Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Dhimmitude, Whimmitude, Gang-rape, and FGM

A couple of stories on gang-rape that make the average non-Moslem angry don't seem to have the same effect on some Moslems. You decide if you want to continue supporting fascist dhimmis who support fascist whimmis and Moslems. A positive step is mostly a matter of mentioning these stories and others like them to your friends and co-workers, listening to them call you names for a while, and then hearing them later say what you said-- once they forget that they first heard it from you.

There's not a lot of room for editorializing here. The stories below either speak for themselves or you're definitely at the wrong site.

Today, two stories on gang-rape, one on FGM. It happens daily, and you can make it stop by not allowing people to pass it off as a matter of "cultural tradition." Speak up. Take some heat. Honestly, being ignored by people who don't like you because you won't put up with this vileness is a good thing. How good? Well, consider these two short quotations before you jump into the slime pit of Islam:

At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to state this or that or the other, but it is "not done"… Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

George Orwell


France - on Bastille Day

PM Chirac has officially raised the French terror alert from "Run" to "Hide". There are only two higher alert levels in France, which are "Surrender" and "Collaborate". The rise was precipitated by a recent fire at France's white flag factory - effectively crippling their military.

The following story comes with a selection of letters to the editor of the magazine.


In Gang-Rape Hell: Life in Islamic France

women against islamic misogyny | 10.08.2003 22:56

Here, young men try to rule their families and neighbors under a macho code drawn partly from Muslim tradition, partly from the violence and porn in the media. Women submit to men, they say. Good girls, good sisters, cover themselves and stay home. Otherwise they are putes, whores, who can be used and abused even if they say no.

GRIM AS SUCH crimes may be, they're becoming commonplace in the police ledgers of Paris, Lyons or Toulouse. The scene is almost always the same: the housing projects called cites on the outskirts of France's major cities. Built by socially progressive governments in the 1960s, they've since been taken over by a generation of mostly Arab immigrants—impoverished, cut off from their native lands and culture, ghettoized. Here, young men try to rule their families and neighbors under a macho code drawn partly from Muslim tradition, partly from the violence and porn in the media. Women submit to men, they say. Good girls, good sisters, cover themselves and stay home. Otherwise they are putes, whores, who can be used and abused even if they say no.
Such stories, then, are not just about urban crime and rough neighborhoods. They reflect a core issue of Muslim integration in Europe. Can the young men and women of the cites break out, or will they become ever more isolated, turning inward against themselves? Will they build their lives and relationships on egalitarian values, or on the worst of Islam and the Internet? Young men trapped in a world with no jobs and no future, and violently confused about sex, tend to make women the symbols and the victims of the frustrations around them. Ten years ago, the boys in these hoods burned cars in the streets. Today, they increasingly turn their anger against "their" women in the basements of their apartment blocks.
Recently, a few young women of the cites have begun to fight back. One organization in particular, Ni Putes, Ni Soumises, (roughly, Not Whores, Not Servants), has been organizing protests and speaking out so loudly that the French public and the French government have taken notice—and sympathized. In one grandiose gesture on Bastille Day, July 14, huge photographs of 14 women from the cites, posing as Marianne, the symbol of French liberty, were hung on the columns of the National Assembly looking out on the Place de la Concorde. Will these girls' fathers and brothers now show them as much respect?
That looks to be a longer fight. "Sexuality has always been a thorny issue in the quartiers ," says Safia Lebdi, 29, who is one of the first members of Ni Putes, Ni Soumises, and could be a poster girl for confident, in-your-face sexuality. The other day she was wearing a pink see-through top, low-rise cargo pants and soft, beaded slippers. Born into the cite outside Clermont-Ferrand, where Michelin makes tires, she knows what she's talking about when she says that "feminist thinking never reached the ghettos." Girls, for their own protection, have taken to wearing loose-fitting track suits or veils over their hair. "They're locked up in a world where their fathers have failed to break out of unemployment, where they have failed at finishing school or finding a job," says a young woman activist with another group, Female Voices, Rebel Voices. Lacking hope or the opportunity for a better life, she adds, "all the men have left is their virility." And some have savage ways of asserting it.
Late last year, two events galvanized the women of the cites. A young woman named Samira Bellil published a book, "In Gang-Rape Hell," recounting her experiences in the ghetto, including twice being subjected to the tournante —men taking turns using her, one after another. She urged her "sisters in suffering" to speak out before they lost all self-esteem. Then reports hit the press about another —incident even more gruesome than those before it. A 17-year-old woman named Sohane told off an old boyfriend, and he burned her alive.
So it was, earlier this year, that the eight young women of Ni Putes, Ni Soumises came together and began touring France to publicize their plight. They weren't sure what they were doing or where they were going. But they knew they were fed up. "We were f—-ing scared," says Lebdi. "We were heading for the unknown."
Unknown then, perhaps, but no longer. Today, all of France knows of them and their cause. They have been received in Paris by Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. The government has promised that police stations would be more receptive to women in distress filing complaints, and that housing should be provided for women, whom these activists and the government agree, need rescuing from severe abuse. So far some 50 women have moved into such apartments, and Ni Putes, Ni Soumises gets a steady stream of abused and battered girls. "It takes time to make change happen," says Lebdi, "but we don't have time. Every single situation we deal with is an emergency and often even a matter of life and death."
The problem is that to help the women of the cites in the long run, you have to help the men—not only to find jobs and education, but to learn to live in Western societies. And precious little has been done about that.

women against islamic misogyny

Please Remove This Posting

11.08.2003 10:48

why is it that only muslims are attacked on this site..why not try attacking usa for a change? ive had enough of this nazi style racism


Not Whores

11.08.2003 14:06

Nazi style racism? Ha ha ha, priceless... so the gang rape of women is something Indymedia should be promoting now?

