In a shocking moment June 13 in Wayne County, Michigan, juvenile court, an attorney alleged that Jumana Nagarwala, who is charged with performing genital mutilation on more than 100 girls, was paid by a local mosque to do the procedures.
The charge was made during a hearing to determine whether to terminate the Indian American physician’s custodial rights to her children, which charge was denied by Nagarwala’s attorney. The Detroit doctor has allegedly performed 100 surgeries on the genitals of girls as young as seven over the past 12 years. Nagarwala has been held in custody since her arrest, as she awaits her trial in U.S. District Court.
Nagarwala is the first person in the U.S. to be charged with violating anti-genital mutilation laws. Genital mutilation is banned in the U.S. Nagarwala and her family belong to the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Muslims, many of whom practice the ritual.
After Nagarwala’s arrest, several Bohra mosques sent out a letter, urging worshippers not to practice genital mutilation.
Attorney Cynthia Nunez, who has been appointed guardian ad litem for Nagarwala’s children, alleged that Nagarwala’s husband, the treasurer of a mosque in Farmington Hills, Michigan, had paid his wife to perform the surgeries. Nagarwala’s husband – who is not being named and could face criminal charges himself – held his head in his hands and sobbed as the accusations against him were read aloud, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The couple’s children are now residing at a grandparents’ home. Nunez argued that the children should be removed from the grandparents’ home, as Nagarwala’s husband still lives there. But in court, the mosque treasurer said he himself would move. The court ruled that Nagarwala could see his children unsupervised, against the advice of Nunez.
Shannon Smith, an attorney for Nagarwala, said in court the accusations against her client were baseless. "The government has grossly overstated and misstated so many facts in this case just to make it sound bad,” she stated, as reported by the Detroit Free Press. "This case is not what they claim it is," she said.
Nagarwala’s attorney said the mosque never paid the doctor to perform genital cutting.
The mosque however, did reimburse Nagarwala for money that she had spent on food items for the mosque's food bank program, such as bread, pizza and soda.
Physician Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Farida Attar, have also been charged in the case. Fakhruddin Attar is accused of letting Nagarwala use his Livonia, Michigan, clinic to perform the procedures; Farida Attar is accused of holding the girls' hands during the procedures.
The arrests came after months of investigation in which many young girls were interviewed and asked if they had undergone the procedure.
In late news June 19, federal agents say text messages implicate a fourth woman in the case, as reported by the website Heatstreet.