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6/26/2017: Gatestone Institute – Female Genital Mutilation: American Muslim Physician Says Stop Defending the Abuse of Girls and Women

Female Genital Mutilation: American Muslim Physician Says Stop Defending the Abuse of Girls and Women

  • Any cutting or prick upon a female’s genitalia that is not actually, absolutely medically necessary, but rather demanded by twisted interpretation of religion and misogynistic manifestations of culture, is abuse.
  • Even if, one were to submit that the medical part of the procedure could possibly be done with no physical trauma (and that is a big fictitious ‘if’), the whole intent of the procedure is ceremonially to desexualize women and place their bodies under patriarchal control. No physician or modern culture that respects the equality of men and women should agree to participate in a procedure based in hate or supremacy….There is no compromise for the free world with the misogyny, abuse, and torture of the familial, community and individual oppressive forces involved in the draconian Islamist behaviors around FGM. It was a false compromise and a false moral equivalency with male circumcision.
  • The AMA Board of Trustees six months later returned an opinion in our favor in June 2017, which basically stood by existing AMA policy that any and all forms of FGM including nicking were prohibited by the AMA and thus deemed to be entirely inappropriate and unethical…Some courtroom reports in the government’s case against Dr. Nagarwala in Detroit are that in fact some of the 7–year-old girls suffered significant physical harm and scarring despite the defendant’s claim of only a pin-prick.

Some of America’s most respected attorneys have been willing to earn the ire of their colleagues and critics for the sake of what is right and good defending the rights of Muslims. Many Americans have also defended the rights of Muslims to pray and to have access to halal food. These positions, while not always popular in certain circles, are consistent with America’s commitment to religious liberty and the first amendment of the Constitution. Many of us Muslims have appreciated and applauded these outspoken heroes for their commitment to religious liberty and principled positions on matters pertaining to free speech and human rights. They have often taken stances representative of the best of America’s commitment to freedom.

It therefore came as a shock and a serious disappointment to learn that the great attorney, Mr. Alan M. Dershowitz, America’s most vigorous defender of religious liberty, has chosen to participate as a consultant in the defense of a Michigan doctor, Jumana Nagarwala, who has been arrested for mutilating the genitals of girls in her Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Our American Islamic Forum for Democracy made this statement in April at the time of her arrest. We also then sent an open letter to Mr. Janel Amil Saheb, the head of her Detroit Dawoodi Bohra community, which very likely created an environment that was complicit in the crimes. Rather than enable them by consulting in their defense as Mr. Dershowitz seems want to do, it is incumbent upon all genuine defenders of women’s rights to demand immediate reform.

It has been revealed that Nagarwala and others in the community have essentially been trafficking young girls from out of state to her “practice” so that she can cut and maim their bodies, all the while claiming to uphold the Hippocratic oath – one I also took and hold sacred as a physician – to “do no harm.”

Responding to criticism, according to Breitbart, Mr. Dershowitz now says of his consulting agreement with the Dawat-e-Hadiyah :

“This group rejects female genital mutilation. I agreed to consult with them and to work toward an acceptance of merely a symbolic pin prick, not even of the clitoris, but just of the clitoral hood, which is the equivalent of the foreskin…The idea really is the functional equivalent of what Jews do. If a non-Jewish kid were circumcised at birth, as many are but didn’t have a bris, didn’t have a religious circumcision and he wants to convert to Judaism or his parents want to convert him to Judaism, he has a little symbolic pin prick, it draws one tiny bit of blood and that takes the place of a circumcision and that’s what I propose.”

Mr. Dershowitz is apparently seeking to divert criticism and justify his choice to defend this doctor and her accomplices – who, from various courtroom testimony accounts – was doing more than “pin pricking” with objective reports of severe scarring and disfigurement upon the victims of this familial and community conspiracy against these 6-8 year old girls.

Despite whatever Mr. Dershowitz may claim, or twisted tales he wishes to weave about adults choosing to press blades to the genitals of little girls, any cutting or prick upon a female’s genitalia that is not actually, absolutely medically necessary, but rather demanded by twisted interpretation of religion and misogynistic manifestations of culture, is abuse.