Not Servants

Please protect me from uncomfortable truths

11.08.2003 14:46

I refuse to accept that anyone other than WASP imperialists can ever do anything bad, and the above article is uncomfortably shaking my complacent ignorance.

I also belive that the rights of Muslim men are more important than the rights of Muslim women.


If a problem exists it must be addressed

11.08.2003 14:56

This is actually the first post I have seen on Indymedia directing critisism at a negative aspect of Muslim culture. In my opinion, the only factor that should determine whether or not this post is valid is whether it is the truth.

If it is the truth it should not be removed from Indymedia.

To the person who thinks that it must be a 'nazi' post, I suggest your extreme reaction betrays a sub-concious understanding that the post is probably true. Your narrow-minded brain can't compute how something could be politically-incorrect and true at the same time.

Try and get your head around it. If women are suffering, the problem needs to be fixed regardless of whether it clashes with your ideals.

Not everything is as simple as you would have us believe.

T McClure

racists playing on liberal guilt

11.08.2003 15:06

Yeah right. You're standing up for Muslim women, are you? Tell me, how many do you know?

Ever wondered what Muslim women make of the endless attacks on Islam in the media (including, sad to say, IMC)? You reckon we sit here thinking 'oh great, here they come to rescue us at last!'. Because, hmm, European imperialism has a great reputation for liberating us poor savages, that's for sure...

Killing my brothers will not make me free. You may conquer the whole of the Arab world if you want, but don't dare to pretend your bombs are in my name.

Angry (Muslim, gasp horror!) Sister

Unrestless antiarabic propaganda

11.08.2003 16:48

Stop your unrestless likudnik propagaganda against Arabs . The arabic women have our help for their Rights, laic help, and don't ask and nor need the help of guys similars to you.They recognize your style!

Spot on Maria V

12.08.2003 13:35

Well said Maria V. I agree that this original post is taking one thing and turning it for the purposes of another. I would like to have seen this removed because the language it uses and the angling of the meaning makes it racist, however with the replies I think it should stay.

PS just because something is 'true' does not mean it has a place on indymedia. Indymedia is a political project, openly stated, and is not free speech, though it may defend the right to free speech.

Censor This Islamophobic Article?

12.08.2003 14:14

Yes I agree the posting is *clearly* racist if not fascist. After all the only possible response, to an article about a group of working class muslim women not only affected by racism in France but rapes by men, *must* be one of applying hands over ears and screaming 'islamophobia'

Lets be real:
Do the men perpetrating this act any differently from other men in similiar situations?
Are the women wrong to stand up to rape?
Is it racist to say that we are against the sexist behaviour of men, without regards to their race, religion etc?

The question here isnt about islam, its about women defending organising themsleves against sexual violence. Those who have called for the removal of the peice should be bloody well ashamed of yourselves.


twisted agendas

13.08.2003 15:02

There are groups and networks out there doing serious work around womens' rights and gay rights in ALL communities and faiths. They deserve solidarity and support.

But I question the agenda of the spooks who post otherwise serious articles with rabid anti-Islam (and ALWAYS Islam) headlines stuck on top. Are they:

(1) Encouraging practical solidarity for groups and networks, or

(2) Trying to stir up fear and prejudice against Muslims and divide-and-rule between groups who might otherwise unite against repression, war and imperialism?

Answers on a postcard...


This story comes from The Guardian:

Revolt against the rapists

In deprived, out-of-town estates in France, teenage girls have become targets, victims of a code that labels them easy game for gang rape. Now the fightback has begun. Women are speaking out, refusing to lead lives circumscribed by violence and abuse. They tell Rose George why.

Saturday April 5, 2003
The Guardian

When she was 14, Samira Bellil made the dangerous mistake of falling in love. Dangerous, not because of teenage heartache, or pregnancy, or the usual adolescent pitfalls. But because where Bellil lives, falling in love can get you gang raped.

Her boyfriend was the handsome hard man on the estate. She decided to sleep with him, in a basement, and when she left, his friends were waiting for her. They started kicking and beating her, and the biggest dragged her by the hair to an apartment nearby, where she spent the night being raped by three young men. The sexual torture was so revolting, she still won't describe it, 15 years later. But maybe the worst thing about Bellil's gang rape is that, in the deprived suburbs of 21st-century France, it's not unusual.

It's not even called rape. They call it a tournante, or pass-round. The banality is deliberate: a joint, a girl - same difference. Sometimes, they call it a plan petasse, or slag-plan, because that's what any girl who sleeps with her boyfriend is, and that's why she's fair game. Sometimes, it's a basement-plan, because that's where it happens, as well as in garbage disposal rooms, schools, courtroom toilets.

Last year, the courts heard the case of Nadia, 15, whose rapes occurred in all these places. For months, she was repeatedly abducted and gang raped. She reported it only when a friend noticed her discomfort one day at school (after she'd been forced to fellate two boys during morning break). When some of her rapists came to court, they had a standard defence: she'd wanted it.

The tales are legion and horrific: Elodie, 14, who, on August 1 2000, answered the door when her parents were out, and found herself a minute later facing five boys in her dining room, and a minute after that with the first of five penises in her mouth. When she tells her story, on a video deposition, her hands never leave her face.

Solange, 17, whose boyfriend held her down while his friend raped her in a stairwell, and who between December 1997 and July 1998 was raped five times by 11 teenagers. (When she dumped her boyfriend and got a new one, he let his friends rape her, too.)

