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Mosque Leader Quits After Imam's Genital Mutilation Comment

FILE - Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, director of outreach at the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, speaks during a news conference in Falls Church, Va., , Nov. 9, 2009.

A leader at one of Virginia's largest mosques has resigned after the imam there made comments in support of female genital mutilation.

Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, who was director of outreach at the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, posted his resignation Friday on his website.

Abdul-Malik says he's leaving after "many reprehensible statements" by Dar Al-Hijrah's senior imam, Shaker Elsayed, including his recent comments on genital mutilation.

In a recorded lecture, Elsayed described the practice as a way to avoid "hyper-sexuality" and "the honorable thing to do if needed."

Dar Al-Hijrah's board denounced Elsayed's comments Monday. Two days later, it placed him on administrative leave.

FILE - Imam Shaker Elsayed delivers the sermon at prayers services at the Dar al-Hijra mosque in Falls Church, Va., June 15, 2005.
FILE - Imam Shaker Elsayed delivers the sermon at prayers services at the Dar al-Hijra mosque in Falls Church, Va., June 15, 2005.

In the lecture, Elsayed says that the practice, also known as female circumcision, has received a bad name because poorly trained surgeons are too aggressive in the procedure. He said the surgery is properly carried out with a minimalist approach "so that she is not hyper-sexually active. This is the purpose."

Elsayed later issued a clarification through the mosque's website saying that "Islam would never support anything that harms anybody's well-being" and that he should have avoided his comments on hyper-sexuality.

"I hereby take it back. And I do apologize to all those who are offended by it," Elsayed wrote.

Abdul-Malik says in his resignation that the board's actions against Elsayed are insufficient.

"Ultimately, The Board of Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center is responsible for the direction of the community and its leadership. They are proceeding in a different direction than I believe is in the best interest of the congregation and the community at-large," Abdul-Malik wrote.

Neither Abdul-Malik nor Elsayed immediately returned calls Friday morning.

The Falls Church mosque has been mired in controversy since the Sept. 11 attacks, when its imam was Anwar Al-Awlaki, who later left the U.S. and became a senior figure in al-Qaida before being killed in a drone strike.

Elsayed has been controversial in his own right. He served as an unofficial spokesman for the family of Ahmed Omar Abu Ali during his 2005 terrorism trial. Abu Ali, who worshipped at Dar Al-Hijrah, was convicted of joining al-Qaida while studying overseas and plotting to assassinate President George W. Bush.

In a 2005 Associated Press interview, he defended the militant group Hamas, which the U.S. government designates as a terrorist group. "Everybody jumps on Hamas," Elsayed said. "Look at how long Israel has occupied [Palestinian lands]. How long did it take to say enough is enough?"

He also told the AP that dating is prohibited in Islam and that women cannot marry a man of their choosing without he woman's family's consent.