Our society—modern Western civilization in general—is weirdly deferential towards Muslims and Islam, said deference driven in large part, I think, because people see Muslims in our society as put-upon and aggrieved minorities who deserve special consideration. Progressives in particular are extremely sensitive to the plight, real or imagined, of Muslims in American society. It leads to some strange rhetorical bedfellows within the Left: the people who might normally snicker and sneer at the denim full skirt dress codes of fundamentalist Christians are also hyper-quick to defend and even celebrate the hijab, an article of clothing that literally has no function other than reactionary moral self-deprecation.
Now this odd accession has apparently come to Minnesota, the legislature of which recently tried to pass an anti-female-genital-mutilation bill that ran up against some opposition in transit:
The Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, a nonprofit called Isuroon and other groups argue that the legislation carries overly harsh punishment and unintended consequences, including the possibility that newcomers from countries where genital cutting is widespread would not seek medical care and other services for their children. They call for a less punitive approach focused on educating parents.
Now, the author of the Senate version is voicing second thoughts about approving the legislation yet this session, though Senate GOP leadership have not committed to a course of action. “We all agree this practice is absolutely horrible, and something needs to be done,” said the author, Sen. Karin Housley. “How can we empower communities to address this practice from within rather than having Big Brother come down and say, ‘This is wrong?’”
Rep. Mary Franson, who introduced the House bill, said the Senate is bowing to pressure from groups “more concerned with perception than doing the right thing and protecting girls.”
It is worth pointing out that Franson herself initially worried that the legislation would be seen as “Islamophobic” before deciding to go ahead with it. In any event, it is really something to witness: the author of a bill that would have cracked down on the barbaric practice of butchering little girls’ genitals has been publicly chastened over her absolutely commendable aspirations. Instead of laughing off the demands for a “less punitive” approach to preventing human butchery, Sen. Housley has instead been reduced to talking about “empowering communities” to “address” “this practice.” It seems not to have occurred to her that the “communities” in question aren’t actually interested in “empowerment,” aside from the kind of “empowerment” that allows them to slice their five-year-old girls’ clitorises and cut off their labia. I hate to break it to Sen. Housley, but if someone doesn’t already know that it’s wrong to cut up a little girl’s sexual and reproductive organs, then “empowering” them to “address” the problem isn’t going to do much good.
Just how bad are the “punitive” aspects of this bill? Well, it “makes it a felony for parents to subject their daughters to the procedure and calls for loss of custody and prison terms from five to 20 years, depending on the extent of the injuries.” Five to twenty years might seem a little steep, except when you consider the fact that the little girls who are subject to this practice can suffer for it throughout their entire lives. Even with the maximum sentence under this proposed law, a perp would walk in a couple of decades. His victim might suffer chronic physical and emotional pain for four times as long. You might consider this to be “overly harsh punishment” only if you think that slicing up a little girl’s private parts and possibly ruining her life is, in the grand scheme of things, not that big of a deal, or at least something that a person shouldn’t have to pay for in any really consequential way.
An activist also takes issue with the law’s “separating girls from their families, which they argue victimizes them a second time.” It is hard to imagine how sending a girl back to a family that mutilated her is somehow beneficial for that girl; it is, in any case, difficult to believe that a similar argument would be proffered if, say, a mother and father had their daughter’s feet cut off above the ankles because of some primitive barbaric impulse. “Well, sure, they mutilated their little girl and made her life vastly more difficult for the most savage and indefensible of reasons. But imagine what will happen if they aren’t allowed to retain custody!”
You can see the double standard at work here. In fact, you can see it at work in the existing Minnesota code, in which anyone (parents included) who subjects minors to sexual abuse may be sent to prison for up to thirty years. You don’t seem to see anyone kicking up much of a fuss about such a stiff penalty; when it comes to female genital mutilation, suddenly people worried about “Big Brother.” Call me crazy, but if one one of “Big Brother’s” functions is to (a) stop people from slicing up prepubescent girls’ bodies, and (b) throw into prison the people who do it—well, I’m just fine with that. And if you take issue with such a law, you should quite honestly ask yourself why.