Friday, 30 November 2012

I Tried and It Didn't Work - Imam Suhaib Webb


Thursday, 29 November 2012

A feminist revolution that cruelly backfired - and why Amsterdam's legal brothels are a brutal lesson for Britain about telling the truth on sex gangs and race




Seven girls laugh together at the supper table. One talks of her sister, a fashion model signed with a famous London agency. Another mentions her married brother, an artist in the north of England. A third — 17 with blonde hair tucked under an Alice band — says she plans to become a beautician on a cruise ship.
At the small house, the blinds are closed so no one can peep in. Two terriers and a bull mastiff bark ferociously if there is a footstep outside the bolted front door.
For these middle-class girls, groomed into sex slavery by street gangs, have been rescued and are living in a safe house a few miles from De Wallen, the notorious red-light area of Holland’s capital, Amsterdam.

They are the lucky ones. Thousands of other young Dutch girls, some only 11 or 12 years old, are still in the power of the prowling gangs after a controversial social experiment to legalise brothels.
In a chilling parallel to the scandal sweeping Britain’s towns and cities, where a multitude of girls have been lured into sex-for-sale rings run by gangs, the Dutch pimps search out girls at school gates and in cafes, posing as ‘boyfriends’ promising romance, fast car rides and restaurant meals.

The men ply their victims with vodka and drugs. They tell them lies: that they love them and their families don’t care for them. Then, the trap set, they rape them with other gang members, often taking photos of the attack to blackmail the girl into submission.
Befuddled, frightened, and too ashamed to tell parents or teachers, the girls are cynically isolated from their old lives and swept into prostitution.  
So dangerous are the gangs that the girls at the safe house never venture out alone, and when they have a coffee together in the back garden they are not allowed to talk about their past in case neighbours overhear.

‘You never know who has big ears,’ says Anita de Wit, 48, the mother of three who set up the safe house last month. It is thought to be the first of its kind in the world. ‘The gangs can kill, and will try to get these girls back because they earn them money. We do not want them coming here to harm them. ’
Anything-goes Amsterdam has long been hailed as a sex mecca. The red-light district attracts thousands of customers, many of them tourists, who walk through alleys where half-naked prostitutes prance in the windows of some 300 brothels illuminated with scarlet bulbs.
A century ago, the brothels were banned to stop the exploitation of women by criminal gangs of Dutch men. But gradually the sex establishments crept back, with the authorities turning a blind eye.
In 2000, after pressure from prostitutes (demanding recognition as sex workers with employment rights) and Holland’s liberal intelligentsia (championing the choice of women to do what they wished with their bodies), the brothels were legalised. The working girls got permits, medical care, and now there are 5,000 in the red-light district.
But things went badly wrong. Holland’s newly legal sex industry was quickly infiltrated by street-grooming gangs with one target: the under-age girl virgin who can be sold for sex.
The men in the gangs are dubbed — incongruously — ‘lover boys’, because of their distinct modus operandi of making girls fall in love with them before forcing them into prostitution at private flats or houses all over Holland, and in the window brothels. The lover boy phenomenon has appalled Dutch society, not least because of the sheer numbers of girls involved.

As Lodewijk Asscher, 38, a leading politician, says: ‘Hard-line criminal behaviour is happening behind those windows. Girls are physically abused if they don’t work hard enough. It is slavery, which was abolished a long time ago in the Netherlands.’
He has championed new rules in Amsterdam’s red-light district from January. Prostitutes will sign a register and the minimum age for sex workers will be raised from 18 to 21, to try to stop girls being forced to work by the gangs.
Holland hopes the rot will be halted. Last year, 242 lover boy crimes were investigated by police, half of them involving the forced prostitution of girls under 18. Campaigner Anita de Wit says this is a fraction — ‘one per cent’ — of the true number. ‘There are thousands of girls being preyed on by male gangs in Holland,’ she says.
Anita visits schools to warn girls exactly what a lover boy looks like, and makes no bones of the fact that most of the gangs are operated by Dutch-born Moroccan and Turkish men.
‘I am not politically correct. I am not afraid of being called a racist, which would be untrue. I tell the girls that lover boys are young, dark-skinned and very good looking. They will have lots of money and bling as well as a big car. They will give out cigarettes and vodka. They will tell a girl that she is beautiful.
‘The gangs know who to pick out: the girl with the confidence problems, with the glasses, or who looks overweight. They flatter her and seem like the “knight in shining armour”. She is drawn to her new boyfriend like a magnet.

