Detroit — The lawyer for Dr. Jumana Nagarwala says the Northville doctor, accused of mutilating the genitalia of two 7-year-old girls, is being persecuted for her religious beliefs.
“Absolutely,” Shannon Smith, who represents Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, told reporters in federal court Thursday.
Smith spoke hours after Nagarwala was fired from her job as an emergency room physician at Henry Ford Health System, and after Nagarwala was arraigned on charges that could send her to prison for life.
Henry Ford Health System fired Nagarwala one day after she was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly mutilating the girls’ genitalia and conspiring to cover up the crime.
The indictment adds new charges to a case that is providing insight into a small, insular Muslim community in Metro Detroit and an illegal procedure performed on young girls.
Nagarwala, 44, wearing an orange jail uniform and a pink-and-green head covering, stood mute during the brief arraignment. U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen entered a not-guilty plea on Nagarwala’s behalf.
Nagarwala is being held without bond pending an unscheduled trial date.
“She’s doing well,” Smith said after the arraignment. “I find her to be very strong.”
The alleged crime did not happen at a Henry Ford facility. The Northville resident is accused of performing female genital mutilation at a Livonia medical clinic in February.
Henry Ford spokesman David Olejarz confirmed Nagarwala’s firing but declined further comment.
The Johns Hopkins University medical school graduate worked for Henry Ford for 16 years and served her medical residency at the health system in 1999. She had hospital privileges in Detroit and West Bloomfield Township.
The Livonia clinic where federal agents say the mutilations happened is owned by Dr. Fakhruddin Attar. Attar, 52, and his wife, Farida Attar, 50, also were indicted Wednesday and accused of conspiring to mutilate girls with Nagarwala.
Nagarwala never performed female genital mutilation, Smith said.
The doctor merely wiped off a portion of the mucous membrane from the girls’ clitoris, Smith said. A small amount was placed on a gauze pad and given to the family for burial, the lawyer added.
“This is part of the culture,” Smith said during an earlier court hearing.
Prosecutors say female genital mutilation is practiced by members of the trio’s small Muslim sect, Dawoodi Bohra.
The community is based locally out of a Farmington Hills mosque, Anjuman-e-Najmi on Orchard Lake Road. It’s the only Dawoodi Bohra mosque in Michigan.
The Dawoodi Bohras hail mostly from western India. There are about 1 million followers worldwide.