    ha ha .. what a justification for both male and female genital mutilationRecommend

  • DudeFromDC

    And government of India can’t ban this as it will hurt religious sentiments of minorities.Recommend

  • yousafzai

    How could it benefit any one without overtly diagnosed sexual or genital disorder. Do you know Mr.Yusuf daughter had congenital or genital disorder that needed to be fixed? He is right about the irrational,inhuman, practice. He is not talking about cosmetic surgery on private parts. Wake up and listen to yourself. Any procedure that is done against someone wishes should be banned, regardless of the nature of the procedure. And minors like 7 years old should be protected by state from their parents, like Yusuf and you.Recommend

  • yousafzai

    agree with Anwaar. Run my man run away before they get you!Recommend

  • yousafzai

    Despite your failure, I do appreciate you writing about it and publishing it. It is not easy to do that.Recommend

  • yousafzai

    who cares about religion, just do what is common sense. Would you keeping chopping off finger a day every day if a religion say to do so? After all religions are suppose to protect you not kill you, there will no one left to practice religion if we are all dead!.Recommend

  • yousafzai

    Wake up man, believe is personal matter, keep it to yourself. You can belief in anything you want, like even you phone, but don’t ask me to believe in it. Freedom of Religion.Recommend

  • yousafzai

    it actually improves sexual pleasure and prevents some sexually transmitted disease. The only thing I don’t like about it as countries like Pakistan, people can not express their sexual desires and gets circumcised leading to worst combination.Recommend

  • sterry

    What world do you live in ? No one in Pakistan practices this custom of female circumcision unless they are Bohras who migrated from India. Bohra headquarters is in Mumbai. Majority Pakistanis who are Sunni and mainstream Shia do not even know what FMG is. I only heard about it hear and I can guarantee you 99 % Pakistanis do not know about it so do not link us with anti women things like Sati or FMG which is Indian and African custom only.Recommend

  • siesmann

    You mean you do it willingly to your girls(not their willingness)Recommend

  • ارشد حسین

    My answer is the same. And i know your customs.Recommend

  • ارشد حسین

    First You have to prove it barbaric. Second same count of doctors doesn’t find it inhuman. Third if you believe in Wests’ theories then you should allow your children to be gay, transgenders, supremacists etc.Recommend

  • ارشد حسین

    There are a lot of things we(you) are doing which is more then 10,000 years old. Like eating with mouth. Looking with eyes. Picking with hands, walking with feet. etc etc. Why you follow billion years old custom.Recommend

  • Kamath

    This barbaric act exists in India too. It is still practised but without much publicity of course!Recommend

  • Kamath

    Has this ritual made her a better human being, may I ask?Recommend

  • BufalloBull5152

    Understand the difference between and FGM and what the Bohras may do.
    Not everything the Western world says HAS to be right!
    Clitoral unhooding is PERFECTLY legal.Recommend

  • BufalloBull5152

    They DO NOT “remove clitoris” – yours is the worst commentRecommend

  • BufalloBull5152

    Then The Indian Govt. has to ban all crazier Hindu traditions as well ;-)Recommend

  • BufalloBull5152

    Then stop male circumcision too.
    Have guts to tell your mighty West to stop doing that to small boys?Recommend

  • BufalloBull5152

    Foolish comment. boys are circumcised in millions in West the next day after birth? Have guts to tell them?Recommend

  • BufalloBull5152

    Nothing rational ever comes out of you. All your past 610 comments are full of hate for Muslims. I checked your historyRecommend

  • BufalloBull5152

    The Hinduttva euphoria going on in India needs to be stopped too.Recommend

  • BufalloBull5152

    There’s no mention of how to pray salah/namaz in Quran either.Recommend

  • BufalloBull5152

    You comment fails miserably!
    This is NOT to curb female sexuality, in fact, it is the other way around. To enjoy intimacy with her husband ONLY.Recommend

  • BufalloBull5152

    To those who do not know, there are things in Islam that are mandatory (fard) and otherwise (sunnat). And circumcision of boys and girls is not fard. Go figure. And even if a fard is not sometime followed…well..Allah is Rahman and Rahim.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Not for Muslims,only for Mullahs,who are the autjors of Muslim misery.Recommend

  • siesmann

    That is what your books say ..You should fight with your Mullahs.And that you blame India for a Muslim custom(however rare) custom shows your state of mind. Fight Bohras ,Bohra Mullahs really,if you don’t like it.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Aren’t we discussing female circumcision here?Recommend

  • siesmann

    Then keep on.You are welcome to do it to your sisters and daughters.(Afterall it is not barbaric for you,and your Mullahs tell it is obligatory)Recommend

  • siesmann


  • DudeFromDC

    But Hindus are not allowed to have their sentiments hurt, only minorities are.Recommend

  • DudeFromDC

    Really? How so?Recommend

  • DudeFromDC

    Yeah, thats a relief…Recommend

  • DudeFromDC

    Circumcision is not a religious practice. Which madrassa did you graduate from?Recommend

  • BufalloBull5152

    Hypocrite is what you are. If u wanna stop, stop both. Have guts “siesmann”?Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Male circumcision is Fard the ehkamaat-e-Ibraheem given by Allah and the Shariat-ul-Musa given by Allah. There is no “female circumcision” anywhere in Qur’an Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Yet Western women and men perform genital mutilation with piercings and tattoos. Do not be deceived by their racist hatred hiding behind their “female genital mutilation” claims, the purpose of which is to justify waging wars to steal resources like oil.Recommend

  • Mike Pilgrim

    Circumcision is from Qur’an, the Shariat-ul-Musa.Recommend

  • siesmann

    So you are asking me to stop your irrational silliness?.You can keep on exposing your sisters and daughters to the barbarity,if that suits you.I don’t have a problem with that.Recommend

  • BufalloBull5152

    . Don’t go poking around in issues you have no idea about
    All your previous Comments on other issues are against Muslims about all the issues.Recommend

  • LS

    Dude, this happened IN India.Recommend

  • LS

    “I was taken aback by the reply, particularly as this friend is a well-educated person otherwise! ”

    Most people take literacy as a sign of Education. Those two in my mind are two distinct things. Beyond cramming the facts/information from the book, Education provides the ability to analyze data, patterns, reason, rational thinking, evidence based rationalization and ability to make just decisions. You don’t have to be literate to do that but literacy helps augment that.Recommend

  • Mirza Aasauf Baig

    You are lying.Recommend

  • siesmann
  • cabalco

    disgusting practice.Recommend

  • LICKERthegreat

    Now I realize why Bohris are walking around like Zoombies in Mumbai. Why their women are so wooden. So much for believing in GOD!!! You are openly violating what Allah designed. Have some shame.Recommend

  • LICKERthegreat

    By the way, I am following you :). Salute.Recommend

  • Riddhi Singh

    proud of you for standing up for your daughter.Recommend