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Answer: rs=.54 Oliver Scott Curry Readers of this blog will be familiar with the debate between Bill Maher and Reza Aslan about Islam and female genital mutilation (FGM). Nowhere else in the Muslim, Muslim-majority states is female genital mutilation an issue.” Who’s right? We have WHO data on FGM, and Pew data on the prevalence of Islam (and from Wikipedia, Christianity), in 28 African countries (and Yemen as well).

Maher has argued that FGM is an Islamic problem, pointing out that: “91 percent of Egyptian women have had their clitorises forcibly removed. You can’t tell on the basis of these cherry-picked examples, as you have to look at all of the data. These data [JAC: presented as a plot below] clearly show that there is a large significant positive correlation between the percentage of women subject to FGM, and the prevalence of Islam.

Aslan is also wrong to say that “Nowhere else in the Muslim, Muslim-majority states is female genital mutilation an issue”. Why there is this relationship between Islam and FGM is a separate question. The figures given are concerned with Egypt as a whole, and so when the percentage of 91% is given as prevalence of FGM in Egyptian girls and women in reproductive age, that is between 15 and 49 years, it does not differentiate between Muslim and Christian Egyptian girls and women.

Note that “rs” is the nonparametric Spearman rank correlation coefficient between two variables, a measure of their association.

It ranges from -1 (perfect negative correlation) through 0 (no correlation) to 1 (perfect positive correlation).

Just to check out Reza Aslan’s claim that female genital mutilation (FGM) was an African rather than an Islamic problem, Curry did a preliminary statistical analysis.

As you’ll see below, his results (and he emphasizes again that they’re tentative and need deeper analysis) don’t support the “African Hypothesis”.


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