A leading Irish Muslim ‘scholar' has said he supports mutilating the genitalia of young girls, describing the practice as "female circumcision".
Ali Selim, a spokesman for the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh, claimed that female genital mutilation (FGM) was part of Islam because of a saying by his Prophet Muhammad.
The doctor, who is also a lecturer at Trinity College in Dublin, also argued that female circumcision was unfairly framed as a "dark-skin practice" and "barbaric," insinuating that criticism is racist or prejudiced.
FGM has been illegal since 2012 in Ireland, but Mr. Selim claimed that "female circumcision" was different and acceptable.
However, according to the United Nations, FGM and "female circumcision" are one and the same, and that the latter term "obscures the serious physical and psychological effects of genital cutting on women."
Speaking to the RTÉ's Prime Time, Selim argued: "I'm not an advocate of female genital mutilation but I am an advocate of female circumcision.
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"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.
"The same medical reason that would justify male circumcision would be the same for females. It is not an obligation, but it should be allowed by law if needed and a medical doctor can decide if it is needed or not," he said.
Adding: "It is always been portrayed as ‘horrible' or ‘barbaric' or ‘mutilation' and is portrayed as a dark-skin practice or from the dark ages," he said.
"If it is an inherited practice it does not mean it has to done, but it has to be considered, and not rejected because it is inherited," he said.
When asked whether he believed it should be carried out for cultural or religious reasons, he said: "In the Koran it says clearly, ask of the people of knowledge if you do not know, so it means you ask a medical doctor."
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While FGM as a cultural practice predates Islam and is not unique to it, the religion has been linked to its spread. The Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence considers it obligatory; most other schools have considered it at least preferable or ‘honourable' historically.
In Indonesia, the world's most populous Mulsim-majority country, girls are mutilated en masse in large annual ceremonies, and the Indonesian Ulema Council - the country's highest Islamic clerical authority - has strongly opposed efforts to ban them.