May 18, 2012
Mayo Clinic doctor departs amid genital mutilation controversyBy Christina Killion Valdez
A Mayo Clinic doctor whose remarks regarding female genital mutilation ignited online controversy no longer works for Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea.
Dr. Hatem Elhagaly, also known as Hatem al-Haj, is a certified pediatrician who began working at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea in 2001, where he was employed until the week of May 7, according to a Mayo Clinic spokesman.
"... we cannot comment further on Dr. Elhagaly's employment status."
Elhagaly's departure comes soon after a petition on the website change.org, "Revoke the certifications of Hatem Elhagaly," ... which took aim at an Arabic-language paper entitled "Circumcision of Girls: Jurisprudence and Medicine" by Elhagaly for "repeatedly pointing to the idea that female genital mutilation is 'an honor' for women," had 703 signatures as of Friday.
The petition included directions to call Chris Gade at Mayo Clinic Public Affairs.
Attempts to contact Elhagaly by the Post-Bulletin were unsuccessful. However, on his personal website, Elhagaly posted a clarification of his position on female circumcision on May 10.
"I have always condemned female genital mutilation. Moreover I have unequivocally spoken out in lectures and in writing against all harmful forms of female genital cutting, justifiably known as female genital mutilation, and condemned these harmful practices. I have also taught that nothing in Islamic Law and religious texts supports this crime, and in fact, it is repugnant to Islamic principles and values to inflict such trauma and suffering on any female," he wrote.
Elhagaly, who is also dean of the College of Islamic Studies at Mishkah Islamic University of North America in Columbia Heights, however, stated that a subtype of female genital cutting, called the ritual nick, is harmless.
"This subtype doesn’t involve any form of clitorectomy. It is merely an incision of the clitoral hood, which is the counterpart of the foreskin in males, and does not remove any part of the clitoris. This opinion is scientifically irrefutable and shared by many American non-Muslim pediatricians. It is the position expressed by the Committee on Bioethics of the American Academy of Pediatrics," he wrote. [... and adopted as AAP policy for a month until public outrage caused its "retirement"]
A U.S. federal law went into effect on March 30, 1997, making the female genital mutilation of minors, also known as female circumcision, a crime. Female genital mutilation is a felony under Minnesota law except when it is done as a surgical procedure necessary to the health of the person on whom it is performed.
Elhagaly wrote that he has never performed the procedure nor had he seen it done on any patient.
"I have never advised, suggested or encouraged any of my patients or their families to undertake any type of female circumcision, including the ritual nick," he wrote. "Whenever I have addressed the topic as a speaker or writer, I have warned that, albeit harmless, the ritual nick is a criminal offense in the U.S. and other Western countries and should not be done."