Nora, 14, who three years ago went to a station to meet her friend Pierre, who passed her on to two of his friends, who raped her in a dingy apartment and sent her home on a train bleeding. In her statement to police, she says, "He took his trousers off. He had nothing on underneath. And he asked me to touch his... "

But she can't say the word.

Annabelle, a 21-year-old student, was raped by four young men on a train near Lille. There were 200 people in the carriage. Another girl was raped 86 times.

Like their rapists, the victims are white, black and Arab. Usually they are teenagers. In the banlieue, or suburbs, which constitute France's deprived urban areas, to be a girl is to be a target.

The kids who live in the banlieue call them "the neighbourhoods". Or, in the outskirts of Paris, Neuf-trois (93), Neuf-deux (92), or the other postcodes that set them apart from the 75 of the city centre, and a whole other life. In official-speak, they are "difficult zones" or "sensitive areas", both of which are accurate for these huge, grim housing estates, thrown up in the 1950s to house immigrants - mostly north African, but also sub-Saharan or French Caribbean - and workers for the nearby factories.

The factories closed, and only poverty remained. Unemployment among young people here runs at 40%, compared with a national average of 9%. You put your 93 postcode on a job application, kids tell you, and your letter goes in the bin. If your name is Arab, it goes there even faster.

France prefers not to notice its banlieue most of the time. But occasionally it has to. Like in 1995, when Mathieu Kassovitz's film La Haine scandalised the country, with its portrayal of torched cars, violence against the police, deep-seated fury. "It was a kind of positive violence," explains Sarah Deflaoui, an 18-year-old law student and child of a difficult zone. "It was a way of crying out, of asking people to notice that things were going wrong." When the explosion didn't help, the banlieue imploded instead. The stronger minority - frustrated, furious young men - turned on the weaker: women.

But once again, France chose not to notice. Until last October, when Bellil's book about her experience of rape was published, and when a 17-year-old girl was killed in circumstances too horrible to ignore. Then, in February, women from all over the country found their voice, rallying for a five-week march through more than 20 French cities with the war cry Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Slags Nor Submissives).

Sarcelles high school is 20 minutes from Notre Dame. You get there by RER train. This is as banlieue as it gets; the low school buildings surrounded on all sides by housing estates, the wind appearing to blow chillier.

I get off at the station, and remember that this was where Bellil was dragged and raped for a second time by K, only a month after her gang rape. On her desk, headteacher Jeanne Sillam has a photocopied newspaper article. The headline reads:

"Nadia, 15, gang raped in a courthouse." And I think, what kind of school needs to keep its head informed about gang rapes? The kind of school where a girl wearing a miniskirt was attacked by 30 boys in the toilets. The kind of school where teacher Fabrice Genestal kept hearing the word "tournante" and didn't click what it meant, till he and Sillam sat the kids down in after-school workshops, and got talking.

The result was Genestal's 2000 feature film La Squale ("the tearaway"), made with real schoolkids, in real schools: it made as many waves as La Haine.

Genestal opened his film with a gang rape, a faithful portrayal of what the kids had told him. "Usually, it goes like this - a boy approaches a girl with his gang behind him." He might buy her a drink. He might persuade her to kiss him. "It's all premeditated. It's a hunt."

The girl will be fragile, or unprotected, or a runaway. Or she's just broken the rules of the banlieue. (One teacher reported his pupils as saying, "Nightclubs are full of slags because if they're in a club, they must be a slag.") She gives in, and the boy says, "Be nice or I'll tell your parents/friends/the neighbourhood." Then he says, "Be nice to my friends, too." "The trick is to isolate the victim," Genestal says. "Once she's seen as easy, no one will help her, not even the girls."

This is the code of the banlieue. At a family planning class, a teenage boy says, "French girls are for fucking and Arab girls are for marrying." The woman who told me this was shocked, not only because the boy was white and "French", but because all the girls in the class applauded. Being more macho than the lads is an escape route, explains Deflaoui. To the extent that girls act as touts. Nadia was delivered to her rapists by two girls she knew, who had been asked to find a "dick-sucker".

One day at the station, P put his hand in me. I asked why and he said, 'You can't say anything, we can do whatever we want with you.' He said it was to lubricate, but I don't know what for. I started going out less and less, but the boys kept coming for me'. Elodie, 14, in her statement to police

The shame of a gang rape is crippling: most girls don't dare speak for fear of reprisals - apartments burned down, threats to younger sisters. It's estimated that in France and the UK alike, police get to hear of only 10% of rape cases, and that's of those involving adults. In these areas, silence is even more tempting - for some Muslim families, in particular, premarital sex is taboo, and a daughter's virginity is honoured above everything.

Bellil didn't report her rapes at first. The police call gang rape victims "ultra-raped". So she was ultra-scared, ultra-disgusted and ultra-guilty. Her Algerian parents weren't easy to talk to. She said nothing, till three friends turned up, saying they'd been attacked by K - the man who had raped her twice - and would she report it? She did, and joined a tiny minority.

It is only in the past few years that girls have started reporting these crimes - that is, if they realise it was one. (Bellil didn't know that being raped, sodomised and forced to fellate three boys was a crime punishable by French law.)

"I don't know if the numbers of rapes have increased," says Hugues Lagrange, a sociologist and expert in adolescent sexuality, "but I think the ability to talk about it has." When Bellil became the first victim to write a book about her experience - In The Hell Of Tournantes - the taboo cracked a little further.

It was astonishingly courageous. Though K served two years for rape, he has long been back on the streets, Bellil's streets. She saw him three months before the book was finished. "My legs were like jelly. I expected him to pull my head off, to drag me by the legs. He could have done anything." But she still wrote under her real name, still put her face on the cover. "My editor said I had a nice face," she laughs. "I never considered being anonymous. I had to be credible. There are so many young women who have been suffering. They are so isolated. I want to give them some hope. God, they need it."

