Monday, July 02, 2012

Foreskin politics continued

Three updates on the German circumcision ban.

1. As Rebecca reports, a Berlin hospital, i.e. outside the jurisdiction of the court that made the ruling, has now suspended doing circumcisions for religious reasons after the court ruling. She quotes Walter Russell Mead: "As of this moment in Berlin, it is against German law to live as a Jew."

2. Frank Furedi, Spiked's guru, has written a much longer and more sophisticated critique of the law than the one put forward by Brendan O'Neill. Read it.

3. Reuben of Third Estate has a good post arguing that the German court was right but that anti-circumcision folks need to have a sense of proportion. His briefly made argument for the law is this: "Children do have rights. And, contrary to what Brendan O’Neill appears to believe, parents are not entitled to absolute sovereignty over their households." I absolutely agree with that point, but simply do not see infant circumcision as a violation of those rights. Parents do not have absolute sovereignty, but the state should generally only intervene against parental authority to protect children against actual harm, and I don't see the case that this is an example.

169 comments:

Anonymous said...

There's a very clear case of harm in male circumcision and frankly all those defending parents' right to have it done to their children would not be so supportive if it were a part of a girl's genitalia being excised. Male circumcision is effectively a permanent removal of part of a boy's penis. I hope this court decision is the beginning of it becoming an unacceptable practice except where medically necessary. It really is just tough luck if Jews, Muslims and parents who have been doing it out of habit don't like it.

Sarah AB said...

I have more time for Furedi than for some others at Spiked, and I think he makes some fair points about, eg, the way antisemites might latch on to this, and also about the way the rhetoric of child (sexual) abuse perhaps contaminates such discussions. But many of his arguments seem quite weak because they could be used just as well in relation to FGM. I think some of the most effective arguments in favour perhaps relate to other things which *are* legal - eg piercing the ears of babies.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

Bob, with respect, I'm extremely shocked to see you writing like this. Really shocked. You're making exactly the same argument as the people who claim opposing the genital mutilation of Muslim girls is 'Islamophobic'. I remember seeing a post at Harry's Place along similar lines a couple of years ago entitled 'Against Intactivism', and thinking that since the Decent Left had now embraced moral relativism and genital mutilation, it was pretty much finished as a positive phenomenon.

First of all, the law in Cologne is (rightly) targeting religious practices, not ethnic groups, so it is not 'racist', and to accuse it of racism is sheer moral-relativist bullying. Comparing it to medieval European anti-Semitism is simply hysterical - in more than one sense of the word.

Secondly, it is not now 'against German law to live as a Jew', since nobody has a right to dictate what it means to 'live as a Jew'. The law is simply restricting a practice that some Jews consider an essential part of what it means to be Jewish, and others don't. If Larry Derfner doesn't consider practising circumcision to be a necessary part of 'being a Jew', why is his opinion less valid than Rebecca's ?

Religious believers do not have the right to practice their religions in a manner that harms others. So you cannot mutilate the genitals of your children, or force your women to wear burkhas, or beat your wife, or burn widows alive, or carry out suicide bombings or honour killings, or sexually abuse young boys, or force women to the back of buses, or spit on 'inappropriately dressed' young girls, or perform human sacrifice, and then claim 'I'm only practising my religion'. Sorry, but we live a liberal, secular society, and the right of individuals to live free of abuse and bodily harm takes precedence over the right of religious people to abuse others in the name of their religion.

I won't even read the stuff by O'Neill and Furedi, since they still haven't grown out of the teenage phase of holding contrarian opinions simply in order to annoy other people, and to read them is to indulge their spoilt-bratism. But apparently it's impossible to uphold pretty much any liberal value without Spiked accusing you of being 'racist' or 'elitist'. We're not allowed to accuse football fans of racism, because then we're 'policing the working class'. But Spiked is allowed to fling around wild accusations of racism against all and sundry. They believe the proles should be proudly racist but that the middle-classes should bend over backwards to avoid 'giving offence'. They are supreme moral relativists.