A campaign against female genital mutilation – a road sign near Kapchorwa, Uganda. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

First, as a physician it is important to alert Mr. Dershowitz and anyone potentially sympathetic to his views, that a “nick or cut” to the clitoral hood is not as benign as apologists who falsely wrap themselves in religious freedom would have you believe. The clitoral hood protects the glans of the clitoris, covers its shaft, and forms part of the structure of the labia minora. Basic information as to the clerical, familial and societal intent of the procedure, the structure of the female anatomy, the practice’s dangerous link to extremist ideology, and the horrific psychological impact of it all no matter how small the ‘prick’ seem to be lost by those who wish to placate those communities who wish to control, mutilate, and usurp the bodily autonomy of these girls.

Second, as the attorney, Mr. Dershowitz surely knows, the morality and legality of the procedure follows directly from the familial, societal, and clerical intent of the procedure. Even if, one were to submit the medical part of the procedure could possibly be done with no physical trauma (and that’s a big fictitious ‘if’), the whole intent of the procedure is ceremonially to desexualize women and place their bodies under patriarchal control. No physician or modern culture that respects the equality of men and women should agree to participate in a procedure based in hate or supremacy. To compare the established non-sexual, non-oppressive intent of male circumcision done in Jewish and Muslim communities to the medieval intent of any procedure done by misogynistic Islamists upon the genitals of young girls is dangerously ignorant.

Rather than taking blindly the deceptive explanations of Islamist religious leaders using the cloak of religious freedom to conceal their subjugation of women, Mr. Dershowitz would do well to research the real theological underpinnings of female genital mutilation and any associated so called “compromise” procedure or “nicking”. In any form, whether mutilation or ‘cutting’ the procedure is inflicted upon women due to a draconian belief that girls need to be physically ‘cleansed of their innate hypersexuality,’ which will persist if the clitoral organ is left without alteration from birth. This is not only inhumanly ignorant but complicit with a patriarchal culture that seeks from birth to keep girls and women under the psychological subjugation of the men in their family and community. Watch and listen, thanks to MEMRI, to the obvious words of Imam Shaker El Sayed, one of America’s leading Sunni imams, only a few weeks ago at Dar Al-Hijra mosque in Northern Virginia who explained the exact reasoning behind this culture of abuse against women:

“On the contrary, you see in societies where circumcision of girls is completely prohibited, hypersexuality takes over the entire society, and a woman is not satisfied with one person, or two, or three. This, God forbid, is now happening even in Muslim societies where they prohibit circumcision. They use a mistake in practice to prohibit the tradition, and they end up causing a lot of damage on the extreme side of the sexual life of the woman.”

For hundreds if not a few thousand years, any and all of the physical acts of mutilation, nicking, cutting or any procedure done to the genitals of young girls has been done in order to appease this Neanderthal mentality. There is no other established alternative intent or rational explanation. In this case, the arrested physicians and cases in Detroit which Mr. Dershowitz is seeking to aid and abet, are part of a network of the Dawat-e-Hadiyah, an organization that oversees a small heterodox Shiite Muslim sect called the Dawoodi Bohras. But make no mistake. From Sunni to Shia, the victimization of women and girls through FGM practices is not peculiar to that one sect. Its misogynistic origins are both tribal and also bolstered with a deeply Salafist and Islamist interpretation of Islam across Sunni and Shia sects, and includes leading theologians.

Mr. Dershowitz’s position that he now claims to propose is actually not new. The American Islamic Forum for Democracy and I spoke out very publicly in February 2016 condemning a similar proposal of a new so-called “compromise” which the Journal of Medical Ethics bizarrely dubbed “Female genital alteration: A new compromise procedure” by Drs. Kavita Shah Arora and Allan J. Jacobs as if they were speaking about a pair of pants or a dress. AIFD then spoke out nationally in response to all of the mainstream media attention given to Dr. Arora and Jacobs, who were for the most part, sadly lauded by a politically correct media as courageous for posing a utilitarian solution to the trafficking of girls abroad to countries where FGM is permitted. We pleaded that there is no compromise for the free world with the misogyny, abuse, and torture of the familial, community and individual oppressive forces involved in the draconian Islamist behaviors around FGM. It was a false compromise and a false moral equivalency with male circumcision.

