This is outrageous to me and I don't apologize for saying it. It is one of the most demonstrable cultural practices where the only purpose is to suppress women.
I do agree with this view:
Nonetheless, as Western awareness of female genital cutting has grown, anthropologists, policy makers and health officials have warned against blindly judging those who practice it, saying that progress is best made by working with local leaders and opinion-makers to gradually shift the public discussion of female circumcision from what it’s believed to bestow upon a girl toward what it takes away. “These mothers believe they are doing something good for their children,” Guarenti, a native of Italy, told me. “For our culture that is not easily understandable. To judge them harshly is to isolate them. You cannot make change that way.”
In that vein I think we in the West cannot allow this to take place in our countries. It is the law of the land and should be enforced. If immigrants or citizens do not wish to abide by those laws, I think they should leave. This is a basic right - not to be altered physically, or abused as a child when you have no control. If women believe they want this procedure, then do it when you are old enough to make your own decision. But the greater challenge is to take away the idea of being socially unacceptable if you do not have the procedure done. In this vein we who are not Muslim can help I think - by education and the art of gentle persuasion. We should write about it, blog about it, and talk about it. If you are a woman it is your concern, if you are a husband, a father, or a brother - it is your concern. The world is a small place now and we are responsible for each other. Now more than ever, the well being of ourselves and our families depends on the well being of our neighbors.
This leads me to another train of thought - How much of what we do is because it is 'the right thing to do'? How much of that is conditioning? The mothers who take their daughters for genital mutilation are doing it so they will be accepted, so they can have a good marriage and a good life; not out of some tendency toward child abuse. They in turn would think us cruel for leaving our children in a day care situation, or with a nanny - anyone who is not family. How can we determine ethics outside of cultural conditioning?
I am NOT saying we can't condemn the acts of another culture as cruel because it is their 'norm', but I am saying it calls for a deeper understanding of motives. I don't believe you can change the mind of an individual or a culture by violence or force - we cannot enforce democracy or compassion. It's been tried, the Crusades anyone? And failed - Iraq comes to mind. We can see how to make those changes by observing our own cultures in last few decades. I can remember when wife beating, drunk driving, child abuse, and smoking were all pretty much "too bad but that's life". By making these issues unacceptable socially as well as legally, and bringing them to the harsh light of facts and scrutiny of the public, they are now taboo.
What makes us ethical? Fear? Goodness? Lack of imagination? Hope for a better future or afterlife? These are questions that drove Kant and Nietzsche cuckoo (I mean really, have you read Critique of Pure Reason or Beyond Good and Evil?) The Dzogchen tackled the subject in a non-sectarian manner of the Tibetan Buddhist, along with Socrates and Aristotle who were looking at these issues when the world was small.
I’m not at all sure there is a definitive answer, or that the point is to find a neat and tidy solution in a package where one size fits all, but rather that the answer is in the questions and that we continue the search, continue to question ourselves. Tricky business eh?
Soon I shall write of shopping! Ciao.