The Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center's Board of Directors condemned their Imam's statements seen as justifying the practice of female genital mutilation.
Last year, the United Nations Human Rights Council declared female genital mutilation to be an act of violence against women and demanded that the practice be eliminated. One Virginia Imam is now under scrutiny after videos surfaced showing the local Islamic leader defending the practice.
Last week, a conservative watch-dog group released a video showing Imam Shaker Elsayed describe FGM as the "honorable thing to do" if necessary in order to suppress "hyper-sexuality." Though Elsayed recommends against the practice in the clip, he also instructs listeners to consult with a Muslim gynecologist to determine whether minimal action should be taken.
Today, FGM is practiced almost exclusively by Muslim communities in the Middle East and Africa, though a small number of African Christian sects practice it as well. It is seen as a way to curb female sexuality and help ensure that women remain chaste through childhood and faithful through marriage. While the practice is sometimes compared to circumcision, it is universally accepted that FGM serves no medical purpose.
The board of the Falls Church mosque released a statement declaring that FGM is "prohibited in Islam as well as the laws of the land."
We at Dar Al-Hijrah, DO NOT condone, promote, or support any practice of FGM. The reference to 'Hyper-sexuality' is offensive, and it is unequivocally rejected. The Board of Directors is particularly disturbed by such comments.”
The statement was also accompanied by an apology and retraction from Imam Elsayed, admitting that he "should have avoided it" and "hereby [takes] it back." Some in the community do not believe that the Imam's apology went far enough and the Washington Post
that a number of the mosque's leaders were threatening to resign if Elsayed is not fired.
This is not the first time that the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center has been in the news. One of the mosque's former Imams -- Anwar al-Awlaki -- went on to become one of al-Qaeda's leaders and his online lectures are still used by terror groups to recruit radical followers to this day. Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, also worshiped at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center. Imam Elsayed's comments have once again thrust the mosque into the headlines.
Female genital mutilation has not been historically common in the United States. The practice has been banned for decades but was never enforced. In April, federal prosecutors charged three Michigan doctors with performing FGM procedures on two Minnesota girls, marking the first time that the United States' FGM statutes had ever been enforced. Lawyers defending the accused doctors are expected to invoke a religious freedom defense when the case goes to trial.
Many who pray at Fall Church's Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center are hopeful that the community center can move away from these scandals and adopt a more progressive approach to the faith. One mosque attendee, who requested anonymity, admitted that if the Center continues to go down this path, it will be a "breaking point" for many in the community.