We took our protest to the AMA House of Delegates in November 2016 against protests from representatives of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) to the AMA, which also happened to include Dr. Arora, the author. The AMA Board of Trustees six months later returned an opinion in our favor in June 2017, which basically stood by existing AMA policy that any and all forms of FGM including nicking were prohibited by the AMA and thus deemed to be entirely inappropriate and unethical.

It is critical that all people familiarize themselves with the opinion of the AMA and other leading medical professionals and ethicists before carrying the water for the inhuman medical criminals arrested in Detroit or physicians like Dr. Arora and Jacobs who are apologists for this unethical procedure.

As we stated in a statement on this issue last year, the clitoral hood serves protective, immunological, and erogenous purposes. The structure of this hood varies from woman to woman; some women have clitoral hoods that do not retract fully, thus leaving these women vulnerable to even more severe cutting should a practitioner be trying to remove the hood. Cutting of the clitoral hood on infants, children, and many women would necessarily lead to the cutting and damaging of the clitoral shaft and the clitoris itself, as well as the labia. Of course, there is also the risk of infection and excessive bleeding and the certainty of trauma. If such “procedures” were ever permitted, there would be no ability actually to review whether the microscopic area of the clitoral hood of an infant or small girl were not actually scarred, setting aside the lifetime of associated psychological oppression carried with the ritual. Scar tissue from “nicking,” particularly on women prone to keloid scarring (as many women of color are) and difficult healing, can inhibit erogenous response and cause discomfort. In fact, some courtroom reports in the government’s case against Dr. Nagarwala in Detroit is that in fact some of the 7-year-old girls suffered significant physical harm and scarring despite the defendant’s claim of only a pin-prick.

In addition to sacrificing girls and women to physical torture by defending the alleged “compromise” of a “pin prick,” supporters of this unenforceable and therefore fake “compromise” are disappointingly and alarmingly ceding to extremist interpretations of Islam and radical tribal culture. As I wrote last year:

“Female genital mutilation is advocated by misogynists, many of whom are radical Islamists; and is carried out in families who seek to forcibly deny girls and women their bodily autonomy and normal healthy sexuality. This procedure serves no purpose other than to diminish the sexuality of women in the name of religion and/or culture.

“Allowing a girl or woman to be forcibly mutilated in any way sets the stage for male-dominant psychological torture, control, and dehumanization of that woman in her family forever. Whether it’s a so-called “nick” or a more extensive cut, the [inability to] forcefully reject this practice in its entirety is an act of complacency, and a medically unethical act of criminally negligent proportions.”

Survivors of, and advocates against, FGM also reject these “compromises” on genital mutilation. Survivors such as Khadija Gbla, Hibo Wardere, Leyla Hussein (who is also a psychotherapist), and others warn that those who propose or defend “nicking,” or in this instance “pin-pricking,” are glorifying mutilation and harm against girls and women. One should speak to any survivors or leading women’s rights activists who have dedicated their lives to fighting any and all forms of cutting. Sahiyo, for instance, is an entire organization dedicated specifically to countering the ignorance in the Dawoodi Bohra community of those who try to endorse female genital cutting, nicking or any procedure as justifiable alternatives or any different from horrific mutilation.

It is stunning, and frightening, to see champions of liberty and ethics bend on this issue. While freedom of religion is an essential and foundational American value, it cannot mean the “freedom” to deny universal human rights via the mutilation of another human being’s body – especially one who cannot consent, such as a 7-year-old girl or a woman doing so under compulsion, or extreme societal pressure. Mr. Dershowitz and others who hold his view have to know this. While they may think they are making the right decision and protecting freedom of religion as a whole by participating in this “torture theater,” we hope they realize that Muslim women, and Muslim reformers as a whole, are betrayed by his actions, and can only see that they are no allies or friends to those who seek to end the barbarism of FGM and of radical Islam.

