German lawmakers versus the holy alliance against foreskins and bacon
A fortnight ago, a district ruling was issued that should give Jews in Germany cause to cry anti-semitism is not dead, and Muslims to suspect that Islamaphobia is still rearing its ugly head in Europe. The Court of Cologne outlawed circumcision of young males by parents.
Neither Muslims nor Jews were too impressed at the idea of having to forego one of the tenets of their religion - the rite of passage of circumcision to their own faithful, from infancy.
The ripples of the district decision are still being felt globally today. In New York, health practitioners have been emboldened to ask questions about a particularly idiosyncratic circumcision ritual that could ruffle some foreskins and set off a maelstorm of taboos (touching on priests, children, and circumcision). The Jewish Rabbi in this case orally sucks the baby's circumcision wound. (See below)
The controversial German court rules that the procedure of standard circumcision is tantamount to "bodily harm" and invades the sacred right of an individual to choose religion in later life.
Most would opine that there is no 'body' harmed per se -- except in the botched case that prompted this ruling. The local court in this west German city ruled against, before later acquitting, a doctor in Cologne who had performed a parentally-requested circumcision on a four-year-old Muslim boy. While medical complications arose in this case, circumcisions are, outside of religious remit, performed for medical (health or hygiene) reasons also, often in the United States.
The decision to deem circumcision compromising to a child's physical integrity has had proponents of parental and religious rights up in arms. This ruling challenges the supremacy of parents in religions that value familial authority and tradition. In the vein of restricting smacking children, this ruling strikes at core family values. Jewish and Muslim groups fear this contained ruling could set a legal precedent for more nationwide copycat rulings.
Freedom of religion under attack
Since then, the almighty roar from the respective religious communities who are inadvertantly twin-targetted by this ruling has been perceptibly audible. Around 20 organisations including the Turkish Islamic Union, representing Germany's four million Muslims asked that parliament ensure religious freedom by clarifying the legal status surrounding the ancient rite since the June 26 Cologne court ruling.
The president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, pronounced it "an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination".
German Muslim and Jewish leaders - who share similarities in dietary restrictions as well as the male-snipping practice - urged lawmakers to pass legislation protecting the right to circumcise boys, when carried out on religious grounds. Circumcisions could still go ahead for 'medical reasons'.
Members of the local Israeli press have raised the anti-semitism spectre, asking "is the German circumcision ban rooted in anti-semitism?” There has been no official statement from the Israeli Foreign Ministry who have preferred not to comment til they know how binding a district ruling could become.
Male circumcision to date has not been illegal in Germany, unlike female circumcision - which is illegal across the globe.
The right to snip your own boy breached or 'bodily integrity' breached?
Questions raised since this 'landmark' ruling have addressed the stripping of religious liberty more than the stripping of a child's foreskin.
In Judaism, the age-old tradition of circumcision is explicitly a commandment from God. In Islam, the Sunnah (or Hadith of the Prophet Mohammed, Peace Be Upon Him) ordains that circumcision was a "law for men", according to a Huffington Post opinion piece. Muslims overall take the biggest slice of the circumcision pie worldwide as "the largest single religious group to practice circumcision."
At the same time, a CNN blog post tells of a controversial Jewish circumcision ritual that touches on many taboos and has come under fire on the back of this German probe into a botched circumcision. This ultra Orthadox ritual sees babies being cut and then 'orally sucked' by the priest performing the procedure to remove their baby foreskin.
Criminality of (male) Circumcision?
If that didn't push enough alarm buttons, the procedure has allegedly caused two infant fatalities as well as some potential thousands of cases of herpes infections, with almost a dozen documented cases of contracted neonatal herpes following the circumcision ritual that involves 'oral suction' on the open wound of the newborn.
New York City health officials are pushing a proposed health bill that requires parents to sign a consent form before they proceed with the circumcision ritual practiced in some quarters of Ultra Orthodox Jewry called metzitzah b'peh.
"There is no safe way to perform oral suction on any open wound in a newborn" according to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. This medical intrusion into the perceived preserve of religion has also prompted some to suggest racial bias in the NYC government.
Meanwhile, the German ruling leaves the wider religious faithful wondering if circumcision is to fall victim to the increasingly secular West who are taking babies into the hands of the state and away from the hands of the family or priests.
Any comments? Please have your say on the right to circumsise your young in the space below.