Sheikh Salahuddeen Busairi is a Chief Imam in Akeetan-Bale, Ibadan, Oyo State. Since attending YNCSD’s Inter-religious Key Influencers’ Forum, he has incorporated the EndFGM message in his sermons. In this interview, he speaks on the steps he has taken as a cleric to end FGM in his community.
Tell us about yourself
I am Sheikh Salahudeen Busairi, a Muslim cleric. Knowing that people look up to me, I make sure that I always share the truth that I find.
How did you come to start preaching on FGM?
In June 2019, YNCSD held an inter-religious Key Influencers’ Forum in Ibadan with the intention of getting Islamic and Christian leaders to issue a joint statement on the dangers of FGM. I was one of the religious leaders present and I made a commitment to preach against FGM in my sermon.
It was really interesting to me especially because I was very aware of the practice in my community and all the drivers that allowed for its practice.
What were the major drivers for FGM in your community?
There was this cultural belief among the people – a myth. When I started to preach the End FGM message, the community members insisted that if a female child was not circumcised, she will face some gynaecological issues including an itch in her sexual organs.
However, cultural belief is not the only thing that encouraged the practice of FGM in the community.
The continued practice of FGM was also due to the erroneous belief that it was founded in Islam. I remember speaking to some Muslim clerics and a lot of them are shocked to find that there is no endorsement of FGM in the Holy Quran.
How did these affect your efforts to end FGM?
I already made a pledge to speaking about ending FGM. So, it became a practice to speak about the dangers of FGM during any gathering. I do this especially at child naming ceremonies so that I explain to them that the girls are already born complete and there is no need to cut them. By doing this, I am able to educate more people and create awareness.
This brought me to the understanding that it was easier to convince people to let go of FGM from a religious stance than from a cultural stance. It was easier to use my platform as a religious leader.
When an Imam tells them that a practice is bad, it is automatic acceptance. Once an Islamic scholar tells them, they know that it is true.
Within communities, the influence of the religious and traditional leaders cannot be questioned and I’m happy that YNCSD saw this.
What challenges did you face with your message?
On the cultural front, there were still a lot of fears because of the myths associated with the practice of FGM. So, whenever we gathered the people to talk to them, we had medical personnel around to advise them properly on good sanitation practices to prevent the itch they thought was a result of not mutilating the girls.
The traditional circumcisers were also harder to convince. For them, FGM was a source of income and it would be a loss for them if they were to send people away.
However, these challenges did not deter me or the other clerics I had continued to inform of the dangers of FGM. I believe that change will definitely happen in Nigeria as most of the defences provided by the supporters of the practice have begun to wane in the face of moral and legal scrutiny, as well as changing societal values.
Religious studies have also provided a good backing. That it is not stipulated as a necessity in the Quran is already a good ground for defence.
This makes me believe that we have done a lot to end the practice of FGM, but it does not mean we should end here. We must not allow the awareness raised on the dangers of FGM to die down. So, there should be a lot of continued sensitisation.
YNCSD is proud to engage with religious leaders and community leaders to push for a world without FGM. In addition to this, we want a world where people are respected and allowed to make informed choices for their bodies.