Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has condemned the comments made by Trinity lecturer, Dr. Ali Selim, on the issue of female circumcision. Selim had argued that female circumcision should be permitted with medical approval.
In a press statement, the Union said that Selim’s remarks were “backward” and “outdated,” and that his “dangerous views” were of “extreme concern to the Union”. Selim made the statements to the Medical Independent, and later to RTÉ’s Prime Time.
In a statement to Trinity News, TCDSU said: “Selim, a lecturer in Trinity College, has expressed views that run contrary to all accepted medical knowledge and best practice.” TCDSU rejected any distinction between female circumcision and the practice known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Their statement continued: “To falsely distinguish between FGM and female circumcision is both wrong and dangerous, and the SU rejects it entirely.”
Speaking to the Medical Independent, Selim had stated: “Female circumcision is a matter that should be determined by a medical doctor. If the doctor thinks there is a need for it, then do it and if otherwise, then otherwise. If it is done, then it should be done carefully and safely and should be limited to the amount needed.”
Repeating these remarks to Prime Time on Thursday evening, Selim, a lecturer of Arabic in Trinity, said that female circumcision should be practised with a doctor’s approval. Following these comments, Selim stated in a Facebook post that “female genital mutilation, a crime and a violation to women’s rights, is a barbaric practice that I condemn in the strongest terms,” and finished by saying that “circumcision as a medical need” should not be banned.
TCDSU President Kevin Keane condemned Selim’s remarks. He stated that female circumcision is “without basis in healthcare, and the practice should be completely eradicated across the world”.
“There is simply no credible space in discourse, in Ireland or anywhere, for FGM apologists. There is also no difference whatsoever between FGM and so-called female circumcision- they are one and the same. The SU categorically condemns Selim’s comments. A member of the academic community in Trinity must do better, and the university needs to take this transgression very seriously,” he said.
Following Selim’s comments, Ali Al Saleh, the Imam of the Islamic Centre in Milltown said: “This is a bad and terrible interpretation of Islam which is causing misery for us.” Shaykh Dr. Umar Al-Qadri, the Chair of Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, also criticised Selim’s comments. In a Twitter post, he stated: “FGM is a practice that is not required in Islam. In fact, it has no religious foundation. Some Muslims choose to follow weak narrations. We must discourage this practice and the remarks of the spokesman of ICCI are disappointed [sic].”
TCDSU Gender Equality Officer, Áine Palmer, also criticised Selim’s remarks. Palmer said: “FGM is a cultural practice that has no place in a society that protects the interests of women and girls…FGM can have disastrous mental and physical consequences for women, and it should not be tolerated.”
TCDSU Ethnic Minorities Officer, Aghogho Atiyota remarked: “There is a reason that in 2012 the Irish government made FGM illegal, there is a reason that the NHS considers this a form of child abuse and there is a reason that religious leaders condemn the very thought of FGM.”
“Religion and culture are unequivocal, FGM is not explicitly mentioned on any religious text nor is female circumcision, which is in fact the same thing as FGM. The views of Dr. Ali Selim in my opinion are unorthodox and are hindrance to the eradication to such a vile act of injustice,” he said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states the “procedure has no health benefits for girls and women”. Globally, the United Nations estimates that “at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM”. According to the 2016 Census, it is estimated that 5,790 women and girls in Ireland have been subjected to the practice. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), is illegal in Ireland under the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012.
TCDSU Health Sciences Convenor, Ronan Doherty commented: “FGM has no benefits to the health of girls and women. It can produce both immediate complications, and long term consequences that can put their well-being and health at risk. Female genital mutilation, synonymous with female circumcision, “should be treated as an illegal act that is both barbaric and oppressive”.
“As the representative for Health Science students in Trinity College Dublin, I reject outright the views of Dr. Ali Selim,” he said.
College officials have not yet responded to Selim’s remarks.
Additional reporting by Aisling Grace and Rory O’Neill