- - Thursday, April 20, 2017


A Michigan physician was charged this week with the ritual mutilation of the genitals of two sisters, one 6 and the other 7 years old, revealing a sordid — and illegal — practice in certain Muslim communities that has put up to 500,000 young American girls at risk of this barbaric mutilation.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala is a native of the state of Washington and trained in medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. She was charged with genital mutilation, transporting with intent to engage in criminal activity and making a false statement to federal authorities. She could face up to life in prison if convicted. She has denied everything.

Federal officials said the girls were told by their parents they were going from their home in Minnesota to Detroit “on a special girls’ trip.” When they arrived at the hotel they were taken to a doctor “to get the germs out of their bodies” and to make “a pain in their tummies” go away.

Instead, they were taken to a hospital in Livonia, Mich., where, the authorities said, Dr. Nagarwala conducted the procedure. The family is from a village in western India, and speak the Gujarati dialect.

The procedure is common in many rural areas of Arab and African countries, often in Muslim villages. The clitoris and parts of the vulva are cut out, often without anesthesia, and the opening of the vagina is reduced to reduce sexual pleasure and prevent promiscuity when the girls, often mutilated as infants, are older. The World Health Organization says there are no health benefits for girls or women, and the cutting can cause infection and increase the risk of complications in childbirth when they are adults.

“There’s a myth that this is only happening to people in India or Africa,” says Shelby Quist, director of the women’s rights organization Equality Now. “It’s happening everywhere and we’re beginning to learn that.”

The federal law against such mutilation was written 21 years ago by Harry Reid, who was then a U.S. senator from Nevada and later the leader of a Democratic majority of the Senate. He tells the Los Angeles Times that he was never swayed by those who defend the cutting as a cultural rite, and in fact the practice is decried by moderate Muslims.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has no specific count of such mutilations in the United States, but estimates that the number has increased with the increase in immigration from certain Middle East and African countries, in particular Egypt, Ethiopia and Somalia.

“Culture” can never be a defense of barbarism. Human sacrifice, for example, might be held as holy ritual by certain benighted believers, but “culture” would never be entertained as a defense against a charge of murder. Neither can “culture” be a defense of mutilation, as Harry Reid rightly observes. Legal immigrants are always welcome in America, but they must adopt the American culture, and if the abuse of children is part of a new immigrant’s religion, he should get a new religion.

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