Attorneys for the defense of two Michigan doctors from India, and one of their wives, who were indicted by a grand jury on April 22 and charged with mutilating the genitals of two seven-year-old girls, intend to put forth a religious-freedom argument on behalf of their Muslim clients.

The defendants are members of Dawoodi Bohra, an Islamic sect based in their home country. In the federal case, the first of its kind since female genital mutilation (FGM) was banned in 1996, the defense team is claiming that the practice is a religious ritual and therefore should be protected by U.S. law.

Their plea unwittingly exposes the false claims made by prominent Muslims — such as Iranian-American religion scholar/TV host Reza Aslan and Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, who have insisted that FGM is “not an Islamic practice.”

Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, is the cutting or removal of the clitoris and/or the labia, as a way of eliminating a girl’s sexual desire and pleasure, to guarantee that she be a virgin before marriage and remain faithful to her husband afterwards. According to the World Health Organization:

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