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Dawoodi Bohra Head Priest Must Forbid #FGM As He Visits Britain

August 1, 2022

The Dawoodi Bohras are a religious sect of the Ismali branch of Shia Islam. Whilst originating in India, Pakistan, SE Asia and nearby Africa, many of the million or more adherents, women and men alike, are well educated, professional people now living in Europe, North America and Australia,   For most of them the idea of female genital mutilation (FGM)* in any form is abhorrent, even though some followers of the Islamic faith still insist on it.

And so, between the competing perspectives of ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ Bohras lies a serious conflict: the modernists, especially in places like the USA and Britain, demand that FGM be forbidden; but the traditionalists, headed up by their Syedna (‘leader’) Mufaddal Saifuddin, are not as yet convinced.

Bohras in Britain have therefore called for a demonstration, demanding that the Syedna declare FGM is forbidden, during his visit to London in August 2022:

🗓 Friday 5 August 2022
📍 Mohammedi Complex, Rowdell Road, Northolt, London, UB5 6AG
⏰ 12.30pm- 3.30pm

Anyone nervous about being identified is invited to bring, or ask on arrival for, a mask.

Below is the Open Letter, supported and published by various organisations and individuals, which explains the issues around FGM which Dawoodi Bohras in the UK face:

Campaigners fear girls could be put at risk of FGM*

by Bohra religious leader’s UK visit  

UK, London, July 25, 2022 – As organisations committed to the safety and wellbeing of girls and women, we are jointly raising our concerns over how girls could be at increased and imminent risk of female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM) in the UK due to the arrival in the country last week of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, who is the Head Priest and leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community and a vocal advocate of FGM/C.

The Dawoodi Bohra’s are a sect of Shia Islam, and it is estimated that the Syedna (which means “leader”) has around 1.2 million followers worldwide. During his UK trip, he is expected to receive thousands of visitors, including at least 6000 families from the UK, 3000 families from the USA and Canada, and many from Europe and elsewhere.

FGM is typically performed on girls from the Bohra community aged between six and nine years old. The practice is referred to as “khatna” or “khafz” within the community and usually takes the form of Type 1 or Type 4 FGM/C, which is classified by the World Health Organisation as cutting of the clitoral hood or clitoris, or pricking the female genitals.

Around 75% of girls in the community have experienced FGM according to WeSpeakOut, a survivor-led NGO that campaigns to end this harmful practice.

Members of the Bohra community have rightly called for the abandonment of FGM, which is a serious human rights violation that can cause life-long physical and psychological trauma, and is a form of child abuse when performed on a minor.

Survivors have bravely spoken about the harmful impact. According to a survey of Bohra women conducted by Sahiyo, another survivor-led NGO working to end FGM, 48% of respondents reported that being cut had left an emotional impact on their adult life, and 35% said that it had affected their sex life. Almost a quarter also disclosed that they’d experienced physical health issues following FGM.

In 2015, the Syedna’s office issued letters to his followers in countries where FGM was illegal, including the UK, informing members not to perform “khafz”. However, this was later contradicted by him in a public sermon when he stated “the act must be done.”

The Bohra leader’s support for FGM was also demonstrated when the UK registered charity Dawat-E-Hadiyah Trust (United Kingdom) – for which Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin is the Sole Corporate – spent £436,954 in 2016 and £328,711 in 2017 on, “costs incurred in defending four members of the Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat in Sydney in connection with Female Genital Mutilation.” This was regarding a landmark legal case in which a Dawoodi Bohra imam, a former midwife, and a mother were sentenced to prison for the mutilation of two girls in Australia’s first criminal prosecution for FGM.

FGM is illegal in the UK

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 states that it is a criminal offence for any person to perform FGM in England and Wales, and the nationality or residence status of the victim is irrelevant. The Serious Crime Act 2015 further strengthens protections against FGM.

The law in England and Wales states that it is illegal to attempt to commit an FGM offence or conspire to commit an offence; aid, abet, counsel or procure a person to commit an FGM offence; encourage or assist a person to commit an FGM offence; or fail to protect a girl from the risk of FGM.  A person found guilty of committing FGM faces up to 14 years in prison, a fine, or both.

