Egypt recently passed a new Child's Law. One of the most controversial parts of the law was the criminalization of female circumcision, or FGM. I just did a story on this for yesterday's edition of The World.

One things I discovered is that while the figure that's commonly mentioned is that 96% of women in Egypt are circumcised, the figure for teenage girls is about 80% and they project (from government health surveys in which they ask mothers whether they plan to circumcise their daughters) that the rate for young girls will be 60% by 2015.

The Muslim Brotherhood made a big fuss over this law when it was discussed in parliament. One MP brought his circumcised daughters and wife to parliament as an argument for FGM. I had read about this and went to interview Saad Katatni, the head of the Brotherhood's parliamentary block. He was much more diplomatic with me than his MPs had been in parliament. He actually said he recognizes that FGM isn't required by Sharia. But he said it shouldn't be banned because in some "exceptional cases" it's needed. Pressed on what those exceptional cases might be, he said they were when the organ (he meant clitoris) "طويل طولا شاذا", meaning "is perversely/abnormally long." This harks back to the popular belief that female circumcision is necessary for some women whose clitorises otherwise would grow to a monstruous size. When I asked Katatni about the death of Budur (the schoolgirl who died last summer while undergoing FGM), he said isolated cases shouldn't lead us to condemn the practice completely. He said: "If I as a doctor makes a mistake during a given operation, and the patient dies, do I discard this branch of medicine, do I erase this branch of science?”

Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.