If supposed liberals can defend FGM in the name of freedom of religion, what is next on the list of Islamist requests for religious freedom? Beating your wife “just a little bit” without lifting your elbow from your hip? Marital rape? After all, religious texts have been widely used to justify both. What about breast ironing? Acid attacks – with just a little acid — as punishment for sin?

You see, women always pay when freedom is sacrificed to “cultural sensitivity.” Deep down, liberals are good people, who know better, but sadly many have proceeded anyway – a chilling and tragic fact.

No! It is not just a “prick” or a “cut”. At the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, we call it what it is — mutilation.

There is no compromise against the immorality and barbarism of FGM. To offer any compromise, even a so-called, easily abused, “pin prick,” sacrifices girls and women to barbarism and sets back the movement for women’s rights in Muslim communities hundreds of years.

M. Zuhdi Jasser is the President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement and a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander. He is an internal medicine physician in private practice in Phoenix with an expertise in bioethics serving as an ethics consultant for a large healthcare corporation. He can be found on Twitter @DrZuhdiJasser and online at www.takebackIslam.com

Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Q. Nomani Respond to Readers

Last week, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Q. Nomani testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. During the hearing, they weren’t asked any questions about political Islam by the Democratic women on the panel — an experience they argue is emblematic of a troubling trend among progressives to overlook the brutal reality of Islamist extremism. In “They Brushed Off Kamala Harris. Then She Brushed Us Off,” they write: “When it comes to the pay gap, abortion access and workplace discrimination, progressives have much to say. But we’re still waiting for a march against honor killings, child marriages, polygamy, sex slavery or female genital mutilation.”

The piece has nearly 1,000 comments. Below, the authors address some reader questions, which have been edited for clarity and length.

FDR ASKS: Fellow progressives, hear me out …

These ladies have a point. The left in general has given a pass to Islamism. We need to be able to criticize Islam’s worst without fear from political correctness. We need to demand from Muslim friends and colleagues the same, as well as verbal acceptance of basic Western and Enlightenment values such as women’s equality.

Let’s recapture the discourse and this banner from the right.


I think this is a good way to approach the subject of Shariah and in particular the attitudes of many Muslims to the rights of women, the L.G.B.T. community, blasphemy laws, apostasy and dissent.

Continue reading the main story

First, what is needed is critical self-reflection on the morals and agenda to which people on the left say they are committed. Look squarely at the real consequences of that agenda, both good and bad. Second, apply the idea of equality to all individuals regardless of their identity. Human rights are universal. And human rights are held by individuals, not by groups. The left today has a growing tendency to prioritize group rights over individual rights, partly driven by “intersectionality.” This is often what gets them in a moral bind. The rights of individual human beings should always come before those of the tribe or the collective.

If one finds white male sexism intolerable, then one should by definition find all male sexism just as intolerable. Excusing men of color, Muslims, immigrants or men living in non-Western societies for bad behavior toward women is an expression of the bigotry of low expectations.

The result of this mindset is that Christianity — still “the white man’s religion” in the eyes of many — is criticized for every misstep against women but Islam is protected from the glare of scrutiny. In its extreme form, relativism excuses Muslim men from universal standards because they are said to be victims of colonialism and of recent military invasions; because they are new immigrants who face cultural alienation; and because they cannot be deprived of their last source of pride: their domination over their women in their communities. I reject this line of reasoning. Anyone who believes in human rights should too.

In Europe, and in the United States, we need to defend universal women’s rights. Thorny religious and cultural problems need to be addressed, and discussed openly. There is no reason why this should be, or be viewed as, a partisan issue.


I have taught English in Brooklyn for a number of years to immigrant women from all over the Muslim world, and I have ties to the community. So I was bothered by your article. Progressives abhor those abuses of women — F.G.M. (female genital mutilation), honor killings, etc. — that you mention. However, what Americans are fighting against here is the blanket vilification of Islam by everyone from the president to Republican congresspeople. None of us progressives favor extremes of Islam, or of any other religion for that matter. In this country (and in Congress) we have extreme right-wing Christians who want nothing more than to take away the rights of women. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have allies in Republican men (or women). You don’t.