There are no firm statistics about tournantes. As in the UK, French criminal statistics don't differentiate gang rape from any other kind. A judge in the juvenile courts estimates that gang rapes constitute 10-20% of the cases he sees, though most of those are downgraded to sexual assault.

The anonymous hotline SOS Viol (SOS Rape) received 73 calls from juveniles between January and October 2001, more than in the three previous years put together. A police chief in one suburb north of Paris, with a population of 800,000, received five reports in a similar period. "If you take those figures," said one SOS Viol volunteer, "you'd think it was an insignificant problem. But it's not."

Anecdotal evidence makes that clear: social worker Richard Heyberger, who runs an emergency refuge for juveniles west of Paris, says that all the girls who come under his roof know at least one other girl who has been "passed around". Bellil, since her book was published, has received 20-30 letters a day, many from victims.

'My boyfriend told me I'd gone looking for it. But I don't think I did. After the second time, I finished with him and he laughed and said, anyway, there wasn't much chance I'd forget him'. Solange, 17, in her statement to police

"When I was at school seven years ago," says Deflaoui, "boys used to say, 'Calm down or you'll go down to the basement.' They meant you'd get raped." Deflaoui's sister, six years older, knew about pass-rounds when she was at school. Grassroots activists have been hearing the word tournante for about two decades. But it was Genestal's film, dark, brutal and truthful, that shocked the political classes into a reaction. Ministers proclaimed an end to sexual violence in schools. Committees were set up to combat it. The issue probably helped the centre-right government to win the elections, given their emphasis on "insecurity" as a campaign issue.

Perhaps such attention from the corridors of power is too little, too late. Fadela Amara, director of the grassroots organisation La Maison des Potes (House of Friends), has been working in the banlieue for two decades, with little help. "The public has no idea what's been happening. When they talk about the banlieue, they talk about crime. They never talk about women." She sounds as if she's said it too many times before. "All the rights feminism won stop at the gates of the banlieue."

Forged from traditional cultural prejudices about the inferiority of women, and a street code based on survival of the strongest, the law that rules the banlieue is brutal and inviolable. "Women are the guardians of honour," says Bellil. Girls have to be virgins. They have to study at home, look after the men, never go out. That makes them filles biens (good girls), and out of danger. Anyone else is a slut. "Once you're in the projects, you follow the rules. If you want a 'French' life, if you want to go out, wear make-up, you get a reputation." The reputation is irreversible.

It seems too extreme to be true - until I go to an after-school dance workshop at Sarcelles high school. Half a dozen teenage girls and one younger boy are swaying to African music.

Desirèe, 14, is wearing tight jeans, a tight-ish top and a bandana. She looks fabulous. "Could you wear that in normal class?" I ask. (The only boy there is her brother.) She looks at me as if I'm daft. "No! I'd get called easy."

A gym teacher tells me that, of the 300 girls in his school, in a "difficult zone" in Marseille, not one wears a skirt. Of course not, says Deflaoui: "Girls have to camouflage themselves. You can't show your body is growing, you can't show you're a girl. You put femininity to one side - it's for later." Wear a skirt, she says, "and immediately, you'd be called a slut. You'd have hands on your ass. Whatever you wear, it has to be baggy."

Everyday insults and lewd comments in the street don't help.

"You expect it," says one girl. If you see a girl in the banlieue, she's got her head down and is walking as fast as she can. "Girls look around and see every other girl is the same," says Bellil. "They think that's the way it has to be. There is such fatalism."

That mood changed on October 4 last year, when a girl was murdered in the suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine. The boyfriend of 17-year-old Sohane Benziane slapped another boy's girl in the face. Then, apparently in return, Benziane was set alight with lighter fuel, in a garbage room. Boys blocked her exit. She pushed past finally, in flames, and burned to death on the scrubby grass outside, a couple of stops from the Bibliotheque Nationale, the symbol of all that is progressive in the secular republic. A 19-year-old man from the Balzac estate has been accused of her murder.

And the taboo cracked some more.

On Valentine's Day this year, in a cold social club in Marseille, six young women from the suburbs are sitting behind a table, fielding questions. Their T-shirts read Ni Putes Ni Soumises, and they are part of the Women's March. Actually a roadshow (which included some men, too), the march began, symbolically, in Vitry, made more than 20 stops all over the country, and ended in Paris on March 8, International Women's Day, where it attracted a crowd of 20,000.

"We're sick of it!" says Loubna, from Clermont-Ferrand. "We're sick of cringing, of lowering our eyes, of being scared." "It's impossible to live there any more," says another marcher. "We're stifling. I want to wear what I want, I want to be able to say, 'I've got a sex life, what's it to you?'" She wants what other girls have, outside the banlieue. The debate is about love, and why it's a pipe dream. "You can't use the word 'love'," says Bellil, who has joined the march for a day. "It's a sign of weakness, and from then on it's scary." The slags/submissives slogan was carefully chosen. "It's shocking," says Amara. "But so is what's happening to young women."

'I sometimes think people think a gang rape is a cute orgy. They don't see the humiliation, the hours on end, the boys queueing up, the blows, the spitting, the objects, the insults, the times you faint from the pain. The 3 to 15 guys who are having a laugh, drinking, rolling joints, sending text messages to their mates telling them to come, too, taking pictures, filming. And when it finishes, you know it's going to start again, in two days, a week, two weeks'. An anonymous testimony on a banlieue forum at

How did it get this bad? There are 50,000 reasons, says Bellil, though she's more interested in what to do about it. Some French commentators blame the state of things on Islam, on cultural attitudes. It's dangerous ground, and not accurate.