Spiked is an extreme-right-wing cult site that defends fascists and ethnic-cleansers, and campaigns for a world in which parents would be free to send pre-teen children to earn their living cleaning chimneys, but in which gay people would not be free to marry. How anyone can take the rubbish they spew out seriously is beyond me.

NB not that it should make any difference, but some of my own close relatives have been circumcised.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"The law is simply restricting a practice that some Jews consider an essential part of what it means to be Jewish, and others don't."

Quite a masterful stroke of understatement. "Some Jews" is a funny way of describing the at least 90% of Jews who circumcise their baby boys as it is inseparable from their Jewish identity. There are a few Jews who may not perform this ritual. That choice does not give them any moral authority of trying to impose their own preferences on the vast majority of other Jews for whom this is a non-negotiable part of forming their identity.

I'm wondering what German Jews are supposed to do now that they are forbidden by law to practice this part of their religion. Do it in secret, in fear? Taking the baby to another country to perform the ceremony? How is that any different from the list of prohibitions imposed by the Spanish Inquisition?

Some European countries have already passed laws forbidding Kosher slaughter. Jews have no choice but to import it from other countries or turn vegetarian. No doubt such laws will eventually undermine Jewish morale and exhaust Jews. They make Jewish identity a shameful thing to have. And apparently it is all done out of sheer love of babies, and noble humanitarianism.

I think it is quite likely that this law is just another type of attempt to eliminate FGM, but how come this struggle is fought on the back of Jews? I suspect this is what it all comes down to. Not antisemitism per se. Just using the relative smallness and fragility of the Jewish community to make a point aimed at the much larger and more aggressive Muslim communities whose presence in European cities has become such a problem for their host societies. This way they can avoid being labelled Islamophobic since they have provided themselves with an alibi, a proverbial fig leaf. We do it to Jews, too.

bob said...

I will re-post what I wrote in the comments on the last post, as I think that this already answered some of Marko's well put criticisms.

--

By the way, I should probably be very clear of what I meant when I spoke about "racist...in effect". I am not arguing that the Cologne law is racist in intent. I am in general not interested in diagnosing racist motivations in people's souls, but am intersted in the material effects of words and deeds on people's lives. In this case, circumcision is a non-negotiable part of being Jewish for all practising Jews (though not all ethnic Jews) and many practising Muslims. Outlawing it, therefore, makes it impossible to be Jewish or Muslim in Cologne, a serious racist effect.

Like covering adult female hair, male infant circumcision is not actually a Koranic obligation on Muslims, although it is more or less universally practised by devout Muslims. However, for practising Jews, it is a very serious commandment, made by God to Abraham: "This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He that is eight days old among you shall be circumcised; every male throughout your generations."

I am not a cultural relatavist who thinks that culture trumps everything. If it were a case of serious harm to children, that would trump the effective racism card. Thus, the practise among some haredim of the mohel sucking the blood, which is demonstrably harmful in many cases, cannot be justified by the moral relativist/effective racism argument, and nor, of course, can female genital mutilation, of which Nancy McDermott argues: "Comparable surgery in a man would involve the removal of most of the penis and the scrotum."

I can't see how a procedure enacted by so many people for completely non-religious medical reasons could be considered grievous bodily harm. (At the danger of straying into the Too Much Information category, I write as someone not circumcised as an infant, but rather as an adult for medical reasons.)

bob said...

And on the FGM comparison, I think Furedi answers it quite well:

But this attempt to depict male circumcision as something akin to FGM reveals a wilful ignorance of human anatomy. There are different forms of female circumcision, but as Nancy McDermott has argued on spiked, they all involve the ‘removal of some or all of a woman’s external genitalia’. The operation often has serious side effects, such as infection, pain, haemorrhaging and infertility. As McDermott says, ‘Comparable surgery in a man would involve the removal of most of the penis and the scrotum’. In reality, male circumcision as practised by Muslims and Jews involves the removal of the foreskin. And the fact that millions of boys are circumcised for non-religious reasons, either at birth or later in life after a health complication, shows that it is not a form of mutilation.