Anita’s bluntness is a far cry from the approach in Britain, where political correctness has stopped police and social workers telling girls the same home truths: that in many towns, particularly in the north of England, the handsome men chatting them up at the school gate are very likely to be of Pakistani descent. They, too, ply the girls with alcohol and gifts, pretending to be genuine boyfriends.

This week a report into our own sex gangs — by Sue Berelowitz, Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England — was criticised (by the NSPCC, among others) for discounting the evident link between Asian gangs and the sexual exploitation of white and mixed race girls. Berelowitz chose to downplay the race factor, despite official figures showing a worrying percentage of men involved in this type of sex crime are of this heritage.
Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Lancashire-based Ramadhan Foundation, a charity working for ethnic harmony, has just visited Holland to see the work of Anita de Wit and her charity ‘Say No to Lover Boys Now’, which believes that girls should be warned where the danger lies — for their own sakes.
He has complained that the British authorities treat the subject as taboo because of fears of being branded racist. ‘That is wrong. These gangs of men should be treated as criminals whatever their race,’ he says.
In Holland, as in Britain, the abusers are drawn from a tiny minority of their communities — which are appalled by their crimes. But the lover boys seem to see white girls as worthless, to be abused without a second thought.
Anita began her campaign when her own daughter, Angelique, then aged 15, was lured into a sex gang after meeting a 21-year-old Moroccan boy at a coffee bar near her school.

Anita was divorced and running a restaurant in a village outside Amsterdam when it all began. It was eight in the evening and Angelique came into the restaurant with three male friends. She said one of them was her new boyfriend, Mohammed. ‘He had long curly hair, was very handsome and polite to me,’ remembers Anita.
‘Angelique asked if she could take the three boys back home for a coffee, and I said yes. I was due back at eleven that night and I thought my other two children — Angelique’s younger brother, who was 13, and her older sister — would be there.’

But when Anita got home, she found that every bottle in the drinks cabinet was empty. Angelique was lying in bed drunk. Mohammed and his two pals had disappeared. Although Anita did not know it then, Angelique had been raped by two of the men. The other man had taken her son to play football in the park to get him out of the house. Angelique’s older sister was, in fact, staying with friends.
‘I was horrified,’ says Anita. ‘Angelique lied, saying she had just had too much to drink. I was annoyed she had been drinking at all. I said I did not want Mohammed at my house ever again. We had a row. But that is the classic technique used by the lover boys — they deliberately engineer a rift between the girl and her parents.’
From then on, Angelique’s behaviour changed. She went missing from school. If she did go to class, Mohammed and the lover boys would be waiting to pick her up in a big car with dark windows and false number plates. Her teachers complained to Anita, but Angelique was in love with Mohammed and at war with the teachers and her mother.
She would disappear from home for hours, often coming back only late at night. Sometimes, she would go missing for days, saying she had been with friends.
In fact, Angelique had been sleeping with a host of Moroccan men and earning money for her ‘boyfriend’, Mohammed. ‘Her mobile phone would ring continuously, all day and through the night, too. She would even take it into the loo with her.

‘When I looked at it later, there were violent texts saying: “If you don’t come out now, you are for it and your family, too,”’ recalls Anita today.
After several months, Anita rang the police for help. Her daughter was taken to the family court where a judge placed her under a curfew at home. She had to report to her mother every two hours. ‘Angelique would come in say hello, and then run out of the house again,’ says Anita. ‘The judge said she had to leave her mobile phone downstairs at night. But the gang just gave her another one, and the men kept ringing her. They gave her cannabis and she became dependent on them for it.’