Potential for increased risk of girls being subjected to FGM

FGM is illegal in the UK, and we are disappointed and concerned that the Syedna was granted a visa to enter the country in July 2022, despite his support for FGM and the influence he has over his congregation. Other countries have rejected his application for a visa, such as Canada in 2018.

Girls in communities that practice FGM are more at risk during the summer holidays because there are fewer safeguarding measures in place while schools are closed, and long holidays provide time for physical recuperation and scar tissue to heal. There is also the risk of “holiday cutting” when girls are transported to other countries to undergo FGM.

We call on Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin to protect the welfare of girls by immediately and publicly denouncing FGM to all his followers worldwide.

If the Syedna does not take this opportunity, in the interest of child protection we request that the UK government takes prompt action to revoke his visa.

The state must also implement steps to protect girls at risk.

In a similar way to how Operation Limelight runs safeguarding operations on the UK’s borders to raise awareness about FGM and assist potential victims, authorities must take proactive measures, including ensuring the Bohra community – particularly those attending religious gatherings with the Syedna – are informed about the negative legal, psychological, and health consequences of FGM.

Most importantly, if you are a girl at risk, a family member, or a person who is aware of someone who might be at risk of FGM, call the NSPCC FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550 or email them at Alternatively, contact the police on 101, or in an emergency, call them on 999.

More news on this event is located here; and more information on the global Dawoodi Bohra situation is available on this WeSpeakOut website.

[*also called FGM/C by some activists]


  1. WeSpeakOut
  2. Equality Now
  3. Forward UK
  4. Hawa Trust
  5. NESTAC- Manchester
  6. Sahiyo
  7. U.S. End FGM/C Network

I am also pleased to be a signatory to this important declaration.

NB: Lest anyone consider this declaration as ‘proof’ that Muslims demand FGM, that is not so.  Waris Dirie, a survivor of the harmful practice, makes this very clear in her Desert Flower commentary on the issues.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

See also 
FGM (Khatna / Khafz) Persists In Bohra India – UK Politicians Can Help To Stop It
(June 2017) and read more about Patriarchy and FGM and Economics

Books by Hilary Burrage on female genital mutilation

18.04.12 FGM books together IMG_3336 (3).JPG

Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: A UK Perspective (Hilary Burrage, Ashgate / Routledge 2015).
Full contents and reviews   HERE.
FEMALE MUTILATION: The truth behind the horrifying global practice of female genital mutilation  (Hilary Burrage, New Holland Publishers 2016).
Full contents and reviews   HERE.


There is a free FGM hotline for anyone in the UK: 0800 028 3550, or email:

Details of NHS Specialist Services for FGM here.

More info and posts on FGM here.

Activists, service providers and researchers may like to join the LinkedIn group Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): Information, reports and research, which has several hundred members from around the world.

Twitter accounts:

@NoFGM_UK  @NoFGMBookUK @FemaleMutlnBook  @FGMStatement   @NoFGM_USA @NoFGM_Kenya
and @StopMGM.

Facebook page: #NoFGM – a crime against humanity

Email contact: via Hilary

[NB The Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, which has a primary focus on FGM, is clear that in formal discourse any term other than ‘mutilation’ concedes damagingly to the cultural relativists – though the terms employed may of necessity vary in informal discussion with those who by tradition use alternative vocabulary. See the Feminist Statement on the Naming and Abolition of Female Genital Mutilation,  The Bamako Declaration: Female Genital Mutilation Terminology and the debate about Anthr/Apologists on this website.]


This article concerns approaches to the eradication specifically of FGM.  I am also categorically opposed to MGM, but that is not the focus of this particular piece, except in any specifics as discussed above.

Anyone wishing to offer additional comment on more general considerations around infant and juvenile genital mutilation is asked please to do so via these relevant dedicated threads.

Discussion of the general issues re M/FGM will not be published unless they are posted on these dedicated pages. Thanks.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kenneth Johnson permalink
    August 4, 2022 17:42

    Well done H B for all your hard work . Makes me cringe .

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