So how can an operation condemned as ‘sexual mutilation’ in one instance be advocated as an unobjectionable and sound medical procedure used to improve someone’s health in another instance? It seems pretty clear that it is not the physical aspects of circumcision that disgusts the moral crusaders, but rather its cultural meaning for some communities.

bob said...

Specifically on Furedi, re Sarah: if you dislike Spiked you should dislike Furedi the most, as he is to Spiked what the Reverend Moon is to the Moonies or what the Dalai Lama is to Tibetan Buddhists. He is more intelligent than most of them, and refrains from such aggressive, vulgarian hectoring language as some of his disciples, but he is the intellectual source of the worldview.

I agree with Marko he is locked into teenage contrarianism and that they are a cult site that defends fascists and ethnic-cleansers etc etc - but that does not mean they are not sometimes right. When I link to them, I generally add a health warning (I didn't here, as this post was originally a comment to a post that did include a (mild) health warning.)

bob said...

You're making exactly the same argument as the people who claim opposing the genital mutilation of Muslim girls is 'Islamophobic'.

No, that's a highly inexact comparison for three reasons. One, I am talking about racist effect not racist ("phobic") intent. And, two, FGM is practised by a small minority of Muslims while male infant circumcision is practised by all religious Jews and many secular ones, as well as most Muslims. And, three, there is no comparison to the almost-certainly-not-harmful act of male infant circumcision and the extremely-harmful act of FGM. Oh, and four, FGM is an act of strucutral misogyny and oppression of women and therefore contextually totally different from infant male circumcision, which obviously is not part of a structural oppression of men.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

Sorry, Bob, I probably didn't do proper justice to the nuances of your argument.

The fact that something is practised by 90% of Jews does not mean it has to be upheld in a liberal and secular society. A large proportion of the world's Muslim population, possibly a majority, holds anti-Semitic and/or homophobic views, and I certainly don't respect that. If a 90% Muslim majority in a given area were to consider the presence of a local synagogue, or of local gays, to be incompatible with their religious values and identity, then the 90% is wrong and should be overruled.

'I'm wondering what German Jews are supposed to do now that they are forbidden by law to practice this part of their religion.'

How about modifying their religious practices so as to respect the right of their children to decide for themselves whether they want to be circumcised, when they're old enough to make such a decision ?

'So how can an operation condemned as ‘sexual mutilation’ in one instance be advocated as an unobjectionable and sound medical procedure used to improve someone’s health in another instance?'

It may be necessary for a woman suffering from breast cancer to have her breasts amputated. But that's not the same as amputating part of a woman's body for religious/cultural reasons.

'for practising Jews, it is a very serious commandment, made by God to Abraham'

I really don't think ancient religious texts should be allowed to dictate what's permitted today. Just because of something that a non-existent God said to a mythical Abraham in a text written thousands of years ago, does not give people the right to amputate part of their children's sexual organs today.

I concede, however, that circumcision is not exactly on a par with full FGM. A more precise parallel would be a sort of FGM-lite, whereby a parent removes just part of a woman's sexual organs, leaving enough behind so that she can still experience sexual pleasure more or less normally.

Is that something you would consider acceptable, Bob and CC ?

Reuben said...

Regarding Marko's comments, I think the accusation of "moral relativism" or "cultural relativism" can sometimes be overused. One does not need to be a moral relativist, for example, to consider it significant that the British muslim community is already very exposed to the hard edge of the police/court system, in the form of detention/control orders/stop and search etc., and that a ban on circumcision would, in reality, further criminalise that community. One does not need to be a "cultural relativist", to recognise that the law impacts upon real social communities, embedded in particular racial order.

There is a lot of space in between the liberal position, which deals with questions of law in complete abstraction from the socio-racial structure, and the moral relativist position of "each community to their own". And this is something that the decents don't always grasp.

TNC said...

