High-priced defense attorney Alan Dershowitz just joined the legal team to fight for the Muslim couple that was caught performing female genital mutilation on two girls under the age of 10 in Minnesota.
This case is the first of its kind in the US to be prosecuted. The defense team for the couple is expected to argue that what the couple did is protected under “religious freedom.” They may also argue that what happened to the girls doesn’t qualify as “genital mutilation.”
Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, along with Dr. Fakrhuddin Attar and his wife, Farida, attend a mosque where one of the leaders was quoted praising female genital mutilation last year.
The Dawoodi Bohra’s religious leader, Syedna Muffadal Saifuddin, endorsed female genital mutilation at a Mumbai mosque last year, saying it “needs to be done.”
Dershowitz, whose past clients include Jeffrey Epstein, Jack Kevorkian and O.J. Simpson, was retained by the Dawat-e-Hadiyah, an international organization that serves as the administrative arm for the Dawoodi Bohra community, the Detroit News reported.
The trial will begin on Oct. 10 in a Detroit federal court. The two doctors face up to life in prison if they’re convicted, while Farida Attar, Fakhruddin’s wife, could serve 20 years. All three are currently being held without bond after it was determined they are a flight risk.
A central legal question will be whether the procedure—also known as “khatna” or “female circumcision”—harmed the two seven-year-old Minnesota girls.
Because male circumcision is not deemed harmful and can have health benefits, it is not unlawful. In contrast, courts have historically ruled against parents deemed to have caused their children harm when adhering to a religious practice, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses who denied their children medical care.