An emergency medicine doctor from Michigan was charged with performing female genital mutilation in Detroit last week. Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was accused of performing the “procedure on two 7-year-old girls at a medical clinic in Livonia, Michigan, this past February,” reports Jalal Baig, and investigators are looking into other earlier cases of FGM performed on minors by Dr. Nagarwala. The clinic owner and his wife were also charged.
“The accused are part of a South Asian Muslim sect known as the Dawoodi Bohras, a Shiite branch of Islam. …Considered mandatory by the sect to curb the sexual promiscuity of Bohra girls, female genital mutilation leaves its victims irrevocably scarred with lurid memories of the experience,” says Baig.
Michigan Republican state Rep. Michele Hoitenga was quick to resurrect talk of an anti-Sharia bill, “a perpetual bogeyman” for evangelicals and far-right conservatives “vigilantly guarding against some mythical Islamic law supplanting American law,” notes Baig. Commentators on the right and left seemed troubled by the “Muslim problem.”
Trouble is, argues Baig, FGM is not a fundamentally Islamic practice but is rather an ancient and barbaric practice, originating in pre-Islamic Africa, that has prevailed irrespective of religion.
“Today, it is primarily a cultural problem in central Africa, with Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt and Somalia on the list alongside Christian-majority ones such as Ethiopia and Eritrea,” Baig points out, adding that it is uncommon in some of the largest Muslim countries, such as India, Pakistan and Bangldesh.
And yet Dr. Nagarwala’s case seems to have inspired only political posturing and the likelihood of more misguided policies. Meanwhile, despite the displays of public outrage, many of the immigrant girls and women who have been mutilated still have not received appropriate medical care here in the US. “Given the increasing scale of this practice, the focus must be on establishing a health care system that can cope with and ameliorate its physical and emotional complications,” insists Baig.