"This isn't Islam," says Deflaoui, whose family is Muslim. "When I go to Tunis on holiday, it's not the same. Girls can go out, they can smoke, have boyfriends. I see when I go there that the mentality is evolving, but here it's not. Here, young people are regressing."

It's not about religion, Bellil says forcefully. It's about religion, and society, and biology, and education, and everything. It's about what happens when a Muslim culture rubs up against a western one, and the worst of both remain. There are reasons wherever you look and, usually, they involve the word "gap". A gap between home where boys are treated like kings, as is commonplace in north African and African cultures, and outside where they are delinquents and scum. A gap between boys and girls at school, where girls do better and leave boys behind. Boys drop out more often, or end up at technical schools, where their access to girls is limited. Girls who are known to them - sisters or cousins of friends - are off limits, because of the honour code.

There is, Sillam says, "no opportunity for meaningful social intercourse". Lagrange echoes this: "Flirting is impossible, and so are relationships." The views of the girls in the banlieue are more heartfelt. "We are dying for lack of love," Loubna says. "No one talks about love; everything is taboo." In the nation of Simone de Beauvoir and Simone Weil, slogans about progress and equality are dangerously irrelevant.

"The feminists have deserted the banlieue," reads the national appeal of the Neither Slags Nor Submissives campaign. I put this accusation to Julia Kristeva, one of France's leading feminists. Why hasn't anyone paid attention before now? She sent me back a one-page article she'd written a year ago - on "the damage to psychic space". "It'll be the same thing elsewhere," says Michelle Le Doeuff, a professor of philosophy and one of the few intellectual feminists willing to dirty her hands with practical issues. "It's frowned upon to do both practical and intellectual work." And even if it weren't, says film-maker Catherine Breillat, "there is no strong feminist movement today. Instead, there's a very strong misogyny. When the fact of the gang rapes came out, no one protested, because of fatalism. They said, It's cultural.' No, it's not!"

Breillat - one of France's more outspoken and notorious directors - doesn't mince her words. She hates France, the French, being French. She knows exactly where to lay the blame: her own culture. This is a macho country. It's partly Latin, partly Nordic, and the result is an incredible hypocrisy. We are a country of Tartuffes. We never confront our problems, and that's why we're helpless when faced with the gang rapes, because we're all complicit."

Unlike most politicians, she will not blame pornography, even though a recent survey found that, in a sample of 1,200 12-year-olds, all the boys and half the girls had already watched a porn film. DVDs circulate in high schools, along with homemade videos of pass-rounds. "There's no real sex education," says Deflaoui. "They tell us what spermatozoid is, but not how to treat a woman. So boys educate themselves with porn." And not only that: in the self-professed liberal society that is France, mainstream feature films show graphic sex Romance (directed by Breillat), Baise-Moi (Fuck Me), Irreversible (with its nine-minute rape scene).

But Breillat won't have it. "Pornography isn't the problem, and if it were it's too late to ban it, now there's the internet. The problem is that boys have no distance from it. They can't tell the difference between it and reality." Girls in porn films are often gang raped, and they always consent. (The British criminologist Ray Wyre found that 92% of rape narratives in films showed the woman enjoying it.)

In almost all gang rape cases that have come to court, the fruit of this sex education is chillingly obvious. At Nadia's court case last year, before sentences of between five and 12 years were handed down (including five years for the girl touts), one of the 18 attackers said, with a macabre play on words, "In our family, we're thieves (voleurs) not rapists (violeurs)."

In northern Paris, a police chief tells of a rapist who was in court for car theft the day before the rape trial. For the car theft, he was contrite. For the gang rape, he laughed and said, "No, she's forgotten, we did something else to her, too." (He went to jail for the rape, not the car theft.)

The morning after her gang rape, Bellil's rapist shined her shoes and made her breakfast, as if nothing had happened. Heyberger, who receives juvenile criminals at his refuge, says only one boy has ever recognised that what he did was a crime. "I ask myself constantly," he says, "whether they're actually repentant. And I've never persuaded myself that they are."

One of the lads said I shouldn't go back in because they were doing their thing. When I got downstairs, I said to myself that perhaps she wasn't consenting. But she's a slut. She wanted it.
One of Nora's rapists, 18, in his statement to police

Are these boys monsters? "It is commonly believed," wrote Sue Lees in her classic book on rape, Carnal Knowledge, "that men who gang rape must be pathological bullies, fiends or maniacs, and that gang rape is far less common than individual rape. Research refutes these assumptions."

In fact, gang rape arises from an "extreme need for normative masculinity", particularly in adolescence. All of which is borne out in the ghettos of Paris and other French cities (though there have been copycat tournantes in bourgeois schools, too). But what about elsewhere?

There have been several reported cases in the UK, including two notorious ones in London, in 1997 and 2000, and the Metropolitan police's rape task force, Operation Sapphire, says that rape by London gangs is on the increase. It's usually a form of initiation, says Commander Andy Baker, who specialises in street gang crime.

"The girls have to go along with it to join the gang. But there's the other kind, too, where a girl who has sex once is then tainted." Either way, it's called a "line-up": she stands there, they line up. "It's definitely out there," says Baker, "and definitely worrying. We're officially keeping an eye on it." Perhaps this is not surprising when many of the elements that led to the phenomenon in France are found here, too.

A recent NSPCC survey of the prevalence of sexual abuse found that approximately one in 10 young adults reported experiencing sexual abuse involving actual or attempted penetrative or oral sex before they were 16. Most victims were girls; the most common abusers were described as boyfriends.

