Tuesday, 7 February 2017

The Woman Who Was Whole

[Media prompt] Babies are among the victims of female genital mutilation (FGM), campaigners claim, reflecting a growing trend of younger girls being targeted. Girls were traditionally cut when they were around 10 years old, to ‘prepare them for marriage’, but are now being disfigured earlier so offenders can escape justice…

The Woman Who Was Whole

“But that is impossible,” said Onnab.

Ismail, her husband, lit a cigarette, blowing a thick plume of smoke across the table. “You say I lie?” he said. “Dr. Badri says it is true, so it is true.”

Onnab lowered her eyes without making an attempt to explain. She was heavily pregnant and to receive a beating now would put her unborn baby at risk.

“This is what happens,” said Ismail. He stood abruptly, his body rigid with anger. Onnab shut her eyes and held her breath. She had become used to the acrid smell of his cigarettes, a brand from his home in the south, but his rages still unnerved her. If I was a better wife, she thought, it would not be like this.

Then he was talking again, rapidly, as though the slightest disruption would derail his thoughts.

“This is the fault of the Americans,” he said. Onnab listened, but could not follow his words, tumbling over each other as water over rocks, his random interjections rendering his speech all but meaningless.

She had heard it many times. The Americans. Yes, she knew this; it was always the Americans. Or Christians. Or the West. Which were the same things. Any threat to the Caliphate of Southern Michigan was a threat to them all.

Ismail stubbed out his cigarette. “So be it,” he said, going to the bathroom to collect his blades. Onnab watched through the window as he drove away in his white van.


Nima Fadlalla exited the WTMN-TV building where she worked as a journalist covering stories in the Caliphate across the border. Broadcasting from Toledo gave her access to nearby Dearborn without all the constrictions imposed by the Caliph. Not that she was producing critical reports; it was just that she occasionally chafed at being told what to do. Unlocking her car, she wondered if she was as good a Muslim as she could be. Not for the first time, she thought about moving back to Detroit, the centre of Islamic culture.

Nima eased her car out into traffic, quickly negotiating the streets of downtown before heading towards the western suburbs. It was mid-afternoon, and sun shone brightly on the tree lined streets, shadow and light flickering across her windscreen. When her family arrived from Sudan twenty years ago, Ohio’s greenery astonished them. “You see?” said her father. “It’s proof that this land was made for us. Just like the green cloak worn by the Prophet, alayhi as-salam.”

Turning into her drive, she momentarily wondered whose white van was parked at the curb. There had been trouble with landlines in the area a week or two ago, but she thought that had been fixed. She stepped out of the car, stopping for a moment to inhale the scent of the lavender she planted last year, which was now blooming.

Inside, pulling the door shut behind her, Nima heard an incoming message on her phone. She checked, but there was nothing. She was still checking when she realised there was someone else in the house. 

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