DR ALI SELIM, a leading figure in the Irish Muslim community, has apologised for his comments last week in which he claimed female genital mutilation is acceptable in some cases.
Last week, Selim told Prime Time that if a parent wants their daughter to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), then they should seek the advice of their doctors as it can be necessary for medical reasons.
“We see female circumcision in the same way we see male circumcision. It might be needed for one person and not another, and it has to be done by a doctor and practised in a safe environment,” Selim said last Thursday.
Since then, Selim’s comments have come under sharp criticism from various quarters, with healthcare professionals, family organisations, and activists campaigning against the FGM culture refuting his claims.
Last night, Selim spoke on TV3′s Pat Kenny Show to clarify his comments.
“I condemn FGM in the strongest terms. I admit that I caused confusion based on my misunderstanding of the term [circumcision] and I do apologise for this,” Selim said.
“I’m not a medical doctor. I’m not a native speaker of English either. My English is really good but definitely sometimes it lets me down,” he said.
He told Kenny that he was out of his comfort zone and “misunderstood the terms as medical experts would use them”.
FGM has no religious foundation. It is a cultural practice practiced by Muslims and non-Muslims in the past and until today’s time. I definitely support the ban of that.
The Irish College of General Practitioners and other medical organisations have clarified that there is no medical reason for FGM and it should never be done. The World Health Organisation has also condemned the “medicalisation” of FGM.
Selim is an Arabic lecturer at Trinity College Dublin. Since his remarks last week, there has been a significant amount of backlash from the student population and the university said it would provide students with an alternative lecturer than Selim if they wished.
Reacting to this, Selim said: “I think Trinity College is run by very wise people and I think they will take the right decisions in the best interests of our students and anything in the best interests of our students I support.”
Selim also confirmed that he would not be resigning as spokesperson for the Islamic Cultural Centre.
Earlier this week, the Islamic Centre of Ireland (ICI) issued a fatwa to unequivocally condemn female genital mutilation.
The fatwa – which is a ruling on a given topic based on interpretation of the sources of Islamic law – was signed by the head imam of the ICI Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri.
He said that FGM in all its forms is “religiously impermissible and sinful”.
Selim address the issuing of the fatwa on the talk show last night.
Speaking to Kenny, he said: “My understanding of fatwa is an Islamic rule issued by an Islamic scholar and Muslim scholars if they issue a fatwa we have to ask questions about that. Are they qualified to issue a fatwa and their qualification means they have to be qualified, ie. have a degree in Islam.”
When asked if he would issue a fatwa against FGM as Dr Al-Qadri has done, Selim said:
“I see it as an un-Islamic practice and I condemn it.”
On the public reaction to his comments, Selim said: “I do not release the Irish media to contributing to a large extent of this misunderstanding… Thousands of articles [sic] have been written so far but I was only contacted by three journalists, three people only spoke to me and asked for clarification.”