Marko writes:

"I remember seeing a post at Harry's Place along similar lines a couple of years ago entitled 'Against Intactivism', and thinking that since the Decent Left had now embraced moral relativism and genital mutilation, it was pretty much finished as a positive phenomenon."

I think you are painting with a bit too broad of a brush. Supporting the right of parents to do minor surgical procedures--cosmetic surgery, really--is not the same as removing large parts of a females sex organ. I realize the intactivists say it is half an infant's penis that is removed and what not but a bris performed by a mohel results in very little bleeding and no need for stitches. The entire process took place in our living room in less than one minute. A clamp, a quick slice, and that was it. The wound heals in a couple of days. I am not one to claim it causes no pain but it is more similar to piercing ears than "mutilating" their sexual organ.

"First of all, the law in Cologne is (rightly) targeting religious practices, not ethnic groups, so it is not 'racist', and to accuse it of racism is sheer moral-relativist bullying...Secondly, it is not now 'against German law to live as a Jew', since nobody has a right to dictate what it means to 'live as a Jew'."

We might be able to disentangle these elements in the social sciences but in the real, lived experience of people, religious belief is connected to ethnic and in many cases national identity. Of course some people (Moses) and some texts (Torah) are more authoritative than others. In the case of the bris, the covenant is pretty clear.

Larry Derfner and others of Jewish ancestry are free in whatever they want to think being Jewish means. This is true in liberal democracies, thank goodness. But there is a big difference between self-identification and how you are identified by the broader community. In the case of secular life, I think the emphasis should be on the individual.

Religion is different. I can only speak to Judaism but a large part of being a Jew is connecting yourself to larger community, a longer history, and a shared identity. It's not "being Jewish means whatever I want it to mean". That might be the "New Age" way of doing religion but it is not Judaism.

Secular politics are a very important thing. But don't you also see the importance of a pluralist civil society that allows for religious expression, even if you are not religious yourself?

bob said...

Thank you Marko.

The fact that something is practised by 90% of Jews does not mean it has to be upheld in a liberal and secular society.

I completely agree with this. But this is not the issue at stake here. The issue is whether a liberal and secular society should BAN (not just "not uphold") something whch 90% of Jews practise, even though it is really not in the last offensive to any liberal values.

'I'm wondering what German Jews are supposed to do now that they are forbidden by law to practice this part of their religion.'

How about modifying their religious practices so as to respect the right of their children to decide for themselves whether they want to be circumcised, when they're old enough to make such a decision ?


This assumes a Western Christian (in fact Protestant) conception of religion, as some private belief system of mature adults. Outside Protestant culture, religion is generally about practice, and specifically shared, collective practice. Being Jewish is not about believing in this version of theology or that version of theology. It is about following a body of practices, some of which are more important than others. Apart from a minority of secular Jews, you can't be Jewish if you change your practices. The commandments are not abstract theological principles, like the Catholic catechism, they are about behaviour.

Related:

I concede, however, that circumcision is not exactly on a par with full FGM. A more precise parallel would be a sort of FGM-lite, whereby a parent removes just part of a woman's sexual organs, leaving enough behind so that she can still experience sexual pleasure more or less normally.

Is that something you would consider acceptable, Bob and CC ?


No. Leaving aside what "more or less normally" means, there is simply no comparable thing you could do to female genitals, so the comparison remains loaded. (If not even "hysterical", to use your word.)

What's wrong with the comparison of getting your kids' ears pierced suggested by Sarah? I saw the three year old daughter of a Romanian friend the other day, and she had her ears pierced. I didn't approve, but I would never dream of banning this.

Not banning something doesn't mean you endorse or encourage something. Not banning circumcision doesn't mean you have to do it to your kids (or Reuben or Larry Derfner to theirs).

bob said...

Ignore the rogue "Related:" in that comment, a cut and paste orphan.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

'the British muslim community is already very exposed to the hard edge of the police/court system, in the form of detention/control orders/stop and search etc., and that a ban on circumcision would, in reality, further criminalise that community.'