In France, sociologist Lagrange thinks the Women's March was highly significant, but sounds a warning, too, for at least some of those involved. "The attitude of young women used to be, 'We'll wear a headscarf because we want to respect our tradition.' Because of the rapes, the attitude has been inverted. They're saying it's no longer acceptable."

But in today's climate - of tension between east and west, of Islam being used as a badge of rebellion - it's a dangerous time to break ranks. "People are going to say they are traitors, stabbing their community in the back, while the west is waging war on them."

"It's going to be heated, when we get home," says one marcher, jokingly. But it's not funny. On one banlieue website, there is serious discussion about which marcher will get "into difficulty" first, after the publicity has died down.

When I ask the marchers if they're optimistic, they say, "I have no solution, madame," one after the other. Some talk of more sex education in schools. Or schools for parents, so that they educate their boys to have respect, and do not defend them blindly if they are involved in gang rape.

But for now, Bellil's question - what to do about it - is being answered, in what Breillat would call a typical macho fashion, by France's conservative interior minister, Nicholas Sarkozy. A law passing through parliament will make it a criminal offence to linger in a hallway (but not a basement). He's also intending to make juvenile detention centres into prisons, following the British model. It's repression, not prevention.

"That's the last thing we need," Bellil says. "All I needed, after I was raped, was someone to hold out a hand to me. No one did. Nobody." She did not write her book to inspire pity, she says. "I wrote it so that girls will speak out. If they do that, I've won. But I can't be the spokesperson for this for much longer. I can't carry it all. There's just too much violence."

This final peice comes from an Internet magazine in which we read of the pros and cons of FGM. If you didn't know there were pros regarding mutilating little girls, then you must have missed the previous posts on the topic in our archives. Here's your latest chance to look into the minds of sick people. We can't change everything for the better, but there's a chance that if we at least talk about these things openly we'll bring the problem to light so that somewhere, someday, someone will say: "I've heard about that, and I'm calling the police." It's worth the try.

Female Circumcision in Islam- Part I

Fatou Badjie-Ceesay

In today's edition of Every Woman, we bring you a research by Sheikh Sedia Ceesay, the Assistant Principal of Tallinding Islamic Institute, made under the Gambia Islamic Union on Female Circumcision (FM) in Islam.

"Circumcision in Sharia is to cut the skin that covers the male genital end and/or to cut the upper end of the skin that covers the clitoris on the female genital part. Generally, the practice is to cut to a certain degree of the skin from both male and female sexual organs".

Historical background: the history as to when and who it actually started is not precisely known. Yet it is clear that circumcision was generally practiced all around the world.

Some scholars state that the practices started as far back as the generation of Adam, the father of prophets, Abraham (Alaihi Salam) by Allah's order. Some other scholars argued that prophet Abraham was the first to practice it by an order from Allah the Almighty. Allah says in the Quran: "And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled " suratul Bakara-124.

One thing to notice is that the practice was started by a very righteous man, which is by either of two above mentioned.

Reference of the practice from the Holy Quran and the Sunnah: Allah the exalted has tried Abraham to undertake certain commands as quoted above from the Holy Quran and these commands have been fulfilled.

Circumcision was among the other things that were included in the command. The Holy prophet Muhammad (SAW) said in the Hadith on the authority of A'isha (may Allah be pleased with her) said: "when two circumcised ends meet, then purification is compulsory". These circumcised parts or ends in this Hadith means that of the male and the female. The hadith means that when the two circumcised ends meet, purification is compulsory upon both of them, even if there is no ejaculation or sperm released.

The second hadith on the authority of Abu Hurera (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Holy prophet (SAW) said: "five things are fitrah: circumcision, shaving of genital parts, shaving of mustache, cutting of nails and shaving of hair of the armpits". Fitrah in this hadith means Sunnah narrated by Bukhari and Muslim.

In another hadith, Ummul Atiya (may Allah be pleased with her) "the female circumciser during the time of the Holy prophet (SAW) was advised to: cut a small part of it and not all because it makes the wife beautiful and makes the husband happy about the wife".

Additionally from Ahmad and Tirmizhi, the Holy prophet Muhammad (SAW) said that circumcision is a Sunnah for male and honour or generosity for female (i.e mustahab).

The Islamic judgement or concept about it:

Firstly, it has been considered by many Islamic judges that circumcision is compulsory on both males and females. Among the scholars who say so includes Ash-Shafae, Ahmad, Hambal, Ata'a, Al-Awzae, Shanoon Minal Malikia and Ibn Abbas, a well-known sahaba (i.e companion of the Holy prophet). Infact Ibn Abbas was further reported to have said, "There is no valid Hajj or salat for uncircumcised males and females".

Additionally, Imam Malick says that "the uncircumcised person should not lead the salat nor testify or witness in court cases", he further says that Muslims should not eat the animals slaughtered by such a person.

Secondly, many prominent Islamic scholars like Abu Hanifah, scholars of Malikia and Hassan Al-Bassry all agreed that circumcision is a compulsory Sunnah on Muslims, both males and females.

Some scholars of Shafae and Imam yahya of Al-Zaidiyyah said that it is obligatory on males and a strong Sunnah on females.

Additionally, some other scholars judged it as a strong Sunnah on males and a honour/generosity on the females (i.e mustahab and honour).

This means that the practice on females is an honour and therefore cannot be rejected. This group of scholars based their judgement on one of the above-mentioned hadith.

What did Islamic scholars say about it:

Scholars Hambaly term female circumcision as a very good Islamic practice and in fact a major one. This is because the Holy prophet (SAW) used it as a way of describing as and when purification is compulsory.

In narrating this, the Holy prophet (SAW) did not use one circumcised part to describe it but rather the two-both male and female.

