The mufti of Russia's North Caucasus region of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Ismail Berdiyev, has said the genital mutilation of girls does not contradict Islam and is necessary in order "to limit the unnecessary energy" of future brides.
In an interview with Govorit Moskva radio on August 15, Berdiyev said female genital mutilation (FGM) was "a purely Daghestani ritual."
Berdiyev's statement came days after the Moscow-based Pravovaya Initsiativa (Legal Initiative) human rights center raised the issue of FGM in the mainly Muslim-populated North Caucasus region of Daghestan.
Legal Initiative said in its report that in some remote areas in Daghestan, toddler girls go through genital mutilation in very poor sanitary conditions and called on Russian officials to focus on the problem.
Legal Initiative quoted several Islamic clerics, some of whom opposed FGM, while others supported it.
The center's report also included opinion of the Daghestani children's ombudswoman, Intizar Mamutayeva, who condemned the ritual as "violence against children."
On August 15 Mamutayeva was removed from her position and replaced by former Deputy Justice Minister Rabiyat Zakavova.
The United Nations children's organization, UNICEF, estimates that some 200 million women have undergone FGM in some 30 countries around the world, RFE/RL reports.