The judge, in desperation, sent Angelique to a youth prison where, for 11 months, she used her phone card to keep in touch with Mohammed, but gradually the relationship fizzled out.  
When, at last, she was moved to an open centre for troubled youngsters, Anita hoped for the best. But her daughter met another lover boy there. He was called Rashid and was a stooge planted to recruit girls by the gangs. He persuaded her to escape from the centre and together they hitch-hiked to Rotterdam.
There, Angelique found that Rashid was also part of a sex gang. She was put in a seedy house and again made to work as a prostitute.
‘She was forced to swallow 14 ecstasy tablets a day and take the date-rape drug, GHB. The gang beat her with a baseball bat if she refused to sleep with the men who were brought to her. They dyed her brown hair with kitchen bleach because they said men would pay more for blondes. She’s never told me how many men she had to go with,’ says Anita. After six weeks, Angelique escaped. She ran to a shop and called her mother, who brought her home.
Yet — incredibly enough — even then the lover boys came after her. She visited the city centre with a girlfriend and a stranger, a young Moroccan, asked her out for a date. He promised Angelique that he was a proper boyfriend, that he loved her: but he was grooming her, too.
The Moroccan plied her with drugs, and asked her to live with him in a flat near the red-light district. When Angelique, by now 18, agreed, he said he was in debt and put her to work in the De Wallen window brothels.
‘I went to see her in the windows,’ says Anita. ‘I had to keep in touch with my daughter. It was only in January of last year that she realised she had been exploited by the gang and returned home at last.’
Angelique’s story is terrifying. But, at the safe house, there are equally disturbing tales. There is Eline, who was an 18-year-old virgin when she met a Turkish lover boy at a New Year party at her local youth club.
Eline thought she was in love with him, but within a few weeks the rest of his group had gang-raped her on a patch of waste land, photographed their crime, and were threatening to tell her parents if she did not sleep with other men to earn them money.  
I hear about Beatrice, who met her lover boy as she rode her bike to a new school. She was 12 years old. He was leaning against his car outside; with a big gold chain round his neck, he looked like an actor in a rap video.
He was back a few days later, and told her she was pretty. The fourth time they met, she agreed to go for a drive. He took her to a house where he raped her. He told her she was now his prostitute, his property, and that their relationship was perfectly normal.
By 14, Beatrice had slept with dozens of men and, unbeknown to her civil servant parents, was even coerced into acting as an agent for her lover boy’s gang by introducing them to other girls.
The girls in the safe house, who are aged between 15 and 25, have now escaped from the horrors of their past. They are learning to live again. And with the new minimum age and register of prostitutes, the winds of change are blowing in Amsterdam’s red-light industry.
But Eline shakes her head a little sadly as she says: ‘The lover boys are always one step ahead. They are making a fortune from these young girls. It is everyone’s duty to tell the truth about what is happening — particularly to potential victims.’
It is a sobering lesson not only that political correctness must not prevent people voicing their fears about grooming gangs, but also that Holland’s liberal approach to sex has backfired disastrously on many of these damaged victims.

Source

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

How to make the case for Israel and win



To the benefit of the many not-very-bright zionist wannabe apologists who read this blog assiduously, I decided to offer a clear and simple method of arguing the case for Israel. This clear and simple method has been distilled from a life spent listening to and reading Zionist propaganda. It is easy to follow and results are guaranteed or your money back.

So don't hesitate! Take advantage NOW of this revolutionary rhetorical system that will make YOU a great apologist for Israel in less time than it takes to shoot a Palestinian toddler in the eye.

Ready? 1..2..3..GO!


You need to understand just one principle:

The case for Israel is made of four propositions that should always be presented in the correct escalating order.

  1. We rock
  2. They suck
  3. You suck
  4. Everything sucks

That's it. Now you know everything that it took me a lifetime to learn. The rest is details; filling in the dotted lines.

You begin by saying how great Israel is. Israel want peace; Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East; the desert blooms; kibutz; Israelis invented antibiotics, the wheel, the E minor scale; thanks to the occupation Palestinians no longer live in caves; Israel liberates Arab women; Israel has the most moral army in the world, etc.

