“I do not believe in your wisdom and power anymore”: A Dawoodi Bohra woman’s missive to Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin

"I will not listen to your edicts about what I should wear, how I should educate my children, how I should live my life".

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With federal agents in the US recently nabbing a second doctor and his wife for conspiracy involving female genital mutilation (FGM), or female genital cutting (FGC) with the global head of the Dawoodi Bohra community coming under fire in the British Parliament, a sense of shame, frustration and anger is building up among Dawoodi Bohras worldwide over the alleged double-speak of  Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin. Whatsapp messages are flowing thick and fast between community members worldwide, including a letter addressed to the Syedna by an American woman who prefers to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal. Sabrang India is publishing below the letter it has received from a member of the Bohra community along with some links. 

To Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin,

We are the ones who showed up. We are the ones who wore the right thing, said the right thing, didn't ask too many questions. When you became our leader, we changed our license plates, our phone numbers to include the number 53. We came to you in our moments of deep grief and our moments of sweetest joy to ask for your permission to undertake life events. ​

We parted with our hard earned money in Dawoodi Bohra taxes. We kept photos of Syedna in our wallets and on our walls. We traveled to Texas, Nairobi, Mumbai. We prayed to you and for you. We did it because we needed to, because we believed in you.

We did this in the name of community. in the name of feeling supported by the ballast of history. We did this in the name of our financial wellbeing, our family's security. We believed in the sanctity of this community. We believed in your goodness, your wisdom. We believed that when we called to you for help, you would come.

Last year, on Syedna Taher Saifuddin's death anniversary – a day when you knew that people around the world were watching – you, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, spoke out about "keep[ing] our things strong, stay[ing] firm. Even the big sovereign states, whatever it is they say, if it makes any difference to our things, then we are not prepared to understand!…The act has to happen! If it is a man, then it is right, it can be openly done, but if it is a woman then it must be done discreetly, but then the act has to be done. Please understand what I am trying to talk about…"

We understood; we all knew what you were talking about. You were speaking about khatna, a globally reviled practice in which a part of a woman's clitoris is cut. You instructed us to continue carrying out khatna on our young girls regardless of what the “big sovereign states” (read: US law) had to say.

One month later, US-based jamaats published letters stating that community members should follow the law and not practice khatna in the US. You never said that it was inherently wrong; you just impliedly encouraged us to travel elsewhere for the procedure.

So here we are, April 2017. Jumana Nagarwala did an appalling thing in flagrant disobedience of her role as a healer and doctor. The issue has gone global – The New York Times, the BBC, UK Parliament (video) – are associating the Dawoodi Bohra community with this heinous act. They are not besmirching us – they are accurately reporting on a practice that expresses your attempt to denigrate women.

But we can’t place blame entirely on Jumana Nagarwala. She didn't come up with this idea. She did it for you, in your name, under your instruction. On Wednesday, a federal jury indicted her, Fakhruddin Attar and Farida Attar.

Your followers are in hot water now and what did you do? You washed your hands of them. Less than a year after your pronouncement that you were "not prepared to understand" what "big sovereign states" say, you did a 180.

You issued a statement saying that it was "unfortunate" that Dr. Nagarwala had not followed US law, that the Dawoodi Bohras do not support any violation of local, state or federal law. You threw Dr. Jumana under the bus and bailed.

So now we know. We know that even if we show up and wear what you want, say what you want, do what you want, you won’t show up for us when it matters.

It doesn’t matter how much we gave and prayed and observed. You will not take responsibility for your actions. You will not stand by your followers.

I will continue to go to the jamaat and pray alongside my fellow Bohra women. But I do this now only for the love of my family, for the peace that this brings them, for the Allah who sees everything we do (including you). I will not do it for you.

I do not believe in your wisdom and power anymore. I will not listen to your edicts about what I should wear, how I should educate my children, how I should live my life. You have lost that from me. I know now that when the reckoning comes, you will not stand by me, and so I will not stand by you anymore.




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