This may be a reasonable argument. My only possible reservation to a law banning circumcision might be that enforcement could prove problematic, and involve greater trauma to the children than allowing the operation to be performed. But this is also a dangerous thin-end-of-the-wedge type of argument, that could lead to the authorities refraining from trying to prevent FGM, forced arranged marriage, etc., for fear of being seen as criminalising the Muslim or other communities. And it doesn't alter the fundamental injustice to the children of the act of circumcision.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

'But don't you also see the importance of a pluralist civil society that allows for religious expression, even if you are not religious yourself?'

Yes, absolutely. I entirely support the right of Muslims, Jews and anyone else to worship freely and express their religion. But I draw the line at recognising their right to slice bits off their children's bodies, as a way of affirming their own identities.

It's about the rights of the children, not the rights of the parents. Let the children grow up and decide for themselves if they want to be circumcised or not.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

'Being Jewish is not about believing in this version of theology or that version of theology. It is about following a body of practices, some of which are more important than others. Apart from a minority of secular Jews, you can't be Jewish if you change your practices.'

This seems to imply that there is one 'correct' way of being Jewish, and that deviating from this path means ceasing to be Jewish. So that liberal, secular Jews who might not practise circumcision are somehow viewed as not proper Jews.

It's the same sort of argument used by hardline Muslims to bully liberal Muslims. So you have Wahhabis turning up in Bosnia and criticising the local Muslims for drinking alcohol and having sex outside marriage, which supposedly means they have 'abandoned' the 'correct' Islam.

The reality is that Muslims massively differ among themselves about how they express their identity. And so do Jews.

'Not banning something doesn't mean you endorse or encourage something. Not banning circumcision doesn't mean you have to do it to your kids.'

No, but you are depriving children of the right to decide for themselves if they want to be circumcised or not. Piercing their ears is not comparable; circumcision cannot be reversed.

Children do not freely choose to be Muslims or Jews, and they should not have part of their bodies irreversibly removed for the sake of a religion or identity that was essentially imposed upon them.

Hugh said...

People insist on comparing the worst of Female Genital Cutting with the mildest of Male Genital Cutting, but they are ethically quite comparable, and often comparable in severity - when you compare apples with apples, tribal with tribal, surgical with surgical.

Scores of boys die of tribal MGC in one province of South Africa alone every year, and more lose their penises - how much worse can it get? Surgical FGC in Malaysia and Indonesia is quite mild, and an American doctor invented a device for "circumcising" American girls in the 1960s that had a shield to protect the clitoris.

@bob: "as Nancy McDermott has argued on spiked, they all involve the ‘removal of some or all of a woman’s external genitalia’" Actually, not all. Some involve only nicking or pricking. And do you argue that the foreskin is not some of a man's external genitalia?

"And the fact that millions of boys are circumcised for non-religious reasons, either at birth or later in life after a health complication, shows that it is not a form of mutilation." No, it shows that circumcision is a "cure" looking for a disease, an intervention in search of an excuse. The fact that part of the body may be cut off when it is so diseased that it is no longer any use for its purpose is an unfortunate fact, but we do not cut off every baby's feet because some mountaineers lose their feet through frostbite, do we?

"Medical" circumcision is done far too readily, especially in circumcising cultures. In the US, doctors are taught that the foreskin is "the part of the body removed by circumcision" and nothing else about it except how to cut it off. There are even anatomy texts that don't show it.

Gysum Fantastic said...

However, for practising Jews, it is a very serious commandment, made by God to Abraham: "This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He that is eight days old among you shall be circumcised; every male throughout your generations."


Hahahahahahahahaha. How fucking stupid do you have to be, to still be cutting the end of your boy's foreskin off? For fuck's sake it's 2012. That stuff in the bible is bullshit, you know?

Unevolved twat-headed retardary, defended only by people who populate pedants' wankfests like this debate. But it's my wee-ligion and yooore wacist. Oliver James would say it's a mental illness. I used to think he was harsh but he has a point.

