Your grocery purchases may be funding female genital mutilation

A significant amount of halal certification cash, goes to Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) – a leading supporter of female genital mutilation (FGM). Female genital mutilation can include partial or complete removal of a girl’s genitals. MUI’s fatwa has led to many Indonesian girls being genitally mutilated, not only have at least 49% suffered this human rights violation, many Indonesian school girls are forced to endure being genitally mutilated in mass ceremonies.

ABC Four Corners found that a significant amount of Australian halal cash, goes to Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) – a leading supporter of female genital mutilation (FGM). Due to the author being Australian, this story primarily focuses on the Australian situation, however countries all around the world pay halal certification fees which end up with MUI, therefore Americans, Brits and many others are also unwittingly contributing to this atrocity through our purchases.

MUI, as Indonesia’s top halal authority, runs the World Halal Food Council.  The majority of Australian meat and other groceries are now halal certified (though often not labelled as such). MUI is also Indonesia’s most senior Islamic group, and a quasi government organisation.  They act as an interface between the government and Indonesian Islamic groups.

According to the JakartaGlobe, Indonesia has legislated that by 2019 it will be “‘mandatory for products that enter, are distributed and are traded in Indonesia to be halal certified.’ It goes on to define those products as ‘goods and/or services comprising of food, beverages, medicines, cosmetics, chemical products, biological products, genetically engineered products, as well as items that are worn, used or made use by the public.’” And MUI, who helped draft the legislation, is receiving money from producers all around the world, via halal certification, “For one thing, the law puts the council temporarily in charge of overseeing the certification process, for which producers, importers and distributors of affected products will be charged a fee.”

Female genital mutilation, sometimes also referred to as FGM, female circumcision or cutting, is the mutilation of a girl’s genitals. The severity of this varies and can include the complete removal of her clitoris and sewing her vaginal lips together. Therefore the UN has declared any such procedure as a human rights violation, as it serves no medical purpose and indeed it is a barbaric, harmful practice designed to control women’s sexuality.

Not only have MUI released fatwas stating that FGM is a religious obligation, part of sharia law and should be done to control women’s sexual desire, but at one stage they also managed to get an FGM ban overturned in Indonesia.

MUI’s endorsement of FGM has no doubt contributed to the fact that at least 49% of young girls there have undergone FGM, this is based on data released by the Indonesian government and recently published by UNICEF.

Even more alarming is that an Islamic foundation subordinate to MUI organises and pays for mass FGM ceremonies on schoolgirls annually.  Marie Claire editor, Abigail Haworth, witnessed one of these FGM events.

UNICEF estimates that at least 200 million women worldwide have undergone FGM.

Nine out of the top ten countries that practice female genital mutilation (FGM), in terms of prevalence by population, are Muslim majority nations according to statistics released by UNICEF and combined with PEW Research Center religious population data. These top ten countries are all situated in Africa, and statistics show that the majority of their females aged 15 to 49 years old have suffered FGM—as many as 98% in Somalia.

Whilst FGM also has high prevalence in some African countries with non Muslim majorities, UNICEF themselves have stated that whilst other religious groups practice FGM, “the majority of cut girls and women are Muslim.”

Since then the Indonesian statistics have become available and UNICEF has now declared that Indonesia is also one of the prime FGM offenders in the world.

More and more evidence is mounting that reveals other Islamic links to FGM.  For instance some Islamic nations thought to have a low incidence of FGM, such as Iraq and Malaysia, have turned out to have a much higher prevalence than thought.

This barbaric procedure is often carried out under primitive conditions whilst the girl is held down, leading to a lifetime of health problems, as well as making sex a painful act.

Somalian born model, Waris Dirie, has given her own account of the suffering that she endured at the age of 5. “Mama tied a blindfold over my eyes. The next thing I felt my flesh was being cut away. I heard the blade sawing back and forth through my skin. The pain between my legs was so intense I wished I would die.”

ABC Four Corner’s episode, “The Truth about Halal” found that the worldwide halal market is currently valued at up to $2.1 trillion dollars, and FGM endorser MUI is getting a significant cut of that.  Considering MUI is a quasi governmental organisation, halal is also a nice little earner for the Indonesian government, due to their passing of the legislation that all products sold in Indonesia must be halal certified.

Halal is a set of religious rules for Muslims relating to food purity and what is permissible to eat, yet despite just over 2% of Australians identifying as Muslim, many Australian food producers are paying Islamic organisations for halal certification.

Halal certifiers in Australia send huge amounts of halal cash to MUI, particularly as a large percentage of Australian food is halal certified (we are number 2 in the world on the ‘Halal Food Indicator’), however as many goods in many other Westernised countries, including Britain and America, are also halal certified, and some of that money makes its way to MUI, therefore every time one of us buys groceries, and indeed other products, we may be contributing to a little girl forcibly having her genitals mutilated.

The World Halal Food Council, run by MUI, also endorses sharia law. Sharia law is Islamic law that discriminates against and oppresses many groups, including women, gay people, apostates, atheists and people of other faiths. Punishments meted out under Sharia law can include, beheadings, stoning to death, amputations and eye gouging. In this photo an Indonesian woman was caned for having pre-marital sex.

However it is almost impossible to avoid buying halal foods, because it appears that the majority of Australian meat and grocery producers pay for halal certification, but most of it is either not labelled halal, or poorly labelled. Therefore if Australians wish to make the ethical choice and avoid buying halal foods it is almost impossible to do so.

Here are just a few examples of our non meat Halal Certified products (despite the fact that these foods being non meat are intrinsically ‘halal’ according to Islam, and therefore should not need any Islamic certification). Most of our meat is also Halal Certified.

But it is not only through our weekly grocery shop that the average Australian consumer might be unknowingly funding Islamic bodies that potentially support female genital mutilation; alarmingly, a number of high-profile Australian halal certifier organisations also have charitable status!

For instance, The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), Australia’s peak Muslim body which is also known as Muslims Australia, is a registered charity and is thus exempt from the reporting and tax obligations of most Australian businesses.

However, voluntary financial statements from the AFIC revealed that in 2012 it made $647,722 profit from halal-certification fees.

The high prevalence of female genital mutilation in Indonesia puts paid to the often quoted idea that Indonesia is a ‘moderate’ Muslim nation.

What is worse is that we Australians, and many other citizens around the world, are unwittingly contributing, through our grocery and other purchases, to the genital mutilation of young girls. Not only is this a human rights violation, it is one of the worst forms of child abuse imaginable.


Videos re the Halal Certification link to FGM

A short video about the link between Halal Certification and Female Genital Mutilation is below:

A longer video with references is below:

The above videos can also be found on youtube.

You can also read the following report which includes many of the references used for this post:

Other references can be found in my other post which explains all you need to know about Halal Certification: