Although you might not think so, female genital mutilation is a welcome subject to many on the left, because it is one of the few areas in which they can be rude about what they would never, in other contexts, dare to call ‘backward’ cultures. In their hierarchy of virtue, women’s rights trump even those of people oppressed by post-colonialism.
Though I am not on the left, I’m against FGM too. But there are a couple of points to think about. One is that FGM is not an inexplicable primitive oddity: it is part of a wider culture which sees sexual relations in a completely different way from the choice-and pleasure-based principles of the modern West — as part of tribal relations, family, gender and religious duties and the care of children. So when we attack FGM, we are attacking much else besides.
The other question is what will happen if our worry about FGM transfers to what we do not (yet) call male genital mutilation? Suppose some expert purports to show, with medical evidence, that male circumcision causes physical or psychological harm to boys, what then? Will one of the defining practices of both Islam and Judaism come under sustained attack? Will ‘MGM’ become, literally, a casus belli? We had better think carefully.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Notes. The full article can be found here.