Monday 21 October 2019

'This terrible interpretation of Islam is causing misery for us' - Dublin imam slams 'damaging' and 'confusing' comments on FGM

Dr Ali Selim said he is an advocate for female circumcision
Photo: RTE
Dr Ali Selim said he is an advocate for female circumcision Photo: RTE

Fionnuala Walsh

A prominent Dublin imam has condemned the controversial idea that female circumcision should be allowed by law.

His comments come as a response to statements advocating for female circumcision made by Dr Ali Selim on RTE’s Prime Time on Thursday.

"This is a bad and terrible interpretation of Islam which is causing misery for us," said Ali Al Saleh, Imam of the Islamic Centre in Milltown.

Dr Al Saleh said that the comments on female genital mutilation (FGM) were confusing people, and that Dr Selim is not a leading member of Ireland's Islamic Cultural Centre.

The Trinity lecturer originally spoke on RTE’s Prime Time, saying, "I’m not an advocate of female genital mutilation but I am an advocate of female circumcision".

Female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM), is defined as the partial or total destruction of female genitalia for non-medical reasons, and is illegal in Ireland under the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012.

Dr Al Saleh responded to the controversial comments saying, "it is something that is sometimes argued in Islam, but he is saying it as if it is accepted by all of us, by the whole religion."

"We live in Ireland. We need to rediscover our religion and teach our people back home, not bring their view about Islam and imposing it here," he said.

Read more: Female circumcision 'should be allowed by law' - member of Ireland's Islamic Cultural Centre

The Milltown Imam said that Dr Salem’s beliefs are not shared by the majority of the religion, and that outspoken comments like his are damaging for the whole community.

"We are suffering from those people from the Middle East or from a certain condition where they want to impose their version of Islam here, which is very dangerous for us," he said.

He said that what is causing organisations such as ISIS to grow is "allowing people to impose their interpretation from Islam which is very bad".

This was in response that Dr Selim’s claim that that female circumcision "has been described in a horrible way", and should be considered in certain instances.

"If we see female circumcision in the same way as male circumcision, it might be needed for one person and not another, it has to be determined by a doctor and practiced in a safe, medical environment," Dr Selim said.

"It has been described in a horrible way, it's always described as 'barbaric' and we always hear the term mutilation, it is portrayed as a dark skin practice, or something that belongs in the Dark Ages,” he said.

Dr Selim also said there is little that can be done to stop people accessing female circumcision abroad, just like people access abortions.

"I would say to anyone who wants to bring their daughter overseas for circumcision to ask their doctor, a medical doctor has to say that they need it," he said.

The lecturer was speaking after a worldwide social media campaign which called for zero tolerance towards FGM was launched in Dublin on Tuesday.

Activists are using the hashtag #MeTooFGM on social media to raise awareness of the issue and to support survivors living in Ireland.

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