In the latest development in a mushrooming scandal, police on Friday arrested two members of a Michigan mosque and accused them of helping a doctor perform genital mutilation on two seven-year-old girls.
The arrests come just a week after the arrest of Jumana Nagarwala, a Michigan doctor who is the first in the U.S. to be charged with female genital mutilation. Police say the couple arrested Friday, Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Farida, own the business in Livonia, Michigan, where the procedure was performed, Burhani Medical Clinic.
Attar did not respond to multiple phone and LinkedIn messages from Heat Street sent throughout the week. A woman who answered the phone at Burhani Medical Clinic Tuesday hung up and would not answer further calls.
“Dr. Attar is not aware of any crimes that were committed at his clinic,” said Mary Chartier, the lawyer representing him. She spoke on her cell phone as she headed to court, where Attar was already waiting.
Farida Attar is being represented by another attorney, who could not be reached by deadline.
Fakhruddin Attar is the treasurer of the Anjuman-e-Najmi mosque. Jumana Nagarwala, the doctor who allegedly performed the procedures, is also a member of that mosque, and her husband, Moiz Nagarwala, is one of its directors, according to the website.
The practice, also known as “khatna,” “female genital cutting,” or “female circumcision,” was openly endorsed in 2016 by Syedna Mufaddi Saifuddin, the global spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community, to which the Attars and Nagarwala belong. The act carries both cultural and religious significance to adherents.
Last May, the Anjuman-e-Najmi mosque issued a resolution acknowledging that female genital mutilation was prohibited in the United States, explicitly stating the ban could extend to khatna. It advised all parents and guardians to abide by federal law and not engage in the practice.
Fakrhuddin Attar has been licensed as a Michigan doctor since 1996. He is the only listed officer on the corporate records for Burhani Medical Clinic. To date, the state has no formal complaints or disciplinary records on file for him. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has no medical license on file for Farida Attar.
In addition to Burhani Medical Clinic, Attar is also on the staff of St. Mary Mercy Livonia hospital, which has placed him on leave.
A complaint filed in Michigan’s Eastern District Court claimed that Fakhruddin and Farida Attar, along with Nagarwala “and others known and unknown,” were members of a “conspiracy to commit FGM.”
One of the unnamed seven-year-old girls told investigators that in addition to Nagarwala, “two other adult women were present in the examining room during the procedure, and that the two women held her hands during the procedure,” identifying Farida Attar as one of them, according to the complaint.
Investigators took out a warrant and searched Burhani Medical Clinic on April 10, finding a lost winter glove with the seven-year-old girl’s name written on the inside, the complaint says.
After a U.S. District Court Judge authorized a wiretap on Nagarwala’s phone in late March, investigators heard Farida Attar “advising one of the Michigan parents to deny to law enforcement that the procedures were being performed; Farida told the parent to completely deny the allegation, and to say that nothing happened,” the complaint says.
Nagarwala’s defense attorney, Sara Woodward, denied that her client performed female genital mutilation.
Instead, Woodward told the court Monday, her client had engaged in a cultural practice, using a “scraper” to wipe off a portion of the mucus membrane around the seven-year-old girls’ clitorises. She did this in a medical clinic because she “wanted it to be as sanitary and clean as possible,” Woodward said.
Nagarwala is being held without bond after prosecutors told a federal magistrate judge that she was a flight risk.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.