A Virginia imam is under fire after a Youtube video showed him endorsing female genital mutilation as a way to curb “hypersexuality” and as “the honorable thing to do—if needed—for the girls.”
Imam Shaker Elsayed of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., made the comments late last month, just weeks after the arrests of three Michigan residents who allegedly carried out female genital mutilations on two seven-year-old girls.
In the United States, federal law has prohibited female genital mutilation since 1996. But Elsayed said that in societies where such forms of female-genital mutilation are completely prohibited, “hypersexuality takes over the entire society, and a woman is not satisfied with one person, or two, or three.”
The imam advised parents to consult a “Muslim gynecologist,” endorsing only the form of genital cutting known as “Type 1” or “clitoridectomy,” which involves causing clitoral damage. Anything more than that, Elsayed said, “causes serious harm in the sexual life of the child when she grows up.”
Video of Elsayed’s comments, posted by the mosque on YouTube, were first flagged by the Middle East Media Research Institute. The mosque has since removed the footage, but it can be viewed here.
Heat Street could not immediately reach the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center for comment. Phone and email messages were not returned by deadline. Additionally, no one answered Elsayed’s phone, and his voicemail was full.
But according to the Virginian-Pilot, the mosque’s board of directors condemned Elsayed’s comments, saying they were contrary to both American and Islamic law.
“We at Dar al-Hijrah, DO NOT condone, promote, or support any practice of FGM,” the Board said in a statement to the Virginian-Pilot. “The reference to ‘Hyper-sexuality’ is offensive and it is unequivocally rejected. The Board of Directors is particularly disturbed by such comments.”
Elsayed also said in the statement that he “should have avoided” the comments on hypersexuality. “I hereby take it back,” he said. “And I do apologize to all those who are offended by it.”
He also said he had “referred the audience to their OBGYN to inform them why [FGM] is illegal and harmful.”
So far, the mosque has stopped short of removing Elsayed from his position. That’s reportedly upset several of its other leaders.
Citing two unnamed mosque officials, the Washington Post reported that “the mosque’s second imam and outreach coordinator, Johari Abdul-Malik, was threatening to quit if the board didn’t fire Elsayed.”
Abdul-Malik joined Linda Sarsour and 18 other prominent Muslims, calling for Elsayed’s firing in a Monday night statement. “We cannot and will not stand for any Imam or Muslim leader who endorses human rights abuses antithetical to our beautiful faith,” their statement said.
Meanwhile, the Pilot reported that an unnamed “longtime Dar al-Hijrah member” says there is a power-struggle within the mosque between “the more conservative and liberal ranks of the mosque’s leadership.”
The mosque has a controversial past, the Pilot noted: Past attendees included two of the 9/11 hijackers, as well as the Fort Hood shooter, and a former imam has since become an outspoken proponent of extremism.
In the ongoing Michigan FGM criminal case, all three people accused have ties to a local mosque and belong to the Dawoodi Bohra community. In 2016, the global spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community openly endorsed female genital mutilation, also known as “khatna,” female circumcision, or female genital cutting. The Michigan trio’s legal team is expected to rely heavily on a religious freedom defense.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.