The war against Islamic fundamentalists means that we in the West need to accept the moderate version of Islam?since the religion itself is here to stay. Prince Sultan of Saudi Arabia has said, “As we believe in Moses and Jesus, so the Jews and Christians should also believe in our Prophet Mohammad.” One of the things that troubles Westerners most about this idea is the treatment of women in so many Islamic countries, especially when it comes to female circumcision, which these governments say is part of their religion. Now a leading Swedish Muslim leader has announced that this practice is actually forbidden by Islam.

Patrick McLoughlin writes that two million girls are circumcised each year and 130 million women have already been mutilated in this way, mostly by older women in their communities. This practice of cutting away the clitoris, and often nearby genital tissue as well, eliminates sexual pleasure in the female and theoretically makes her less likely to stray. It’s often done crudely, with unclean instruments, causing permanent disfigurement and disability. This initiation is the nightmare that millions of young teenaged girls in 30 African countries face upon reaching puberty, and feminists in the West have been protesting against this practice for years.

Sheik Omar Ahmed, a Muslim leader in Sweden, says, “I as Imam would like, with my colleagues, to turn to the Islamic world, particularly in Africa, and inform people that female genital mutilation is prohibited. It is a matter of abuse and violation of the female body and is quite clearly forbidden according to Islam.”

The Koran, originally written in Arabic, is not supposed to be translated, although this has been done for scholarly purposes. This means that Muslims often memorize verses in Arabic, even though they don’t speak the language, much as Catholics once recited the Mass in Latin. They rely on their Imams to explain the Koran to them. Despite the fact that he’s an Imam in Sweden, rather than Africa, Ahmed’s statement could have great influence among Muslims everywhere. Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, of the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, Egypt, has also said that the Koran does not ask for or even mention female circumcision.

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