Additionally, these scholars said that a husband should force his wife to be circumcised equally as he forces her to pray.

Once Imam Ahmad asked Abu Abdullaah about the convertion of a non-Muslim who was not circumcised. Abu Abdullaah answered that the person should circumcise. Again asked if he/she is too old? He answered even though.

Umar Ibn khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) during his time as the leader of the Muslim community once reminded the female circumciser in Madinah who was once advised by the Holy prophet (SAW). He told her "if you do it, don't deepen the cut, try to leave something for her sexual enjoyment". Scholars who are in line with Umar in this view cannot be mentioned in this pamphlet. The few among them in recent times include Shaik Muhammad Al-Banna, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Religious Affairs in Egypt; Fadilatu Al- Imam Akibar Shaik Mahamud Salatuta, a member in the Council of Supreme Scholars who served as referees in Islam have also discussed on this topic. At the end of their discussion, it was generally agreed that the practice is good. This happened on the 11th of September 1950 and the name of that society is called Daru al Iftaruw.

Locally, our prominent scholars, Ustas Umar Ibn Jeng, the Imam of State House Abdoulie Fatty, Alhagie Banding Drammeh, the president of the Supreme Islamic Council, Shaik Abdou Gitteh; Shaik Muhammad Basiru Camara, Muhammad Lamin Touray, Shaik Abdou Kadri Suwareh, Shaik Kandafe Kolley and many other scholars, are in line with this practice.




Osilama Osime (MBBS, MPH)

The Bill on "Female Genital Mutilation" (FGM) HB 22 sponsored by Hon. Janet Adeyemi in the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is one legislative process one cannot, in good consciousness, support. The bill desires to criminalize a widely practiced and accepted tradition of a people.

First, none of the nation states or nationalities that constitute Nigeria practices "female genital mutilation" - a term that implies that some barbaric natives deliberately set out to do harm to their female offsprings. It is the tradition in some parts of the country to circumcise children - male and female. In either sex, when surgery is performed, varying amount of the genitalia is excised. In the female, varying amount of the clitoris and or the labia are cut. In some communities, female circumcision is ceremonial and does not involve any surgery, at all. Most of the adverse effects of female circumcision are associated with the resultant scarification when surgery is performed.

This practice which has become associated with our people's way of life and has sustained from time immemorial should not be demonized, cast in criminal terms and legislated against. It is not the vogue among Nigerian woman to smoke cigarette. It is not popular and the society does not accept it as desirable norm. However, in some "civilized" societies, cigarette smoking by women (even during pregnancy) is accepted as "cool" and fashionable. This is in spite of the well-established cause-effect relationship between cigarette smoking and some deadly ailments. Basking in the sun for skin tanning exposes the non-black skin to a high risk of skin cancer with a high fatality rate. Where these issues are concerns there are no bills designed to legislate against them. They are considered public health issues and addressed as such through public health programs designed to enlighten and educate people of the risks of their choices.

The Sunday Boston Globe of March 18, 2001 in its "The Boston Globe Magazine" published a write up "Body Work" by Judith Gains. Part of this article reads:

"At the fringes of this phenomenon, some people are turning attention to body parts not previously considered in the aesthetic domain. Some doctors report a minor vogue in cosmetic removal of one or two bottom ribs to make a waistline look smaller. Others have been alarmed by a growing demand for genital surgery among women, who think the inner labia are too large or elongated."

The western culture of surgically remodeling any part of the body including tongue piercing, eyelid piercing, nose piercing and skin scarification are never considered as self abuse or body mutilation. At least not by those who practice it for whom it is "body modification" - fixing that part of the body you do not like.

It is unfortunate that our legislators would describe our values, culture and traditions in derogatory terms to enable them make such practices illegal. "Mutilation" is not it. For the people who practice it, "circumcision" is what it is and "circumcision" it should be called. The term "mutilation" has this negative bestial connotation that suggests willful and malicious infliction of injury. I am yet to know that Nigerian parent whose culture permits of deliberately harming his/her child (male or female). I mean "Nigerian parent" not 'African parent'. The term "mutilation" is unacceptable. Those opposed to female circumcision should tone down on their rhetoric and exaggeration aimed at winning the sympathy and approval of some western overlords. A very thin line separates insult from fancifully overstating a point. Why has it become such a shameful thing to be identified with the tradition and culture of our ancestors? Wait a minute! Our anti-female circumcision group will not want to be caught eating pounded yam cum ogbono or egusi
soup with their fingers. It is unfortunate that a cultureless people, because of economic and political advantages are the ones who would now set the standards and way of living for another people whose background is rooted in culture and tradition.

Nigerian children do not grow up alone, left to Prozac and other mood stabilizers. They have loving parents and family (extended of course) and each is registered as a family member before birth. They represent the ultimate and true blessing any family can receive. Our children are cute and truly adorable hence there is always an adult family member readily available to attend to their needs. Their being circumcised is part of the manifestation of the joy that comes with their arrival. In fact, some communities celebrate female circumcision with fanfare. It is a milestone in the child's growing up that the parents are delightfully and eagerly desiring to attain. It is a decision the parents have to make because our culture is inclusive, communal and collective. Grown up children, more often than not, have family members contributing to and or influencing some of their decisions if not outrightly making such decisions for them. That is who we are. By the reference above, what we find desirous to do for our children, some other culture learn to do in later life with so much excuses.

