Mixing up traditions

This reinforces my intuition that some Islamists mix up “traditions” they think are “Islamic” because belonging to local social practices with actual Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) – of which they are ignorant of – that escape proper territorial affiliations. It turns out that cutting the clitoris of young girls comes is an “African” practice that goes back to Pharaonic times, contradicting the Muslim brotherhood claim that it was “An Islamic matter”. It is counted as a crime today by Egyptian law.

This type of Islamists are simply trying to protect and fall back on “what we do in the community we identify with”. Simple conservatism? I’m not yet sure although definitely one type. But notice that, for it to be passed by law, it had to be proven that such practices are ‘unislamic’ imputing the blame on some alien ‘African’ ritual that has made its way into Islamic practices. Representation of the self in the Middle East will more and more be framed around what is Islamic and what is not, a mechanism that reminds one of European formations of what is the secular in the age of the nation.

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5 Responses to Mixing up traditions

  1. Razan says:

    I think it is enlightening, academically, to see how these so called “Islamic” practices are proved to be nothing but another social traditions in a certain area. my question is though, do Christians, or other non-Muslim groups, practice this Female Genital Mutilation in Egypt? and if not, what does that tell us?

    My point is, i appreciate learning misconceptions about Islam, or about what is not islam instead of what is islam, but as long as these social (and political) practices remain within Islamic groups, our search in the history of these practice would do us no help really. that’s why i think the study should be along with the study of “history” and the origin of these social practices, should also go line in line with the study of “present”: why we find these in islamic areas and groups? why women feel comfortable living/moving in non- muslim areas in this region? what is it about the current “islam” that attracts these social practices and adopt them as one of its own characteristics, even though they aren’t?

    that’s an answer one should give for all of these women who died because of Female Genital Mutilation.

    it’s clear that these not-islamic social practices exist with or without islam, as in not because of islam, but when they exist, they exist with islam, we need to find out why..

  2. dadavidovich says:

    Bech,

    You may find Michael Morony’s book, Iraq after the Muslim conquest, interesting with respect to some of these ideas and the formation of ‘Islamic’ cultural patterns.

  3. dadavidovich says:

    Also, I repeat my recommendation of Pierre Nora’s lieux des memoires. Both books should be available at AUB.

  4. Anonymous says:

    True Razan, the question does need to be raised, but the practice is not limited to Islam or Egypt (spanning a large swath of Africa and beyond), and over-associating it with one group leads to what Bech is talking about in this post. Looking at Egypt exclusively will of course deliver the skewed conclusions you expect or desire (depending on who the researcher is) – it’s hardly a multi-religious state with 90% of the population being Muslim.

  5. fnord says:

    To question: As far as I have understood, genital mutilation is also performed by christians in Egypt and Gambia too.

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