Sunday 20 January 2019

Trinity professor apologises for 'misunderstanding' over FGM comments

Dr Ali Selim Photo: Tom Burke
Dr Ali Selim Photo: Tom Burke Newsdesk Newsdesk

A Trinity professor who hit headlines after appearing to advocate for female circumcision has apologised for his comments.

Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh was on TV3’s The Pat Kenny Show last night discussing his comments on female circumcision. 

Mr Selim made headlines last week when he appeared to advocate for female circumcision in certain circumstances.

Mr Selim called female circumcision "an inherited practice" and said parents should be allowed to have it carried out on their daughter if a doctor says it's necessary.

He also said that you "cannot control people" and people will travel overseas for the procedure.

Female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM), is defined as the partial of total destruction of female genitalia for non-medical reasons and was made illegal here in 2012.

FGM has been carried out on an estimated 200 million girls around the world, including nearly 6,000 in Ireland.

Dr Selim has faced widespread criticism from doctors, from other Islamic leaders and students.

Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, Dr Selim said he "condemns 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.

“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.

"I was out of my comfort zone and I misunderstood the terms as the medical experts would use them.”

Mr Selim went on to say that 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.”

On the issuing of a "fatwa" against FGM by Dr Umar Al-Qadri of the Islamic Centre of Ireland, Dr Selim 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, i.e. have a degree in Islam.”

When asked if he would issue a "fatwa" against FGM as Dr Al-Qadri has done Mr Selim said he sees FGM as an "un-Islamic practice and I condemn it".

Earlier this week, there were calls for Mr Selim to resign as a lecturer in Trinity College Dublin following his comments.

“I have received a number of emails and phone calls from my students and also from academics from Trinity who expressed their support because they knew I did not mean that truly.

“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.”

Mr Selim said he would be not be resigning as spokesperson for the Islamic Cultural Centre.

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