A Virginia imam advocated for female genital mutilation last month, describing it as the “honorable thing to do” for young girls because it prevents “hyper-sexuality.”
The board of directors at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, immediately condemned Imam Shaker Elsayed’s words, saying the center does not “condone, promote, or support any practice of FGM,” the Washington Post reported.
Elsayed’s controversial comments were taken from a May lecture on child rearing and family life, and video of the remarks were shared earlier this month by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
In his lecture, Elsayed advised congregants to contact a Muslim gynecologist to determine whether or not their young daughters need to undergo FGM. The Muslim leader said FGM — or female circumcision — is done by cutting off “the tip of the sexual sensitive part in the girl so that she is not hyper-sexually active.”
Elsayed did say extreme FGM can be dangerous to the young girls, though he warned that “in societies where circumcision of girls is completely prohibited, hyper-sexuality takes over the entire society and a woman is not satisfied with one person or two or three.”
FGM, which has been condemned by the World Health Organization as a human rights violation and is outlawed by most developed nations, is common among some Muslim and Christian sects in Africa and parts of Asia, the Post reported.
The dangerous procedure ranges from a small incision in or a partial removal of the clitoris to a complete removal of the clitoris and the labia. In the most extreme cases, FGM can include infibulation of the vaginal opening, which the WHO says can lead to severe infections, excessive bleeding, complications in childbirth, and even death.
The leaders at Dar al-Hijrah said Monday they have rejected Elsayed’s extreme opinions and noted that FGM is “prohibited in Islam as well as the laws of the land.”
Elsayed also tried to retract what he said, claiming when he suggested congregants seek a Muslim gynecologist, he was referring “the audience to their OBGYN to inform them why it is illegal and harmful.” He also said he regrets his comments on women’s “hyper-sexuality.”
The Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, has a history with terrorism. Two of the 9/11 hijackers, as well as the Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, worshipped at the center at some point. (2009 file photo/Win McNamee/Getty Images)
“I admit that I should have avoided it. I hereby take it back,” he said. “And I do apologize to all those who are offended by it.”
The statement didn’t go far enough, though, for some leaders at Dar al-Hijrah. In fact, two mosque officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Post that the center’s second imam and outreach coordinator, Johari Abdul-Malik, was threatening to quit if Elsayed wasn’t fired.
This is not the first time Elsayed has found himself in hot water.
Earlier this year, the controversial imam reportedly called on Muslims in the United States to wage jihad in the name of Islam, according to The Daily Caller.
“The enemies of Allah are lining up. The question for us is, are we lining [up] or are we afraid because they may call us terrorists?” he allegedly told a crowd of Ethiopian Muslims in Alexandria, Virginia.
Dar al-Hijrah is one of the nation’s largest mosques, boasting around 3,000 regular attendees from more than 20 countries. The center has worked to change its image after being associated with terrorism in the past.
Two of the 9/11 hijackers — as well as the Fort Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan — reportedly worshipped at the Virginia mosque at some point.
News about the Virginia imam’s comments come not long after two Detroit-area doctors were arrested for performing FGM. The doctors involved have denied the charges.
Rather than actual cutting, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, the first doctor arrested, said she was using a “scraper” to remove a membrane from the young girls’ genital area. She said she would then give the membrane to the parents, who would bury it in the ground as part of a “religious practice.”
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco called the doctors’ alleged procedures “horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims.”
“The Department of Justice is committed to stopping female genital mutilation in this country, and will use the full power of the law to ensure that no girls suffer such physical and emotional abuse,” he said at the time.