Sorry about the swearing, but that's MY religion. So fuck off. If you're okay with people mutilating their children, you can have a but of swearing.

This'll hurt son but God wants this bit of your cock. Fuckin retards!!!

That should cover it.

Entdinglichung said...

a few thoughts:

* I think, that someone has to understand this court ruling in context with some other court rulings during the last two years prioritizing children rights e.g. awarding compensation to survivors of sex reassignment surgery, banning two "biblical parenting manuals" from public sale, investigations against a leading evangelical fundamentalist for promoting "chastising children" on TV or closing down a school of the Society of Saint Pius X for practicizing corporal punishment

* to ban circumcision effectively, a court ruling is not sufficient in German law, there has to be a law passed by both chambers of the German parliament which in my opinion is relatively unlikely for the near future because only relatively marginal political forces like some atheist associations and children rights' activists on one side and some parts of the far right on the other side would call for a complete ban because this would apply also to parts of the voters of all major parties: possibly affected are not only Muslims (including most Alevis) and Jews but also at least 30.000 Coptic, Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Christians (don't know how far circumcision is practiced among Evangelicals in Germany) and also a part of the 60.000 Yezidis (a male Yezidi has to be circumcised before marriage) who - if German citizens - generally vote in their large majority for DIE LINKE

bob said...

Entdinglichung, thank you for the clarity about the legal situation. The report about the Berlin hospital ceasing circumcisions in the wake of the Koln court decision suggests that the court decision may not be enough to outlaw it but might be enough to stop it happening?

I wonder if there is also an issue around driving it out of hospitals, fearful of prosecution, and into a completely unregulated sector, where harm is much more likely.

I have considerable sympathy for the concept of children's rights, as expressed in the German court decisions and in Marko's comments. But it is important to stress that - like all rights - these are qualified and not absolute. They exist in relation to a whole bundle of competing claims on rights. When competing claims clash, we need to look at the specific case. Is male infant circumcision as such actually in any way harmful? I just don't see any evidence that it is.

bob said...

Good to get an intactivist view from Hugh. But I don't see any convincing arguments in relation to the issue at hand (if I may use that phrase).

People insist on comparing the worst of Female Genital Cutting with the mildest of Male Genital Cutting, but they are ethically quite comparable, and often comparable in severity - when you compare apples with apples, tribal with tribal, surgical with surgical.

Scores of boys die of tribal MGC in one province of South Africa alone every year, and more lose their penises - how much worse can it get? Surgical FGC in Malaysia and Indonesia is quite mild, and an American doctor invented a device for "circumcising" American girls in the 1960s that had a shield to protect the clitoris.


This is a fair point when debating circumcision in general but I don't see its relevance to this case. In the case of forms of "MGM" that are harmful, as with the African examples Hugh puts forward, then I'd have no hesitation in allowing the harm argument trump any cultural rights argument - as I already said when I agreed that some forms of haredi circumcision practice might be worth outlawing. I don't think anyone, even Frank Furedi, would argue that all circumcision in all circumstances everywhere is hunkydory and to be defended to the hilt. We're talking specifically about the outlawing of male infant circumcision as practised in Germany today.

I know very little about FGM. I might conceive of a situation where it was so "mild" as to be not worth outlawing - although I'd need a lot of persuading. But what makes ALL FGM different from "MGM" is the patriarchal structure, the systematic misogyny, in which it occurs. You can't possibly argue that there is systematic oppression of men going on in Jewish, Muslim, Yezidi, Coptic or indeed mainstream American cultures.

circumcision is a "cure" looking for a disease, an intervention in search of an excuse.

I don't understand this argument at all, which ascribes some kind of agency to circumcision itself. Having experienced being a (moderately!) sexually active adult male both with a foreskin and without a foreskin, I am pretty confident in saying that there is really no loss involved, and this suggests to me that the intactivist position is a victimologist, cultic or paranoid form of identity politics, rather than a meaningful advocacy of children's rights.

