Tahera Shafiq, 48, is charged with conspiracy to commit female genital mutilation and aiding and abetting female genital mutilation.
She is accused of entering the Burhani Medical Clinic, a Detroit-area clinic owned by Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Farida, in February, when federal prosecutors allege the Attars allowed another Detroit-area doctor, Jumana Nagarwala, to perform female genital mutilation on two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota. Female genital mutilation is the cutting of part of a girl’s genitals and has been illegal in the United States for decades, but this is the first federal case of its kind.
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A criminal complaint filed Wednesday states that “multiple minor girls in Michigan” told authorities that procedures had been performed on their genitals by Nagarwala, and one girl identified Shafiq as being present for her procedure.
Shafiq, the Attars and Nagarwala are all members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, a religious sect of Islam, said Shafiq’s attorney, Victoria Burton-Harris. They attend the Anjuman-e-Najmi mosque in Farmington Hills, Burton-Harris said.
The federal complaint claims some members of their community “are known to practice FGM on young girls … as part of their religious and cultural practice.”
But Burton-Harris said, in the case involving her client, no crime was committed.
“There was no mutilation of any genitals, of any kind,” Burton-Harris said. “There was no federal crime committed of any type. This is, quite honestly, ignorance of religion that has caused fear and an outright attack on this particular sect of Muslims.”
The Anjuman-e-Najmi mosque, represented by attorney Ashish S. Joshi, released a statement saying there are about 12,000 members of the Dawoodi Bohra community in the United States, and that they have been in the country since the 1950s.
“We take our religion seriously but our culture is modern and forward-looking,” reads a statement emailed to CNN. “We are proud that women from our community have high levels of educational attainment and enjoy successful, professional careers.”
Nagarwala, formerly a Detroit-area emergency room physician, internal medicine physician Attar and Farida Attar face one count of conspiracy to commit female genital mutilation, two counts of female genital mutilation and one count of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. Nagarwala, 44, and Fakhruddin Attar, 53, also face one count of conspiracy to transport a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, a charge that carries a potential sentence of up to life in prison.
Shafiq made an initial appearance in US District Court in Detroit and was released by the end of the day on $10,000 bond with an ankle monitor, under the condition that she surrenders her passport, has no contact with victims, witnesses, co-defendants or members of the Dawoodi Bohra community. She will be able to leave her house and go to work. She works in medical billing for an MRI office in Southfield, Michigan, Burton-Harris said.
The Attars were also released on bond with similar conditions last week, according to a federal court official with knowledge of the case. Calls to their attorneys were not returned.
Fakhruddin Attar’s attorney, Mary Chartier, who spoke to reporters after his initial appearance in April, said her client is “not aware of any crimes committed at his clinic” and that “what happened at the clinic was not FGM.” Farida Attar’s attorney, Matt Newburg, previously told CNN his “client has not admitted guilt.”
Nagarwala is still in custody, but her attorney, Shannon Smith, sad she will file an appeal next week for Nagarwala to be released under similar conditions as her co-defendants. Nagarwala is also fighting to keep parental rights for her two children, ages 12 and 6.
“This situation is extremely tragic,” Smith said. “All that is happening is that these children are being made victims and it’s really unfair to the children. It’s been grossly unfair to them.”
Shafiq is expected to have her preliminary examination hearing July 5.