Tennessee outlawed female genital mutilation (FGM) in 1996, but 2013 data collated in a Population Reference Bureau (PRB) report, shows that the Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin Metropolitan Statistical Area is ranked 20th in the country for the potential risk of FGM being performed on women and girls. Tennessee is number 18 in overall state rankings for risk to women and girls from FGM.
The Population Reference Bureau is a non-profit supported financially by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Scouts of the USA, and the United States Agency for International Development and several other foundations.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) includes the terms FGM, female circumcision and female genital excision, under the broader heading of “female genital cutting:”
“Female genital cutting refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of female genitalia or other injury to female genital organs for any cultural, religious or otherwise nontherapeutic reasons. This practice is common in many refugee populations, particularly those from East Africa (i.e. Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan), although the practice is pervasive throughout the world. This controversial practice is considered a human rights violation by many, and it is illegal in the United States in people under 18 years of age.”
Minneapolis, Minnesota, the metropolitan area with the largest Somali community in the country, ranks number 3 in the list of top 20 metro areas for FGM. Columbus, Ohio, the metropolitan area with the second largest Somali community in the country, ranks number 7 in the list of top 20 metro areas for FGM.
In Tennessee, FGM was criminalized in 1996 when Democrats Sen. Thelma Harper and Rep. Lois DeBerry (deceased), passed the “Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1996” for the following reasons:
“WHEREAS, female genital mutilation is defended by both men and women in the cultures where it is practiced as a rite of passage and a social prerequisite of marriage as well as a method to control a woman’s sexuality; and
WHEREAS, while female genital mutilation is prevalent in many African and Middle Eastern countries, it also is found in some Asian countries and among immigrant populations in Western Europe and North America; and
WHEREAS, due to the immigration of people from countries where female genital mutilation is practiced, the mutilation has continued to take place in the United States. Usually the immigrants will either send their daughters back to the native country to have female genital mutilation performed or a group of them will pay to bring a midwife to the United States to perform the painful procedure on their young daughters…”
Federal contractors in Tennessee have been resettling refugees from countries including Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sudan, listed in the PRB report as among the “Top 10 Countries of Origin” where FGM is practiced.
Updating 1990 FGM risk in the U.S. estimates to 2012, the Center for Disease Control 2016 Public Health Report showed that “the total number of women and girls in the United States at risk for FGM/C or its consequences increased by 224%, from 168,000 to 545,000” concluding that:
“The estimated increase was wholly a result of rapid growth in the number of immigrants from FGM/C-practicing countries living in the United States.”
Despite being a crime in Tennessee since 1996, in 2011, twenty-one cases of FGM were reported in Tennessee. In 2012, Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Jeremy Faison updated the law to require that healthcare providers report cases of FGM to law enforcement.
This week, a doctor in Detroit was arrested for allegedly performing FGM on young girls brought to her from Minnesota.
U.S. based pediatrician and fellow at the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Hatem Elhagaly (AKA “Hatem Al Haj”), listed as an Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) “scholar” issued a “fatwa” (an authoritative ruling on Islamic law) in 2006, saying that Islam sanctioned FGM as “better for the husband” and acknowledged that “the majority of the scholars regard [FGM] (preferable sunnah), some regard it allowable and some consider it wajib (obligatory)…” but advised that because FGM is illegal in the West, it should not be performed.
AMJA’s website states that it is a non-profit organization, “established in response to the growing need of an Islamic jurisprudence specific to Muslims in the West.” Fatwas issued by AMJA are the “decisions and recommendations” issued by their scholars and experts and are intended to guide Muslims living in the West.
“AMJA’s influence reaches far beyond the walls of mosques and Islamic Centers. Its work strengthens the moral character of society by developing the leadership capacities of Imams (religious leaders). Equipped with continued passion and tenacity to their work, AMJA scholars, experts, and Imams lead the Muslim community into a better understanding of the practice of the religion of Islam in Western societies.”
Memphis cleric Yasir Qadhi, resident scholar at the Memphis Islamic Center and Dean of Academic Affairs of AlMaghrib Institute, is listed among “our experts” by the AMJA and is a regular presenter at the annual imam training conferences the organization hosts.