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Letter: Dawoodi Bohra women of Detroit speak up

The Detroit News

We are writing today as business owners, lawyers, doctors, teachers and educated women from a range of professions. We are mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and aunts. Most importantly, we are women of the Dawoodi Bohra faith who have lived and worked for decades in the wonderful city of Detroit.

The recent court case of Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, who has been wrongly accused of practicing FGM, has turned the media into a feeding frenzy of misinformation and outright falsehoods about our faith and our practice of khaftz — a harmless form of female circumcision that in no way can be defined as female genital mutilation.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala of Northville outside federal court in Detroit in September.

To be clear, we members of the Bohra faith are proud and patriotic American citizens who obey every law of the land — even those with which we disagree. We firmly believe that a practice that is harmless, far less invasive than male circumcision, and much more akin to a body piercing should in no way be put in the same category as some more barbaric practices from around the world that we wholeheartedly condemn.

Since the case of Dr. Nagarwala began, there have been many stories characterizing our faith in untrue and salacious manners. As evidence of this bias, one local male reporter refused even to speak with us unless he was allowed to question Bohra woman about the personal, private and intimate details of our life experiences. The way this story is being portrayed in the media and the courts reeks of both religious intolerance and gender bigotry.

As a group, we want to set the record straight. No one in our Masjid has been told that they will be excommunicated from the faith if they speak out against the practice of female circumcision — or khafz, as we call this ritual. Nor are there consequences — neither religious nor social — for those women in the Bohra community who choose not to practice khafz. Crucially, none of us have ever experienced any long term negative effects — either physical or mental — from the practice.

This case has become far too politicized and brought much unpleasant scrutiny to our community.

We have opened our Masjid to other faith communities, our children joined in mourning with children of other faiths after the tragedy of 9/11, and we banded together with the rest of the city, state and nation to preach tolerance and love, which is a core of our Muslim faith.

We were happy living our lives as patriotic American women until all that changed with this political prosecution and the lies repeated by the media unwilling to even listen to our side.

All we ask of our fellow Michiganians is that they look honestly at the facts and not sensational headlines.

Tasneem Yunus Burhani, Mubaraka Tambawala, Farida Mustafa Hussain, Fatemah Hussain, and Shakera Bohra are women from Metro Detroit who are members of Dawoodi Bohra faith.