This will win over 50% of your listeners immediately. Don't worry about the factual content. This is about brand identity, not writing a PhD. Do you really think BP is 'beyond petroleum'?

Then you go into the second point: They suck. Here you talk about the legal system of Saudi Arabia, gay rights in Iran, slave trade in the Sudan, Mohammad Atta, the burqa, Palestinians dancing after 9/11, Arafat's facial hair, etc.

There is only one additional principle you need to understand here. It will separate you from the amateurs. You need to know your audience. If you've got a crowd already disposed to racist logic, go for it with everything you have. But if you get a liberal crowd, you need to sugar coat the racism a bit. Focus on women rights, human rights, religious tolerance, "clash of civilizations", terrorism, they teach their children to hate, etc. Deep down your audience WANTS to enjoy racism and feel superior. They just need the proper encouragement so they can keep their sophisticated self-image. Give them what they crave and they'll adore you! But be careful not to 'mix n match,' because it will cost you credibility.

When you're done, there will always be dead-enders insisting that abuse of gays in Iran does not justify ethnic cleansing in Palestine. Take a deep breath, and pull the doomsday weapon: You suck!

You're a Jew-hater, Arab-lover, anti-Semite, you're a pinko, a commie, a dreamer, a naive, a self-hater, you have issues, your mother worked for the Nazis, Prince Bandar buys you cookies, you forgot you were responsible for the holocaust, etc. The more the merrier. By the time you end this barrage, only a handful would be left standing. For mopping them up, you use the ultimate postmodern wisdom: Everything sucks.

War, genocide, racism, oppression are everywhere. From the Roma in Italy to the Native-Americans in the U.S., the weak are victimized. Why pick on Israel? It's the way of the world. Look! Right is only in question between equals in power; the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. Ethics, schmethics. Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Eat, drink! Carpe diem! The Palestinians would throw us into the sea if they could. Ha ha!

Trust me, that's as far as words can go. If you followed this method faithfully, you've done your work. You should leave the few who are still unconvinced to the forces of order.

Congratulations!
You are now ready to 
apologize for Israel like a pro.
 
 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The day I saw 248 girls suffering genital mutilation



