Jumana Nagarwala and Fakhruddin Attar, two doctors from the Detroit area, were indicted on Wednesday in what is believed to be the first federal prosecution of a female genital mutilation (FGM) case in the United States. A Michigan grand jury charged Nagarwala with performing female genital mutilation on two young girls at Fakhruddin Attar’s medical office in Livonia, Michigan, outside Detroit. Attar’s wife, Farida Attar, the office manager at his medical office, was also charged in the case. The Attars were arrested last week and until the indictment had only been charged as co-conspirators in the case. According to the indictment, the trio of defendants is accused of conspiring to perform genital cutting on girls under the age of 18 for the last 12 years, and are charged with attempting to obstruct a federal investigation. Nagarwala, 44, and Fakhruddin Attar, 53, who both faced a federal judge on Wednesday, are also charged with making false statements and each faces one count of conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
According to the indictment, Nagarwala is accused of performing female genital mutilation on two 7-year-old girls earlier this year at Fakhruddin Attar’s medical office, in which he allowed the procedures to be performed after hours. Doctors who examined the girls have reportedly said they observed severe injuries, including a removal of a portion of the genitalia. Nagarwala, through her attorney, has maintained that she performed a scraping procedure, which removes the genital membrane. The membrane is then given to the parents for a religious burial. Both girls have been removed from their parents’ custody by child protective services, but none of the parents have been charged with a crime.
Nagarwala and the Attars are members of the Dawoodi Bohra, a reclusive Muslim sect with communities in the Detroit area and in Minnesota.
“Female Genital Mutilation has serious implications for the health and well-being of girls and women,” acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Daniel Lemisch said in a statement. “This brutal practice is conducted on girls for one reason, to control them as women. FGM will not be tolerated in the United States.”
Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, his wife Farida Attar (both shown) + Dr. Jumana Nagarwala indicted on multiple counts including FGM today pic.twitter.com/TnZXsRxmYL
— Sonia Moghe (@soniamoghe) April 26, 2017
Fakhruddin Attar’s defense lawyer Mary Chartier said her client was was not in the examination room with Nagarwala and the girls at the time of the alleged cutting, and said the charges against the defendants are due to their religious beliefs.
“What happened at the clinic was not FGM,” Chartier said. “I believe they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs, and I do not make that allegation lightly.”
Last week, in an Op-Ed for Women in the World, Shireen Qudosi, a writer and Muslim reformer, argued that a freedom of religion defense holds no water because the text of the Quran specifically prohibits bodily mutilation of any kind. “Surah 4:119 of the Quran strictly warns against behavior that will ‘change the creation of Allah,'” Qudosi pointed out in her piece. She wrote that FGM “has no place in Western society and it must be challenged as aggressively at home as it is abroad.”
Read the full story at The Washington Post.