When the news broke in April that federal investigators in Detroit had arrested two doctors in the nation’s first case of female genital mutilation, it was widely reported in the local and national media that the cases were part of a “tiny sect” of Islam.
The two Muslim doctors, Jumana Nagarwala and Fakhruddin Attar, were part of the Dawoodi Bohra sect based in western India, said the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. At issue were just two girls from Minnesota whose parents brought them to Dr. Nagarwala to have their genitals partly removed and given to their parents to be buried in an obscure “ritual.”
Two months later, on June 7, federal prosecutors again blew holes in the widely held belief that it was a isolated case of FGM in America when they said their investigation found there were an estimated “100 girls” between the ages of 6 and 8 who had been mutilated by the doctors in Detroit.
FGM case spreads to three more states
This week the story has gained further traction.
The case is no longer relegated to Michigan and Minnesota but has spread to at least three other states as federal agents have identified new suspects, according to federal court records.
The alleged practitioners live in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, according to federal court records.
Michigan has since passed a state law banning the practice and bolstering the federal law, but Minnesota’s state legislature has backed away from passing similar legislation. Maine is scheduled to vote Thursday on its version of the ban.
Maine state Rep. Heather Sirocki has said the state has thousands of girls at risk, mostly in its growing Somali community.
It was reported Wednesday that 13,000 migrant girls in Germany are at risk. In the U.K., more than 5,000 FGM cases were prosecuted last year.
Yet, as recently as Tuesday, the Detroit News was still reporting that the practice of genital “cutting” is mainly practiced by the little-known Dawoodi Bohra sect.
“The developments are the latest in a case alleging six people participated in a conspiracy to cut prepubescent girls as part of a religious procedure practiced by a small sect of Shia Muslims from India, the Dawoodi Bohra,” the newspaper stated in the July 18 story by reporter Robert Snell.
“Clearly the Detroit Free Press and News are afraid of Islamic backlash. They’ve gone from appeasement to dimminitude,” said former Rep. Michele Bachmann. “Somalia has a nearly 98 percent compliance rate with FGM, according to some published reports. FGM travels with much of Islam due to the fact that women are considered lower than men.”
Powerful new ally steps forward, from Hollywood
While American feminists have been largely silent about the atrocity of female genital mutilation, stressing the need for “cultural sensitivity,” the cause of banning the procedure in all 50 states has gained a new high-profile ally in Kelly Carlson, a Hollywood actress with family ties to Maine.
Carlson, who is best known for her role as Kimber Henry on the FX drama series “Nip/Tuck,” pulls no punches in championing the cause against FGM, calling out the American Civil Liberties Union for its support of the practice.
Carlson pointedly takes on the ACLU, which has made various excuses for legislators’ inaction in Minnesota and Maine.
Watch actress Kelly Carlson’s plea for the state of Maine to become the 28th state with a law banning FGM:
One such excuse is that there is no need for a state-level prohibition of FGM, given that it is already a crime under federal statute. In fact, in testimony earlier this year on behalf of the Maine Prosecutors Association, Kennebec and Somerset Counties District Attorney Maeghan Maloney argued strongly that she and her colleagues need lawmakers in Augusta to adopt a state law criminalizing female genital mutilation.
Maine is considered to be one of eight states where girls are most likely to be at risk of mutilation. That’s because Maine has one the nation’s biggest Somali refugee populations, with only Minnesota, Ohio, Washington state, California and Georgia having larger Somali communities.
Carlson calls the practice “a barbaric form of physical assault” and “a horror” facing thousands of women and children.
“But, shockingly, the ACLU opposes the bill, stating, and I quote them, ‘the risk of mutilation is not worth expanding Maine’s criminal code.’ Hmm. Well I couldn’t disagree with that more,” Carlson says in a new public service announcement.
The Maine Senate is expected to vote on L.D. 745 on Thursday. It will then fall to the Democratic-controlled House to take up the Senate’s version.
According to a 2013 UNICEF report, more than 97 percent of women in Somalia and 90 percent of women in Egypt have had the procedure done.
Practitioners fleeing to Canada?
And now there is mounting evidence that practitioners of the procedure, having been put on notice that it won’t be tolerated any longer in the U.S., are traveling to Canada to perform it, according to intelligence reports distributed to front-line border officers.
The reports obtained by Global News show the Canada Border Services Agency has been on the alert for the arrival of travelling “PFGMs,” or practitioners of female genital mutilation, for more than a year.
Photos of the cutting tools, belts and “special herbs” practitioners might be carrying in their baggage when they arrive in the country have been circulated to border officers.
Once in Canada, the practitioners are typically called into homes to perform the procedure, the CBSA Intelligence Operations and Analysis Division wrote in a report titled “Female Genital Mutilation Practitioners Entering Canada.”
A second Intelligence Advisory told officers to “be aware of girls and women travelling to or returning from regions where they may be subjected to the practice.” An accompanying map highlighted countries in Africa and the Middle East.
In the Middle East and Africa the practice is called “female circumcision” and is done to discourage promiscuity among unmarried women and ensure that their virginity will be preserved for their future husband. The procedure involves cutting off part or all of the clitoris and sewing the vagina’s outer labia shut, allowing just enough opening for urination. Then when the woman is married, another procedure is required.
The procedure often causes painful conditions, including infections and trouble with urination.
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has estimated that more than 513,000 girls and young women in the United States, mostly immigrants, have either had the procedure done or are at risk of having it done.
While the practice predates the founding of Islam, many critics of the religion point to the recorded sayings of Muhammad, Islam’s prophet, that female “circumcision” was encouraged.
The practice has been illegal in the United States since Congress passed a law against it in 1996.
Canada outlawed the practice around the same time, but there has not been a single successful prosecution of the crime in Canada.
That was the case in the U.S. as well, until former Sen. Jeff Sessions became attorney general and placed a priority on prosecuting FGM cases. Still, there likely are too many cases for the federal government to handle, and that’s why 27 states have also passed laws against the practice.
Maine is the focus this week with a big vote in the state legislature coming up Thursday.
Pamela Geller, an author and anti-Shariah activist who publishes at the Geller Report, said the media are in “damage-control” mode.
“For years, they have been telling people that FGM is un-Islamic. Linda Sarsour [leader of the Women’s March and the Arab-American Association of New York] herself asserted that when this case first broke,” she said.
“But now the lawyers for the FGM practitioners seem to be preparing to make religious freedom the cornerstone of their defense,” Geller added. “So they have to admit it’s Islamic now – they can’t run a story saying it’s un-Islamic but that the doctors are basing their defense on the claim that it’s Islamic. So they are now saying it’s just limited to a ‘tiny sect.’ Roughly 96 percent of the girls in Egypt have been cut – is Sunni Islam a ‘tiny sect?'”