It's 9.30am on a Sunday, and the mood inside the school building in Bandung,Indonesia, is festive. Mothers in headscarves and bright lipstick chat and eat coconut cakes. Javanese music thumps from an assembly hall. There are 400 people crammed into the primary school's ground floor. It's hot, noisy and chaotic, and almost everyone is smiling.
Twelve-year-old Suminah is not. She looks like she wants to punch somebody. Under her white hijab, which she has yanked down over her brow like a hoodie, her eyes have the livid, bewildered expression of a child who has been wronged by people she trusted. She sits on a plastic chair, swatting away her mother's efforts to placate her with a party cup of milk and a biscuit. Suminah is in severe pain. An hour earlier, her genitals were mutilated with scissors as she lay on a school desk.
During the morning, 248 Indonesian girls undergo the same ordeal. Suminah is the oldest, the youngest is just five months. It is April 2006 and the occasion is a mass ceremony to perform sunat perempuan or "female circumcision" that has been held annually since 1958 by the Bandung-based Yayasan Assalaam, an Islamic foundation that runs a mosque and several schools. The foundation holds the event in the lunar month of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, and pays parents 80,000 rupiah (£6) and a bag of food for each daughter they bring to be cut.
It is well established that female genital mutilation (FGM) is not required in Muslim law. It is an ancient cultural practice that existed before Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It is also agreed across large swathes of the world that it is barbaric. At the mass ceremony, I ask the foundation's social welfare secretary, Lukman Hakim, why they do it. His answer not only predates the dawn of religion, it predates human evolution: "It is necessary to control women's sexual urges," says Hakim, a stern, bespectacled man in a fez. "They must be chaste to preserve their beauty."
I have not written about the 2006 mass ceremony until now. I went there with an Indonesian activist organisation that worked within communities to eradicate FGM. Their job was difficult and highly sensitive. Afterwards, in fraught exchanges with the organisation's staff, it emerged that it was impossible for me to write a journalistic account of the event for the western media without compromising their efforts. It would destroy the trust they had forged with local leaders, the activists argued, and jeopardise their access to the people they needed to reach. I shelved my article; to sabotage the people working on the ground to stop the abuse would defeat the purpose of whatever I wrote. Such is the tricky partnership of journalism and activism at times.
Yet far from scaling down, the problem of FGM in Indonesia has escalated sharply. The mass ceremonies in Bandung have grown bigger and more popular every year. This year, the gathering took place in February. Hundreds of girls were cut. The Assalaam foundation's website described it as "a celebration". Anti-FGM campaigners have proved ineffective against a rising tide of conservatism. Today, the issue is more that I can't not write about that day.
By geopolitical standards, modern Indonesia is an Asian superstar. The world's fourth-largest country and most populous Muslim nation of 240 million people, it is beloved by foreign investors for its buoyant economy and stable democracy. It is feted as a model of tolerant Islam. Last month, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited London to receive an honorary knighthood from the Queen in recognition of Indonesia's "remarkable transformation". Yet, as befitting an archipelago of 17,000 islands, it's a complicated place, too. Corruption and superstition often rule by stealth. Patriarchy runs deep. Abortion is illegal, and hardline edicts controlling what women wear and do are steadily creeping into local by-laws.
Although Indonesia is not a country where FGM is widely reported, the practice is endemic. Two nationwide studies carried out by population researchers in 2003 and 2010 found that between 86 and 100% of households surveyed subjected their daughters to genital cutting, usually before the age of five. More than 90% of adults said they wanted the practice to continue.
In late 2006, a breakthrough towards ending FGM in Indonesia occurred when the Ministry of Health banned doctors from performing it on the grounds that it was "potentially harmful". The authorities, however, did not enforce the ruling. Hospitals continued to offer sunat perempuan for baby girls, often as part of discount birth packages that also included vaccinations and ear piercing. In the countryside, it was performed mainly by traditional midwives – women thought to have shamanic healing skills known as dukun – as it had been for centuries. The Indonesian method commonly involves cutting off part of the hood and/or tip of the clitoris with scissors, a blade or a piece of sharpened bamboo.
Last year, the situation regressed further. In early 2011, Indonesia's parliament effectively reversed the ban on FGM by approving guidelines for trained doctors on how to perform it. The rationale was that, since the ban had failed, issuing guidelines would "safeguard the female reproductive system", officials said. Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation, the Nahdlatul Ulama, also issued an edict telling its 30 million followers that it approved of female genital cutting, but that doctors "should not cut too much".
The combined effect was to legitimise the practice all over again.
