An investigation into female genital mutilation among members of a sect of Shiite Islam in Michigan has already led to the arrests of two doctors, and the wife of one of the doctors. Now, federal agents say text messages implicate a fourth woman.
The complaint against Tahera Shafiq alleges that the 48-year-old Michigan mom was present on a Friday evening in February when Dr. Jumana Nagarwala cut the genitals of two seven-year-old Minnesota girls at Burhani Medical Clinic in Livonia.
Federal agents say a call on Shafiq’s phone that night registered on the cell phone tower nearest to the medical clinic. The complaint also cites text messages between Shafiq, Nagarwala and Farida Attar, whose husband, Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, owns Burhani Medical Clinic.
“See you both tomorrow,” Nagarwala text-messaged Shafiq and Farida Attar the day before the alleged genital mutilations. “On my way but traffic may be late,” Farida Attar said in a text message to Nagarwala and Shafiq, sent at 6:05 p.m. on Feb. 3, the night the procedures were allegedly performed.
Like the other three people charged, Shafiq belongs to the Detroit-area Dawoodi Bohra community, an Indian sect of Shiite Islam, and attends the Anjuman-e-Najmi mosque.
The Dawoodi Bohra’s religious leader endorsed female genital mutilation, also known as khatna, last year. But the Detroit mosque published a resolution in May 2016 saying the practice was unlawful and directing parents to avoid it. Last week, a lawyer representing the minor children of Nagarwala alleged that the mosque paid for female genital mutilations. Lawyers for Nagarwala and the mosque denied funding the practice.
A medical examination of the two seven-year-old Minnesota girls showed that their genitals had been altered. The first girl’s “labia minora has been altered or removed, and her clitoral hood is also abnormal in appearance,” the complaint said. The second girl showed a small incision in her clitoral hood, as well as a small tear to her labia minora, the complaint said.
The complaint also reveals that investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Homeland Security interviewed “several minor girls” who told them “procedures had been performed on their genitals by Nagarwala.” And “one girl identified Shafiq as one of the women that was present for her procedure.”
Earlier this month, a federal prosecutor estimated that as many as 100 girls may have had their genitals mutilated at that clinic in recent years. She referenced evidence showing that at least eight girls had been subjected to the procedure, which is done to interfere with female sexual pleasure.
A defense lawyer for Dr. Attar said that her client was unaware of crimes committed at his clinic. Of the prosecutor’s estimate of 100 victims, she said, “I think the government has overstated so many aspects of this case, and this is one more example of overreaching.”
Shafiq, who works at an MRI office in Southfield, Mich., was released on a $10,000 bond last week, and put on an ankle monitor. The court required her to surrender her passport and has prohibited her from contacting members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, including victims, witnesses or co-defendants.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.