The leader of the only South Asian Muslim community known to practise female genital mutilation (FGM) came under fire from campaigners who accuse him of luring followers to continue the archaic custom.
Little is known about FGM in India where it is done in secrecy by the Dawoodi Bohra community, a Shi’ite sect thought to number over 1 million, that still considers the practice to be a religious obligation. An audio clip of Syedna Muffadal Saifuddin’s speech at a Mumbai mosque said ‘it needs to be done discreetly when it is a woman, but it needs to be done’.
One victim of FGM who was cut when she was age 7 leads an online petition that has drawn almost 50,000 signatories, including Mia Farrow.
FGM that can cause serious physical and psychological problems is more commonly linked to African countries. India is not included on the UN List of countries affected by FGM, even as campaigners say up to three quarters of Bohra girls are cut.
The practice in India made headlines when a court in Australia found 2 members of the diaspora community guilty of cutting two girls. A Bohra religious leader was convicted for being an accessory. Since then several Bohra communities in Europe and the US have passed resolutions against the practice.