Thank you for your service helping immigrant women build their bridges to the United States. Just as you speak so passionately about the threat of “extreme right-wing Christians,” we argue that progressives would be well-served to be equally passionate about “extreme right-wing Muslims.” As long as progressives refuse to isolate “extreme right-wing Muslims,” as readily as we do “extreme right-wing Christians,” we will continue to face a situation in which the ill-informed will conflate “extreme right-wing” Muslims with those who are not. In the same way that we should not judge all Muslims by the actions of extremist Muslims, it’s not appropriate to judge Republicans by the actions of the far right. If progressives truly want to challenge the “blanket vilification” of Muslims, it would be helpful to rip off that blanket and differentiate “extreme right-wing Muslims” from those who are not. Just as we oppose white supremacists, we should oppose Muslim supremacists.


And what exactly are United States senators, regardless of their gender or political affiliation, supposed to do about the effects of Shariah law on women? That’s the question the authors of this article somehow never actually answer.


Senators legislate and oversee the allocation of resources. We were testifying before the Homeland Security committee. Senators who are members of the Homeland Security Committee can:

1. Instruct the Department of Homeland Security to pay attention not only to acts of violence (jihad) committed in the U.S., but also to the indoctrination preceding it as part of counterterrorism efforts. Right now, almost all the official attention is devoted to acts of violence, and almost none to the ideology that drives, fuels and defends such violence. This was the main purpose of the hearing.

2. Instruct Homeland Security to find better partners. The department HS has previously partnered with individuals and organizations that are Islamist in outlook, with all the negative consequences for women and pluralist values this entails.

3. Demand closer scrutiny by the Department of Homeland Security of Islamist groups that claim to be moderate and reliable counterterror partners but are, in fact, neither moderate in their outlook nor reliable.

4. Urge the department to take seriously “honor” violence, female genital mutilation and other misogynistic cultural practices. The current F.G.M. trial in Michigan shows that such practices take place here in America just as they do overseas. The senators can demand investigations into these horrific practices and require vigilance on the part of authorities. Senators can also instruct Homeland Security to provide legal assistance to victims of female genital mutilation and other instances of “honor” violence so that they do not lose their immigration status if they leave an abusive situation.


While there are certainly examples of moral relativism, I believe it is wrong to say that people on the left do not speak out against child marriage or genital mutilation. In New Jersey there was a law passed regarding child marriage, but it was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie. One of the biggest opponents of the bill making the minimum age for marriage 18 are anti-choice groups, who believe that if a girl cannot get married, she will be more likely to have an abortion.


Earlier this year, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote about child marriages in the United States, citing, for example, the New Jersey law that you reference. How he wrote about the issue, however, speaks to the heart of our criticism of moral relativism among progressives. He wrote about child marriages as a phenomenon among “conservative Christian, Muslim or Jewish traditions,” but then only shared anecdotes from a “conservative Pentecostal church,” a “conservative Christian family” and an “ultra-orthodox Jewish family.” As progressives, we need to similarly name, identify and call out the “conservative Muslim” and the “ultra-orthodox Muslim” that advocate illiberal ideas. We often fail to do so, fearful of the backlash by Muslim interest groups that want to argue illiberal ideas have “nothing to do with Islam.” That’s a problem.

HLR ASKS: Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a strong and very intelligent woman, whose best-selling memoirs bear witness to her experience as a Muslim woman.

The problem I and perhaps other American feminists have is her choice to align herself with the strident anti-immigrant right in the Netherlands and the U.S.A. They have adopted her as a poster woman for their anti-Shariah propaganda. Shariah means “law,” but non-Muslim anti-immigrant pamphleteers and the “alt-right” have equated law in Islam with all of the ills of Muslim countries, such as Somalia. In fact, as some Muslim scholars, including women commentators, have shown, law always depends upon interpretation.

Hirsi and Nomani would achieve more by joining the women’s resistance movement in the U.S.A.


The Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, the American Enterprise Institute, Harvard’s Belfer Center and Stanford’s Hoover Institution — the places where I have worked over the last 15 years — are hardly “strident anti-immigrant right-wing” entities. Each of those institutions has a nuanced perspective on immigration and Islam.

The knotty issues of Islam and immigration deserve such treatment and shouldn’t be squeezed into the traditional left-right divide. One can, for example, be welcoming of immigrants, but demand that new arrivals accept full gender equity as a condition of living in a Western democracy. To me, that is a sensible requirement to ensure equal rights for women.

Many people — of course not all — who call themselves progressive tend to ignore, downplay or defend Islam and some of the patriarchal aspects of immigrant cultures. This tendency does nothing to help the real suffering of girls and women in majority-Muslim countries. Meanwhile, some on the political right provide meaningful help (either by money, by speaking out, as volunteers, legal aid, etc.) to the victims of Shariah and other immigrant cultures. Should we criticize them for doing so, or praise them?

The reader mentions the resistance. In my view, members of the so-called resistance have every right to engage in the sane politics of prudent opposition, but many leaders and followers of the resistance seek to delegitimize an election outcome that is not to their liking, and have succumbed to groupthink. That is not constructive.


Thank you for this great perspective. As a brown woman who works on prevention and treating female genital mutilation, child marriage and sexual assault, I think we need to be both respectful and fearless when tackling any harmful norms and practices, whether they are grounded in culture, religion or politics. But as a progressive, I have to check myself before criticizing any such practice lest people think I am a racist or imperialist. It’s a careful, fine line, and I’m very concerned with saying anything that will give ammo to the Islamophobic fundamentalist Christian terrorists who have been wreaking violent havoc on brown Americans all across the country since Trump seized power.


Thank you for your important work in the community. The tightrope that you walk is one that too many people today have internalized because of a very strategic campaign by Islamist governments, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to attack anyone who criticizes their ultra-orthodox Islamist interpretations of Islam. We call this network the “honor brigade.” Just as you are vigilant about “Islamophobic fundamentalist Christian terrorists,” we must safeguard against fundamentalist Muslim terrorists, for the sake of human rights and women’s rights, L.G.B.T.Q. rights and other basic principles of human dignity. As you likely know, Muslims around the world — and others, of course, too — face “violent havoc” from Islamic extremism. We have to speak bluntly about the threat of Islamist interpretation to defeat it.

The questions that never came.

New York Times

They Brushed Off Kamala Harris. Then She Brushed Us Off.

AIFD wishes Muslims around the world “Eid Mubarak”!

Dear friends,
AIFD wishes Muslims around the world “Eid Mubarak”(a blessed holiday) as today, we celebrate Eid al-Fitr, (the holiday of the feast) the celebration marking the close of Ramadan.
As our community celebrates Eid al-Fitr we will continue to hold a place in our hearts and our prayers for all those who were victimized by the paradoxical and dismaying increase in jihadist violence during this holy time of Ramadan. This month we prayed for all those lost and injured in Manchester, UK, and London Bridge, Kabul, Baghdad and in Flint, Michigan. We also remember the Muslims terrorized on their way home from prayer in Finsbury Park, London and for the countless others of all faiths and those of no faith, who were bullied, persecuted, tortured or worse because of what they hold true in their hearts.
We hope that this is a time that will allow us to come into a renewed sense of spiritual solace. A time where we will rededicate our families, our purpose, our organizations, our non-profits, our faith in our country, our duty to protect our nation, and our duty to protect our world from the radical savagery of militant Islamism. Where we will work together to unite against political Islam but also where we will work together for liberty and freedom. It is long overdue.
While the violence being spread by those who wish to radicalize our religion is an atrocity, our faith and our beliefs will only get stronger and our voices will only get louder.
AIFD has had many opportunities to share our mission during this month and we thank those of you have offered your blessings and wishes for continued success and to those who continue to support our efforts through donations, with whom without, we could not exist.
Eid Mubarak.
In liberty,
American Islamic Forum for Democracy