"Medical" circumcision is done far too readily, especially in circumcising cultures. In the US, doctors are taught that the foreskin is "the part of the body removed by circumcision" and nothing else about it except how to cut it off. There are even anatomy texts that don't show it.

Well, maybe that's true. But again this has no bearing on the issue at hand. Germany is not a "circumcising culture" at all, and infant circumcision is pretty much limited there to minority ethnic populations, specifically the ones Ent. identifies.

bob said...

Reuben's point that "There is a lot of space in between the liberal position, which deals with questions of law in complete abstraction from the socio-racial structure, and the moral relativist position of "each community to their own"." is a very important one. Both liberalism and moral relativism are flawed. We need to be aware that the abstract, universal rights of liberalism (rooted in a Protestant understanding of the self) must always be qualified, are always contingent on cultural specificities, on the actual practices of people in a plural society (and all societies are essentially plural to a greater or lesser extent). AND we need to be suspicious of the collective cultural rights endorsed by relativists, which fail to recognise the differences and divisions within putative "cultures" or "communities", and fail to recognise the fluidity over time of culture.

However, I agree with Marko that the argument from racism - Muslims/Jews have it bad enough, we don't want to make it worse - is a dangerous slippery-slope argument. We have seen in the UK how agencies of state have failed to take action against forced marriages and other illiberal practices for fear of being branded "racist", which is unacceptable.

bob said...

OK, this is now my final comment for the moment (assuming it fits into one box). The most complex and problematic part of this debate actually is at a bit of a tangent to the foreskin issue, and relates to Jewish identity in a secular world.

The notion of a child reaching an age of majority at which they can freely pick from the supermarket shelf of theologies the one that they like the best, and that we need to leave them well alone before then, though intellectually appealing is a liberal fantasy.

It is a fantasy for two reasons. First, we don't live in an intellectual/theological free market; the child is not suspended in a faith-neutral space until the age of reason.

German culture, like British culture, remains fundamentally normatively Christian, despite the alleged aggressive Muslim hordes who apparently disturb it.

In Britain, for example, a child going to a non-religious, multicultural inner city primary school (I'm thinking of my son here), let alone a child growing up in a relatively monocultural provincial area and going to the only available state primary schools which are Anglican (I'm thinking of me there), grows up in a world soaked through with Christianity.

The school term dates and vacation dates are structured by the Christian calender. From Halloween, to Christmas, to Easter, and passing saints' days like St Valentine's, St George's, St David's and St Patrick's, Christianity is the air they breathe. They sing Christian songs (my son was in a school gospel choir when he was five), go to birthday parties at church halls, wake up to the sound of church bells.

In this context, a hands-off approach to kids' religious formation is accepting their induction into normative Christianity.

--

Second, at danger of repeating myself and TNC's more lucid arguments, Jewish religious is not a "faith" in the sense that Protestant Christianity is; it is not a set of intellectual beliefs that you can study and evaluate and pick up at the age of reason. It is a body of practices that start with birth and revolve around the family. It is much easier to be a Jew without a synagogue than a Jew without a Jewish family.

--

To say this is not to impose a singular idea of Jewishness, but an empirical fact about the Jewishness of the overwhelming majority of living, breathing Jews. It is not saying Jewishness must remain frozen in its tribal past and that rabbis should have absolute control of what constitutes practice; it is simply an observation about how Jewishness is in the world today.

Of course Jews have many ways of being Jewish (as Muslims have many ways of being Muslim) and I would defend Jews' right to be non-circumcising Jews (e.g. those who conduct "Brit Shalom" rather than Brit Milah) or pretty much any other kind of Jew. But that doesn't change the fact that for the overwhelming majority of actual, living Jews, the core of Jewishness is a set of non-negotiables which relate to collective practices.[cont...]

bob said...

[...cont.]

--

In fact (and here I am straying considerably from the foreskin issue), I think it is wonderful today we can have non-circumcising Jews, queer Jews, Sufi Jews, metal Jews, anarchist Jews, hip hop Jews and anti-Zionist Jews - but I suggest that without the Jewish Jews all the rest of us don't get to survive as Jews for very long.

