Sunday, April 20, 2008

EGYPT: A battle over female circumcision

Islamists and conservative clerics are fighting proposed legislation in the Egyptian parliament that would criminalize female circumcision and raise the minimum age of when a girl can marry. The Islamists view the bill as an affront to Sharia law.

The legislation drafted by the government-backed National Council for Motherhood and Childhood would impose a prison sentence of as long as two years and a maximum fine of 5,000 Egyptian pounds, or about $1,000. The proposal would raise the minimum age of marriage from 16 to 18. The bill has been met with a storm of anger by a number of delegates from both the majority and the Islamist opposition led by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Opponents say the new restrictions are an attempt by the government to impose a Western agenda on an Islamic society. Some clerics, in opposing the bill, state that Islamic Sharia law condones female circumcision and imposes no minimum age of marriage. "Religion does not prohibit or criminalize female circumcision," prominent Islamic scholar Mustafa al-Shaka said to the local press this week.

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