It is impossible to second-guess what kind of place holds mass ceremonies to mutilate girl children, with the aim of forever curbing their sexual pleasure. Bandung is Indonesia's third largest city, 180km east of the capital Jakarta. I had been there twice before my visit in 2006. It was like any provincial hub in booming southeast Asia: a cheerful, frenzied collision of homespun commerce and cut-price globalisation. Cheap jeans and T-shirts spilled out of shops. On the roof of a factory outlet there was a giant model of Spider-Man doing the splits.
Bandung's rampant commercialism had also reinvigorated its moral extremists. While most of Indonesia's 214 million Muslims are moderate, the 1998 fall of the Suharto regime had seen the resurgence of radical strains of Islam. Local clerics were condemning the city's "western-style spiritual pollution". Members of the Islamic Defenders Front, a hardline vigilante group, were smashing up nightclubs and harassing unmarried couples.
The stricter moral climate had a devastating effect on efforts to eradicate FGM. The Qur'an does not mention the practice, and it is outlawed in most Islamic countries. Yet leading Indonesian clerics were growing ever more insistent that it was a sacred duty.
A week before I attended the Assalaam foundation's khitanan massal or mass circumcision ceremony, the chairman of the Majelis Ulama Indonesia, the nation's most powerful council of Islamic leaders, issued this statement: "Circumcision is a requirement for every Muslim woman," said Amidhan, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name. "It not only cleans the filth from her genitals, it also contributes to a girl's growth."
It was early, before 8am, when we arrived at a school painted hospital green in a Bandung suburb on the day of the ceremony. Women and girls clad in long tunics were lining up outside to register. It was a female-only affair (men and boys had their own circumcision gathering upstairs), and the mood was relaxed and sisterly. From their sun-lined faces and battered sandals, some of the mothers looked quite poor – poor enough, possibly, to make the foundation's 80,000 rupiah cash handout as much of an enticement as the promise of spiritual purity.
Inside, I was greeted by Hdjella, 57, a teacher and midwife who would supervise the cutting. She was wearing a pink floral apron with a frilly pocket. She had been a traditional midwife for 32 years, she said, although, like most dukun, she had no formal training.
"Boy or girl?" she asked me, brightly. I was almost six months pregnant at the time.
"Boy," I told her.
"Praise Allah."
Hdjella insisted that the form of FGM they practised is "helpful to girls' health". She explained that they clean the genitals and then use sterilised scissors to cut off part of the hood, or prepuce, and the tip of the clitoris.
"How is this helpful to girls' health?" I asked. "It balances their emotions so they don't get sexually over-stimulated," she said, enunciating in schoolmistress fashion. "It also helps them to urinate more easily and reduces the bad smell."
Any other benefits? "Oh yes," she said, with a tinkling laugh. "My grandmother always said that circumcised women cook more delicious rice."
FGM in Indonesia is laden with superstition and confusion. A common myth is that it is largely "symbolic", involving no genital damage. A study published in 2010 by Yarsi University in Jakarta found this is true only rarely, in a few animist communities where the ritual involves rubbing the clitoris with turmeric or bamboo. While Indonesia doesn't practise the severest forms of mutilation found in parts of Africa and the Middle East, such as infibulation (removing the clitoris and labia and sewing up the genital area) or complete clitoral excision, the study found the Indonesian procedure "involves pain and actual cutting of the clitoris" in more than 80% of cases.
Hdjella took me to the classroom where the cutting would soon begin. The curtains were closed. Desks had been covered in sheets and towels to form about eight beds. Around each one, three middle-aged women wearing headscarves waited in readiness. Their faces were lit from underneath by cheap desk lamps, giving them a ghoulish glow. There were children's drawings and multiplication tables on the walls.
The room filled up with noise and people. Girls started to cry and protest as soon as their mothers hustled them inside. Rapidly, the mood turned business-like. "We have many girls to circumcise this morning, about 300," Hdjella shouted above the escalating din. As children were hoisted on to desks I realised with a jolt: this is an assembly line.
Hdjella led me to a four-year-old girl who was lying down. As the girl squirmed, two midwives put their faces close to hers. They smiled at her, making soft noises, but their hands took an arm and a leg each in a claw-like grip. "Look, look," Hdjella commanded, as a third woman leant in and steadily snipped off part of the girl's clitoris with what looked like a pair of nail scissors. "It's nothing, you see? There is not much blood. All done!" The girl's scream was a long guttural rattle, which got louder as the midwife dabbed at her genitals with antiseptic.
In the dingy, crowded room, her cries merged with the sobs and screeches of other girls lying on desks, the grating sing-song clucking of the midwives, the surreally casual conversational hum of waiting mothers. There was no air.
Outside in the courtyard, the festive atmosphere grew as girls and their mothers emerged from the classroom. There were snacks and music, and later, prayers.
