Many people believe that Islam is found mainly in the Middle East and North Africa. However, the country of Indonesia has the largest number of Muslims of any country in the world.
According to one source, its people are predominately Muslim (80%) and Animist (16%). All other religions are followed by a total of fewer than 4% of its people. 1
However, although the Constitution requires freedom of religion, the government only recognizes six official religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. The 2010 census found 87% of Indonesians identified as Muslim, 7% Protestant, 3% Catholic, 1% Hindu and 2% other. Animists apparently were not counted in the census.
The country consists of a large number of islands. There are various religious enclaves in different islands:
2010-SEP: IRIN report on GM/C in Indonesia:
IRIN is an acronym for Integrated Regional Information Networks. They describe themselves as:
"... an editorially independent, non-profit project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), funded entirely by voluntary contributions from governments and other institutions." 3
IRIN issued a report on 2010-SEP-02 titled: "INDONESIA: Female genital mutilation persists despite ban." 4
They note that:
The Indonesian government officially banned of GM/C in 2006. Doctors were not allowed to perform the procedure. However, there was no effort to control or reduce its practice. It continued to be performed, mainly by midwives -- many of whom had received only traditional training.
At the time, the ban was opposed by the Indonesian Ulema Council -- the highest Islamic advisory body in Indonesia.
The largest Muslim organization in the country, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), issued a statement during 2010-MAR that also supported GM/C. However, Maria Ulfah Anshor, a women’s rights activist and former chair of the women’s wing of the NU, disagreed. She said:
"It is against human rights. For women there is absolutely no benefit and advantage. ... I would advise not to circumcise your daughters at all. If women are circumcised, people believe they become more beautiful, and not as wild, and will make men more excited in bed. For women themselves, they don’t get any excitement at all.
It is most widely practiced in rural areas of the country.
Unlike most countries worldwide, the use of GM/C is increasing in Indonesia.
Artha Budi Susila Duarsa, a university researcher at Yarsi University in Jakarta, said:
"We fear if [GM/C] gets more outspoken support from religious leaders it will increase even more. We found in our latest research that not only female babies are being circumcised, but also older women ask for it." 4
2012-NOV: The Guardian newspaper reports on a mass GM/C procedure involving hundreds of babies and children in Indonesia:
Abigail Haworth wrote about her experience viewing sunat perempuan -- the GM/C procedure performed on 248 girls ranging in age from two months to 12 years. 5 It is organized annually during the lunar month of Muhammad's birthday. It is sponsored by Yayasan Assalaam, an Islamic organization that operates a mosque and several schools in Bandung, Indonesia. The group give parents 80,000 rupiah -- worth about U.S. $ 8.00 -- and a bag of food for each child who is cut.
When Lukman Hakim, the group's social welfare secretary was asked the reason for the procedure, he responded:
"It is necessary to control women's sexual urges. They must be chaste to preserve their beauty."
Haworth reported that:
Two national surveys conducted in 2003 and 2010 found that between 86% and 100% of families surveyed had their daughters' genitals cut, typically before the age of 5. Also, over 90% of adults want the practice continued.
In 2006, the Majelis Ulama Indonesia -- the country's leading council of Islamic leaders -- issued a statement saying:
"Circumcision is a requirement for every Muslim woman. It not only cleans the filth from her genitals, it also contributes to a girl's growth."
Also in 2006, the mass ceremony that Hawworth attended was supervised by Hdjella, 57, a traditionally trained midwife. She said that the mutilation benefits the girls. It:
"... balances their emotions so they don't get sexually over-stimulated. It also helps them to urinate more easily, and reduces the bad smell."
In 2011, the Parliament of Indonesia approved a program to train doctors how to perform GM/C. It was triggered by the deaths of several infant girls who had been improperly operated on in hospitals. The government's prohibition had clearly failed by this time, and the hope of the legislators was that if the procedure was transferred from traditionally trained midwives to skilled physicians in hospitals, that the damage to the girls would be reduced.
In some Animist communities, the procedure involves rubbing the clitoris with turmeric or bamboo. No genital damage is caused. However a survey showed that in 80% of the cases nationwide, the procedure "... involves pain and actual cutting of the clitoris."