By Ben Sales
(JTA) — Alan Dershowitz is advising a Muslim group accused of promoting female genital mutilation to instead adopt a variation of the Jewish circumcision ritual.
Dershowitz, the retired Harvard law professor who has worked on a number of high-profile cases, was hired recently as a consultant to a team defending two Detroit-area doctors and a wife one of the doctors who are charged with conspiring to perform female genital mutilation on two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota.
The Associated Press first reported that Dershowitz and a Michigan-based defense attorney, Mayer Morganroth, were hired by Dawat-e-Hadiyah, an international organization representing a small Shia Muslim sect.
Dershowitz will not be representing the defendants in court. On Monday, he told JTA that he is advising the group as to how its followers can fulfill its religious legal obligations while protecting the rights of young girls and staying within the bounds of U.S. law. Dershowitz stressed that he opposes female genital mutilation, which often involves the removal of parts or all of a girl’s labia or clitoris.
Instead, Dershowitz is advising the group to adopt a ritual in which the girl undergoing the rite will receive a pinprick that draws a drop of blood from the clitoral hood. Men who convert to Judaism and have already been circumcised undergo a similar ritual, called “hatafat dam brit,” which is the basis for Dershowitz’s suggestion.
“I am categorically opposed to female genital mutilation and I agreed to consult with this group in order to help end it,” Dershowitz said. “If that happens, it will be a win-win. It will help protect young girls and it will help protect religious rights.”
Dershowitz, whose high-profile clients included O.J. Simpson and Claus von Bulow, has recently challenged critics of President Donald Trump who claim the president should be charged with obstructing justice if testimony by former FBI Director James Comey is true.
In his interview with JTA, Dershowitz clarified that he opposes many of Trump’s actions, but that the president has the legal authority to stop the FBI investigation into conversations that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had with the Russian ambassador. Comey testified that he felt “directed” by Trump to do just that.
On Friday, Trump retweeted a tweet by Dershowitz saying, “We should stop talking about obstruction of justice. No plausible case. We must distinguish crimes from pol[itical] sins.”
Dershowitz said he doesn’t like the fact that Trump fired Comey nor had a private meeting with the former FBI chief.
“I’m not defending Trump or the administration,” he said. “I’m defending civil liberties. I don’t want to see statutes expanded beyond all reason.”
CAP: Alan Dershowitz at NEP Studios in New York, Feb. 3, 2016. (John Lamparski/Getty Images for Hulu)