If we send our daughters to the "fattening room" for pre-nuptial grooming we are ridiculed. There are no statistics to support the insinuations that our fattening room culture exposes us to an obesity epidemic. When our damsels parade their beautiful ebony skins, it is primitive nakedness. But not such degrading and derogatory words for cultures that exploit their bikini-wearing women's bodies. In one culture nakedness is primitive, in the other it is fashionable and a show of wealth and well being. There is no female sport in the western culture that is not designed to expose and exhibit nudity as if the participating sportswomen's nakedness is part of the game. Polygamy where a man is held responsible and committed to his family is scorned at. Flip the coin and you have the "ideal" culture of flirtatious and irresponsible multiple marriages. Poly-marriage never gets derided as long as the previous and immediately preceding marriage ends in divorce and payment of alimony and child support including Prozac prescriptions.

Now it is time to make Nigerians feel self-pity for circumcising their daughters. Female circumcision (or male circumcision) is not an act of willful, malicious, dehumanizing brutalization of our children's genitals. It is perceived as a preparatory act towards initiation into later adulthood. No mother (or father at that) who has had seven (or more) boys will subject the eight and female child to any barbaric downgrading mutilation of any part of the body. That "Odegua" of a child is the precious female and circumcising her only increases the joy of having her.

There is no rule of thumb that stipulates that a tradition must be concern free. There is always going to be some fault with a people's way of life if an effort is made to take it apart. When a people's way of life, beliefs or tradition has unintended adverse effect, what to do? What not to do is not to legislate against the particular way of life, belief or tradition. A legislation against a socially accepted norm drives the behavior underground. Mary Slessor didn't arrive Calabar with a piece of legislation against the killing of twins. She lived among the people, campaigned, enlightened the people and so dispelled the beliefs that placed the lives of twins in jeopardy. The people became informed and their customs evolved. Attempts at changing a people's culture must first acquire a good understanding of the people's perspective of that culture with appropriate and due respect for the circumstances that produced and maintains the behavior.

The health hazards associated with female circumcision are no worse than those of bilateral episiotomy or symphisiotomy. But the dysfunction and crippling damage associated with the later are readily and conveniently rationalized. Female circumcision lives a scar like every surgery. The undesired effects of this are better addressed through public health campaign programs and not legislation. The cumulative benefits of a population-wide behavior change program are more effective and enduring than the process of criminalizing an acceptable behavior and legislating against it. Presently, in some parts of Nigeria, public health campaign programs are effectively counseling against marriages between couples that both have sickle cell trait (AS genotype). This is reducing the incidences of double sickle cell gene (SS genotype) births. Talk of eliminating abikus. Nigerians are capable of making positive choices for themselves and do not need to be led by the nose which is legislating against a tradition does.

When the people are fully informed in regards of the choices they have to make then the chosen behavior may be modified and adapted to meet any peculiar circumstances. For those who choose to continue smoking cigarette inspite of the associated health hazards, the cigarette industry offers low tar cigarettes with filters and the Surgeon General's warning on cigarette packets. For those who must stay under the sun, ignoring the risk of skin cancer, there are body creams and sunshade glasses. Similarly, for those who would not give up their ancestral heritage, the process of female circumcision should be standardized to be conducted under sterile conditions and environment. Unsterile procedure and environment makes even the innocuous male circumcision an unsafe surgery. Neonatal tetanus is a painful consequence of male circumcision that immediately takes it toll not because of the surgery per se but because of unclean environment and procedure.

The Nigerian woman having control over her body is not relevant to the subject of female circumcision. Nigerian women are not oppressed and unempowered as some negative press would want us to believe. Some Nigerian communities simultaneously have female traditional rulers (Omu) with significant authority and almost co-equal influence with the male rulers (Obi). Long before 1920, the area now defined as Nigeria had produced Queen Amina and Queen Idia among others. The Nigerian woman started voting along side their male counterparts from day one of introducing universal suffrage to us. The first Nigerian parliament had a female senator and a female cabinet minister long before some older democracies will allow their women run for such offices. Nigeria has her Alele-Williams and the Ransome-Kutis. Name the sphere of life and the Nigerian woman is significantly represented and competing on equal ground with their male counterparts for equal pay.

The Nigerian culture does not however make provision for a woman to have absolute control over her reproductive endowment. The reasons for this are not far fetched. Our concept of marriage and family differ widely from others where women are alleged to have absolute control over their bodies. It is not a matter of which is preferable or superior. But that is what the situation is. Our marriages are not just for companionship with pre-or/and post- nuptial agreements specifying who makes breakfast on what day of the week and how many times the couple must sleep in the same room before divorce. Across Nigeria, marriage is celebrated as the union of two families whose children have the commission to go and multiply. Hence , every unborn Nigerian child is not stuck with just a biological mother who has power of life and death over it but has a league of uncles, aunts, cousins and grand parents.

"Having control over their bodies" is a euphemism to disguise the right for women to singularly terminate the lives of their unborn babies. The unborn Nigerian child has a family that cares about it as well as care for the mother too. Neither is expected to put the life of the other in jeopardy as an indication of empowerment or being in control.

Genuine concern for the reproductive health of our women as it is impacted by female circumcision is best addressed through public health campaign and education programs. Female circumcision is not the result of a battle of the sexes with the victorious party electing to "mutilate" the vanquished. It is a people's way of life. It is these people who need to be fully informed of the consequences of their beliefs and practices and thereby empowered to make alternative choices, voluntarily.

It is unfortunate that our lawmakers have been stampeded into wasting legislative time and energy trying to curb a practice deeply rooted into our tradition and social ethos. A census of the legislative ills confronting Nigeria today will show that female circumcision does not feature among the first thousand. There are many more issues in Nigeria today that can be achieved by legislative fiat. Cultures evolve.

God bless Nigeria

God help us. But remember that all cultural revolution grows out of the barrel of a gun. What's important is who is pointing it.

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