Michigan moves to terminate rights of parents suspected of mutilation

DETROIT, MICH. - In the wake of a genital mutilation investigation that has gripped a small religious community in fear, Michigan officials moved Friday to terminate the parental rights of several families whose children authorities believe may have been subjected to genital cutting procedures, a person close to the case said late Friday.

Among those targeted by Michigan Child Protective Services are the two doctors charged in the landmark genital mutilation case in Detroit federal court, the person said.

CPS is not looking to remove the children from the homes, the source said, but many families were notified on Friday about a parental rights termination process and are scrambling to get lawyers.

►Related: Genital mutilation probe targets doctors' daughters

At least three families have scheduled appearances in Oakland County Circuit Court on Monday.

The CPS effort involves at least seven children, possibly more. Attorneys have previously told the Free Press that CPS and the FBI have removed numerous Muslim girls from their classes in school in the last month and interrogated them and their mothers about genital mutilation. Those girls have also been subjected to medical exams, say lawyers.

They are said to include Nagarwala's 11-year-old daughter.

At issue are allegations by the federal government that two doctors and another woman in an Indian-Muslim community known as Dawoodi Bohra  subjected young girls to procedures at a clinic in Livonia and then tried to cover it up when it was discovered by the FBI.

►Related: VERIFY: Female genital mutilation versus circumcision. What's the difference?

Accused are Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife, Farida Attar, 50, both of Livonia.

Nagarwala has maintained that she has not engaged in any actual genital cutting, but only removed membranes and gave it to the parents for religious burial purposes.

All three defendants say the procedures were not female genital mutilation but a more minor procedure that follows a long-standing religious tradition.

Parents targeted by the CPS are "petrified, absolutely petrified," said attorney Margaret Raben, who has been counseling two Bohra families whose children have been interrogated about mutilation procedures. According to Raben, several parents in the community have been notified by CPS about petitions being filed to terminate their parental rights. However, she said, there are no initial efforts to remove any children from their homes, which leaves her wondering what the move is all about.

"What is the point of this?" she said, noting that if any of these children did have procedures performed on their genitalia, "it's not like they're going to do it again."

She's also concerned that these efforts could target mothers more than fathers, because this procedure is a secretive ritual among women only, and men rarely ever know about it. She stressed, "This is a sincerely held religious belief."

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© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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