Egypt's state-appointed Grand Mufti said today female genital cutting is forbidden by Islam. His pronouncement came after an 11-year-old girl died while undergoing the procedure at a private medical clinic in southern Egypt.
Genital cutting of girls, often referred to as female genital mutilation or circumcision, is banned in Egypt although the practice remains widespread as a rite of passage for girls and is often viewed as a way to protect their chastity.
"The harmful tradition of circumcision that is practised in Egypt in our era is forbidden," Mufti Ali Gomaa was quoted as saying by the Egyptian state news agency MENA.
The statement was the strongest yet against the practice by the Mufti, who is the government's official arbiter of Islamic law. The Grand Sheikh of Cairo's prestigious al-Azhar mosque, Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, had previously described the practice as un-Islamic, although some other clerics have supported it.
Both Tantawi and Coptic Pope Shenouda, the leader of Egypt's minority Christian community, have said that neither the Koran nor the Bible demand or mention female circumcision, which is usually performed on pre-pubescent girls.
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