Ety, 40, was elated. She had brought her two daughters, aged seven and three, to be cut. "I want them to be teachers. Being circumcised will bring them good luck," she said. Ety was a farmer who came from a village outside Bandung. "Daughters should be pure and obey their parents."
Neng Apip, 28, was smiling radiantly. She said she was happy her newly cut daughter Rima would now grow up into "a good Muslim girl". Rima, whose enormous brown eyes were oozing tears, was nine months old. Apip kissed her and gave her a rice cracker to suck. "Shh, shh, all better now," she cooed.
Tradition is usually about remembering. In the case of FGM in Indonesia it seems to be a cycle of forgetting. The act of cutting is a hidden business perpetrated by mothers and midwives, nearly all of whom underwent FGM themselves as young children. The women I met had little memory of being cut, so they had few qualms about subjecting their daughters to the same fate. "It's just what we do," I heard over and over again.
When the pain subsides, it is far from all better. The girls in the classroom don't know that removing part of their clitoris not only endangers their health but reflects deep-rooted attitudes that women do not have the right to control their own sexuality. The physical risks alone include infection, haemorrhage, scarring, urinary and reproductive problems, and death. When Yarsi University researchers interviewed girls aged 15-18 for their 2010 study, they found many were traumatised when they learned their genitals had been cut during childhood. They experienced problems such as depression, self-loathing, loss of interest in sex and a compulsive need to urinate.
I saw my interpreter, Widiana, speaking to Suminah, the 12-year-old who was the oldest girl there, and went to join them. Suminah said she didn't want to come. "I was shaking and crying last night. I was so scared I couldn't sleep." It was a "very bad, sharp pain" when she was cut, she said, and she still felt sore and angry. Widiana asked what she planned to do in the evening. "We will have a special meal at home and then read the Qur'an," said Suminah. "Then I will listen to my Britney Spears CD."
Back in Jakarta, an Indonesian friend, Rino, agreed to help me find out about the newborn-girl "package deals" at city hospitals. Rino phoned around Jakarta's hospitals. They told him he must see a doctor to discuss the matter. So we decided that is what we would do: since I was visibly pregnant, we'd visit the hospitals as husband and wife expecting our first baby. ("It's not necessary to bring your wife," Rino was told repeatedly when he rang back to book the appointments.)
We visited seven hospitals chosen at random. Only one, Hermina, a specialist maternity hospital, said it did not perform sunat perempuan. The other six all gave package prices, varying from 300,000 rupiah to 550,000 rupiah (£20-£36), for infant vaccinations, ear piercing and genital cutting within two months of birth.
Interestingly, the only doctor who argued against the procedure was a female gynaecologist from the largest Islamic government hospital, the Rumah Sakit Islam Jakarta. "You can have it done here if you wish," the doctor said with a sigh. "But I don't recommend it. It's not mandatory in Islam. It's painful and it's a great pity for girls."
Last month I spoke to Andy Yentriyani, a commissioner at Indonesia's National Commission on Violence Against Women. Yentriyani told me the problem is now worse than ever. Since the government's guidelines on FGM came into effect last year, more hospitals have started offering the procedure.
"Doctors see the guidelines as a licence to make money," she says. "Hospitals are even offering female circumcision in parts of Sumatra where there has never been a strong tradition of cutting girls."
"They are creating new demand purely for profit?"
"Yes. They're including it in birth packages. People don't really understand what they're signing up for." Nor do some medical staff, she adds. The new guidelines say doctors should "make a small cut on the frontal part of the clitoris, without harming the clitoris". But Yentriyani says that most doctors are trained only in male circumcision, so they follow the same principle of slicing off flesh.
Moreover, according to The Jakarta Post, the guidelines were rushed through partly in response to the deaths of several infant girls from botched FGM procedures at hospitals.
Likewise, Yentriyani says, the recent endorsement of FGM by some Islamic leaders has vindicated those carrying out mass cutting ceremonies, such as the Assalaam foundation. "Women are caught in a power struggle between religion and state as Indonesia finds a new identity," the activist explains. "Clamping down on morality, enforcing chastity, returning to so-called traditions such as female circumcision – these things help religious leaders to win hearts and minds."
Yentriyani and other Indonesian supporters of women's rights believe FGM can never be justified as a religious or cultural tradition. "Our government and religious leaders must condemn it outright as an act of violence, otherwise it will never end," she says. Her view is supported by organisations such as Amnesty International, which has called on Indonesia to repeal its guidelines allowing FGM. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also weighed in, saying in February this year that, although many cultural traditions must be respected, female genital cutting is not one of them. "It is, plain and simply, a human rights violation," Clinton declared.
Suminah will be 18 now; a grown woman. She could well be married, or at least betrothed. Soon enough she will probably have her own kids. I hope she's forgotten her pain, but held on to her rage.