Mohammed Morsi’s 52% majority win at the polls today gives us an Egypt led by a seemingly monolithic entity called the Muslim Brotherhood. In a post-Mubarak Egypt, the victory of a party whose name alone excludes women is a source of concern for progressive elements in the country who well know that revolutions in Islamic countries are often nothing more than a hopeful jump from the frying pan into the fire.
Every revolution in an Islamic country, even ones not dubbed “Islamic” have led to a gradual trampling on the fragile state of human rights that emerged despite a despotic leader and a tyrannical but secular regime. The reality is that even secular regimes in Islamic countries are informed by notions of Islam widely practiced in the country. Islamic regimes simply acknowledge and confirm those practices as legal.
One such practice in Egypt is female genital mutilation or FGM, an atrocity committed against girls and women in African countries whereby a young girl’s clitoris is cut out with a razor blade. Some girls are taken to clinics where doctors perform this procedure on children as young as five with health risks including infection, death and if she lives, painful intercourse and childbirth.
FGM is widespread with nine out of ten Egyptian women having undergone the procedure in 2010. A mutilated woman is considered chaste and has a better chance of finding a husband than one who is not, the ability to derive pleasure from sex being frowned upon first by women themselves many of whom insist their daughters undergo FGM despite the fact that the Mubarak regime passed a law in 2008 criminalizing the procedure. To be sure change on this front is a process which requires the full engagement of a government dedicated to progress on a secular front.
Since passing the law, the rate of the practice dropped by 3% over three years yet despite enforcement attempts by the regime; FGM continues to be practiced especially in small towns and rural areas where the long arm of the law is not long enough.
Now, Egypt’s democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood inherits this process for change. Ironically, the most horrific crime against women in Egypt is carried out by and insisted upon by other women. Mothers, mother-in laws, aunts and sisters who form a cycle in a practice as atrocious as the arguments it serves. Behind the Muslim Brotherhood there is a Muslim Sisterhood just as sinister.