I see FGM as a phenomenon that springs from early superstitions and struggles for dominance in society. In "Sisters in Affliction: Circumcision and Infibulation of Women in Africa", Raqiya Haji Dualeh Abdalla, a Somali academic, writes, "Perhaps the origin of the practice lies in the allegedly magical powers of women," and the attempt by men "to 'steal' [these powers] by rendering women as near sexless as possible."
Perhaps it could be described as a means by which the male vitiates the biological primacy of the female, and thereby establishes male control - what we call patriarchy. Thus, the Earth Mother of "primitive" society is superseded by the male god of "modern" monotheism. But if this is so, the new theology is the outgrowth of, rather than the cause of, the subjugation of women.
The first known reference to FGM is by Strabo, the Greek geographer and historian, who wrote, circa 25BC: "One of the customs most zealously observed among the Egyptians is this, that they rear every child that is born and circumcise the boys and excise the girls, as is also customary among the Jews, who are also Egyptians in origin." The claim that the Jews also practiced clitoridectomy is interesting, to say the least.
The position of Islam on FGM is confused by fatwas from a few, mainly Egyptian, clerics who claim it is sanctioned by religion. They invariably cite the "weak" hadith, "Reduce, but do not destroy". (It's called weak because its isnad, or chain of transmission, is unreliable.) But enlightened opinion is unequivocal. As stated in The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, it is that FGM is "a grave violence against the person". It adds, "Such practices are found in some backward milieus and are due to gross ignorance."