From The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sarah-peace/fgm-has-it-become-racist-to-condemn-it_b_9577946.html
Veiling and female circumcision are long-standing practices that predate all the Abrahamic religions but remain dominant throughout society today.
The former is a broad tradition practiced by women and girls across the world, that varies from the sartorial cloth over the hair as an extension of the dress or sari, to the more steadfast hijab, which neatly tucks away all hair, covering the ears and neck but revealing the face. Then there are variations that proceed towards the complete coverage of the body including fingers and ankles, where even the wearer’s eyes are hidden, confining their vision to a view mediated by a mesh screen.
The latter is a ritual with a specific intention to control female sexuality varying from removal of the clitoris to the entire genitalia, sewing the vaginal opening shut, leaving a hole just big enough for urine and menstrual blood to drip out. This ensures that a woman can be identified as a virgin before marriage and her husband is the one to execute the gallant act of deflowering. This is precisely why female circumcision for non-medical reasons is more aptly described as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Effects of FGM include infections, painful intercourse, infertility, difficulty in childbirth and other long-term consequences, which are still being discovered.
Regardless of how imposing the most extreme form of the veil can be, it is impermanent, unlike FGM which stings more destructively, so is it right to conjoin the two in the postmodern context of rethinking women’s agency? I was to find out that my brazen anti-FGM stance is ‘regurgitating the hideous colonial project that imposed itself on the rest of the world on a civilizing mission to rescue the women of the third world from its savage men’. The rationale I am told, is that even as a Nigerian born woman, I cannot speak for other less privileged Nigerian women, how much less, a white woman on behalf of ethnic minorities.
It was at Goldsmiths University that I came to witness this betrayal first hand, which ascribes brutality onto people from other places as part of culture but fashions itself so self-righteously. Like John the Baptist at the feet of Jesus crying; ‘Who am I to say that female circumcision is barbaric, lest I judge thee through my western colonial gaze?’
In the seminar that alerted me to the pervasiveness of this sinister trend, my lecturer failed to make a distinction between veiling and FGM, simply conflating the two as cultural modes of being that are parallel to western secular thought. The argument for veiling can certainly be made: Muslim women choosing modesty, piety and privatisation of their own bodies in order to maintain power – in what they deem a patriarchal world in which women’s bodies are objectified, sexualised and commodified.