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Cablegate: Mufti Issues Fatwa Against Female Genital

VZCZCXYZ0007
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #1948 1771344
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261344Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5834

UNCLAS CAIRO 001948

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SOCI PREL PGOV KWMN KISL EG
SUBJECT: MUFTI ISSUES FATWA AGAINST FEMALE GENITAL
MUTILATION

REF: CAIRO 345

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

1. (U) On June 23, Dr. Ali Gomaa, Egypt,s Mufti, issued an
official fatwa on Al-Mehwar satellite TV banning female
genital mutilation (FGM). His fatwa, proclaiming that it is
"religiously prohibited to circumcise girls," was issued
following Egyptian press coverage of the death of a 12 year
old girl last week during a FGM operation at a rural clinic
in Southern Egypt. The Mufti in his comments said, "I have
said this once and will say it again many times-- this
practice is haram, haram, haram (forbidden, forbidden,
forbidden)." The Mufti,s announcement last week is the first
such senior-level Egyptian fatwa against this dangerous
practice although the Grand Sheikh of Al Azahar, Mohamed
Sayyed Tantawi, has previously called FGM "un-Islamic."

2. (U) The fatwa comes after a November 2006 conference at
Al-Azhar University entitled "Banning the Violation of
Women,s Bodies" (ref). At the conference, for the first
time, scholars and influential religious institutions spoke
out in unison against the custom. Although recently
opposition to FGM has risen, it is still estimated to be
practiced by a majority of Egyptian Muslim and Christian
women. In a recent survey regarding FGM, 60% of Egyptians
polled believes that the procedure is required by "religious
precepts." Following Gomma,s fatwa, Dr. Soad Saleh, a well
known professor of jurisprudence, reiterated in the Egyptian
press that FGM is not part of Islam.

3. (U) The Egyptian Doctor,s Syndicate has reportedly
launched an investigation into the death of the deceased
12-year old girl. According to press reports, the girls
father has filed a lawsuit against the doctor who performed
the operation for negligence, and he could face up to 2 years
in jail. First Lady Suzanne Mubarak commented to reporters
on June 25 that the girl's death "is the beginning of the end
of FGM" and it "is proof of the negative, inhumane practices
of FGM." Ambassador Moshira Khattab, Secretary General of
the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, called on
the People,s Assembly to endorse "a severe" penalty on the
doctor. Khattab noted that, by harshly punishing the doctor,
he will serve as an example for other doctors and
practitioners. Khattab publicly thanked the Mufti for
issuing the fatwa, asserting that "lives of girls will be
saved without being accused of implementing a western
agenda.," Other Egyptian NGO leaders believe that a law
should drafted to formally make FGM a crime.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: The Mufti,s fatwa is a step in the right
direction towards stemming the practice of FGM in Egypt.
Embassy contacts comment that the next operational step in
the fight against FGM is for the Minister of Awqaf (Religious
Endowments) to instruct imams of Egyptian mosques to tackle
the issue during Friday sermons-- "people need to be assured
that it is now officially haram to practice FGM and that it
is not part of Islam."

RICCIARDONE

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