A Farmington Hills mosque is denying claims that it paid a doctor to perform female genital cutting procedures on local girls as part of a religious practice and is demanding the allegation be retracted.
Wednesday’s denial came on the same day that a fourth defendant was arraigned in U.S. District Courtin Detroit in the ongoing federal criminal investigation into female genital mutilation practiced by some members of a small Indian Muslim sect. A federal prosecutor at that hearing expressed concerns that the mosque is interfering in the investigation.
The Anjuman-e-Najmi mosque, where local members of the Dawoodi Bohra practice their faith, issued a scathing statement accusing an attorney, who is serving as a court-appointed guardian ad litem, of making false statements to “inflame an already difficult situation.”
That allegation was made by the lawyer during a court hearing Tuesday over the state’s request to terminate the parental rights of Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44, of Northville, the lead defendant in the genital cutting investigation.
Nagarwala’s lawyer emphatically denied after that hearing that her client was paid by the mosque to perform any female circumcision procedures. The mosque is denying it, too.
“At no time has the Anjuman-e-Najmi, Detroit mosque paid for any religious medical procedure whatsoever. Any comments made by anyone to that effect are false,” the mosque said in the statement. “These comments are made without factual evidence to back it up and are intended to intently misstate, overstate and inflame an already difficult situation.”
The mosque’s statement is directed toward guardian ad litem Cynthia Nunez, the attorney assigned by the court to look out for the best interests of Nagarwala’s children.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Nunez argued against letting Nagarwala’s husband have unsupervised visits with the couples’ two minor children. She noted that the husband is the treasurer of the Farmington Hills mosque, and could face criminal charges himself involving allegations that the mosque was paying his wife to perform genital cutting procedures on young girls for years.
In the mosque’s statement, its attorney accused Nunez of trying to inflame passions and asked her to retract her “false statement.”
“Given your duties as a lawyer, you must correct your false statement and immediately inform the court that Anjuman-e-Najmi, Detroit has never paid for any physician services,” attorney Ashish Josh wrote in the letter.
Nunez declined to comment on the mosque’s request and letter, which she had not seen as of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday
Meanwhile, the fourth defendant in the genital mutilation case has been ordered to stay away from the mosque after a prosecutor said she was concerned about “obstructive conduct” taking place there.
Tahera Shafiq, a 48-year-old medical biller from Farmington Hills, was arraigned on conspiracy to commit female genital mutilation and aiding and abetting charges. She was given a $10,000 unsecured bond.
Federal Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Stafford imposed several bond conditions, ordering Shafiq to turn over her passport, be placed on home detention with restricted travel and not to text or use the internet unless it is for work or to communicate with her attorney.
She also granted a request from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bar Shafiq from having contact with members of her mosque (other than her immediate family), or attending services there.
“We have concerns that obstructive conduct has taken place at the mosque,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward said earlier in the hearing. Shafiq can attend another mosque.
Shafiq, a petite woman, wore a light blue head covering and dress adorned with white flower designs and pink trim, the flowing garment associated with her religion covering her cuffed hands. She repeatedly answered, “Yes, ma’am,” when the judge asked if she understood each condition.
A preliminary hearing was scheduled for 1 p.m. July 5.
Shafiq’s attorney, Victoria Burton-Harris, called the government’s complaint “bare bones.” She stressed that her client is not accused of performing any procedures, unlike the other defendants in the case.
“As far as we’re concerned, she did nothing wrong or illegal here,” Burton-Harris said.
When asked about her relationship to the other defendants, Burton-Harris said they were friends and members of the same mosque.
Burton-Harris also said Shafiq is grateful that the court recognized the inappropriateness of pre-trial detention. Shafiq works in medical billing at MRI of Southfield, Burton-Harris said. She was arrested earlier Wednesday on the way to her mosque, she said.
According to federal court documents, Shafiq was at the clinic when Dr. Jumana Nagarwala performed the genital cutting procedure on the two girls on Feb. 27. Prosecutors cited cell phone records and surveillance video at the clinic showing Shafiq entering the building with Nagarwala and leaving at the same time.
Prosecutors have identified other children who may have been cut by Nagarwala, according to court documents. One girl identified Shafiq as being present for her procedure.
The other defendants in the case are Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and Attar’s wife, Farida Attar. Attar owns the clinic in Livonia where the procedure was done and his wife is accused of holding the girls’ hands to comfort them during the cutting.
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