Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Daghestani Muftiate Says Female Genital Mutilation ‘Completely Contradicts Islamic Norms’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 17 – As promised (, the Daghestani muftiate has issued a fetwa that says that female genital mutilation “completely contradicts” the principles of Islam as laid down in the Koran and says no Muslim should support it (

            That puts the Islamic leadership of Daghestan, one of the centers of the most conservative part of the Russian umma, closer to the positions of the United Nations and the human rights community than the Russian government, which has yet to pass a law banning it and is likely to be picked up and repeated by Muslim leaders elsewhere in the Russian Federation.

            As such, the fetwa has been widely greeted by Russian and Russian Muslim commentators as a move that undercuts those who seek to present Islam as out of step with modernity and human rights and shows that Muslims are as concerned about overcoming barbarism as anyone else (

            At the same time, however, there are three reasons to fear that the fetwa by itself will not end this horrific practice.  First, under Islamic law, a fetwa is a legal opinion issued by a mufti. It is followed by those who recognize his authority, but it is not a law as such. Given that some Muslims still back the idea, it is likely a fraction of them will ignore this decision.

            Second, the mufti of Daghestan has taken a position which many of the mullahs and imams in his Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) oppose ( and can be expected to advise their parishioners that this fetwa is only one view and can be ignored because other Muslim authorities take a different view.

            And third, at least some Muslims are likely to point out that the Russian government has not banned the practice or been consistent in punishing by analogy those who engage in it. Consequently, they are likely to feel that they can ignore this fetwa by one courageous mufti and remain good Muslims and good Russian citizens.

            But however that may be, this fetwa does mark an important turning point, one that means those activists who oppose female genital mutilation now have a very public ally in a senior Muslim leader and that they can use his backing to help pressure Moscow to finally bring its laws into line with those of the civilized world. 

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