An federal investigation into female genital mutilation surgeries connected to a mosque in Michigan continues to mushroom. The government has now charged two mothers as part of the probe, the first such case in the United States.
The indictments alleged that, in addition to the two seven-year-old Minnesota girls who underwent the procedure in February, two Michigan girls were also victims.
Fatema Dahodwala, who prosecutors say played in a role in having her daughter’s genitals mutilated sometime between June and September 2016, is also charged with conspiracy to obstruct official proceedings. Farida Arif also took her young daughter to undergo the procedure “on our about May 30, 2015,” prosecutors say.
Both women were released on a $10,000 bond and permitted to have ongoing contact with their daughters, the alleged victims. They were placed on GPS tether, forced to surrender their passports, and ordered by the court not to contact any of their co-defendants, witnesses or other alleged victims.
Arif and Dahodwala, both Indian passport holders who reside in Oakland County, are the fifth and sixth people charged in connection with the Michigan investigation.
Last week, prosecutors charged Tahera Shafiq, a 48-year-old mother who was allegedly present when Dr. Jumana Nagarwala cut the genitals of the two Minnesota girls. Nagarwala also faces federal charges; so does Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, who owns the Livonia medical clinic where the procedures allegedly took place, and his wife, Farida, who prosecutors say was present on Feb. 3 alongside Shafiq and Nagarwala.
Margaret Sind Raben, a lawyer for Dahodwala who has also given legal advice to Arif’s family, told the court, “Any mother who provided her child to Dr. Nagarwala or anyone else, for the purposes of this religious procedure, did so in absolute firm faith that this was required by their religion and that no permanent harm would come to their child.”
All six people charged have ties to the Anjuman-e-Najmi mosque in Farmington Hills.
According to audio recordings from the women’s bond hearings, Arif teaches religious classes to young children at that same mosque. And during Dahodwala’s bond hearing, the prosecutor also said that “obstructive c
The Anjuman-e-Najmi mosque serves the Detroit-area Dawoodi Bohra community, a predominately Indian sect of Shiite Islam whose religious leader endorsed female genital mutilation, also known as khatna, last year.
Earlier this month, a lawyer representing the minor children of Nagarwala told the court the mosque paid for the female genital mutilations—a claim attorneys for Anjuman-e-Najmi dispute. In May 2016, the mosque published a resolution saying khatna may be considered unlawful and directing its members to avoid the practice.
Defense lawyers have said that Nagarwala had simply removed the mucous membrane from the girls’ clitorises, a benign, legal religious rite on the girls that is protected under the First Amendment.
A medical examination, cited in the court proceedings, revealed that both of the Minnesota girls’ genitals had been altered, describing damage to their clitoral hoods and labias.
Earlier this month, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward told the court she had specific evidence that eight girls had their genitals cut, also estimating that as many as 100 may have undergone the procedure at Burhani Medical Clinic in Livonia.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.