Secular Jewishness works in the context of a mass secular Jewish culture, as in the relatively segregated setting of Eastern Europe in the decades before the Holocaust, where there is a secular communal infrastructure of Jewish unions and political parties and institutes of higher learning and a thriving Yiddish language and literature. Possibly secular Jewishness works in a majority Jewish nation-state like Israel (although at a certain point it becomes Israeli-ness not Jewishness). But in a normatively Christian but non-segregating mass media culture and liberal democratic polity, such as Germany today, secular Jewishness can survive only a couple of generations before it becomes so attenuated it disappears.

In short, if there are no circumcising Jews, there can only be a generation or two of Larry Derfners.

Jessica Goldfinch said...

Copied from previous post:
Obviously at some point, thousands of years ago, it was decided for hygiene/ disease prevention reasons to circumcise - particularly so for those in hot countries. Make it a judaic imperative "Brit Milah" (Covenant of the Word) and probably lots of lives were saved. This occurred long before Christianity or Islam were even conceived and was probably widespread amongst many communities.

However, we now live in mostly different times and places. I am disappointed that Judaism, in more orthodox quarters, has not progressed in the way that it has in so many other aspects...constantly debating, resolving and enlightening.

I don't believe a child should be irreversibly changed in such an intimate and painful way without consent. I've been to a Brit and I felt complicit in something I could not reconcile - despite the good will and good people around me. The little boy was in great distress and it was heart rending.

As a mother of a daughter, I was spared the dilemma of whether to have a Brit/Bris or not. If it is a medical necessity, (quite rare),then it can be done in hospital.

If I'd have had a boy, his name would have been Benjamin Dov and I believe, I'd have stood my ground and said 'No'.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"The notion of a child reaching an age of majority at which they can freely pick from the supermarket shelf of theologies the one that they like the best, and that we need to leave them well alone before then, though intellectually appealing is a liberal fantasy. "

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5nh2s__fPE

(I'm sorry, I couldn't resist...)

Entdinglichung said...

Bob, with the legal uncertainty caused by the court ruling many doctors will be too scared to perform circumcisions which are not demanded for purely medical reasons, this may drive some in an unregulated sector (which does already exists, a non-negligable number of circumcision is performed not by doctors but by traditional practitioners (which does not necessarily mean, that they are less skilful)), some abroad (probably mainly in Austria, where the law explicitly permits religious circumcisions) ... another possibility would be, that a doctor simply certifies, that a circumcision demanded by parents for religious/cultural reasons is necessary for medical reasons

do not know, if hospitals run by religious bodies will be able to opt out of a general ruling due to their privileges guaranteed by some peculiarities of German law

Entdinglichung said...

a few snippets to add:

- according to a recent opinion poll, 56% are in favour of the court's ruling, 35% against it

- both large churches in Germany (Roman Catholic and Protestant) support the viewpoint of Jewish and Islamic associations on the issue

- the president of the German Medical Association announced, that he will write to all of its members telling them about the potential legal implications of the ruling, the head of the associations of independent pediatric surgeons have appealed to its members not to perform religious circumcisions at the moment, the head of the general association of pediatric surgeons (representing mainly practitioners working in hospital) has asked its members to try to persuade parents that they have the operation only with children who are able to give their consent (probably with 10 years, the age when children according to German law also have to be consulted about a change in their religious adherence?) which would probably work with the largest constituency affected: Muslims from Turkey who generally perform the circumcision relatively late

bob said...

Thanks Entdinglichung - that's very helpful.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

'In short, if there are no circumcising Jews, there can only be a generation or two of Larry Derfners.'

Bob, Jews have existed as a distinct group or groups for thousands of years, despite the Spanish Inquisition, horrors of modern racism and nationalism, and the Holocaust. I hardly think that they will disappear in a generation or two if their male children retain their foreskins. Particularly since there now exists an independent Jewish nation-state, which presumably provides some guarantee that the Jews are not about to vanish.

In sum, you are arguing that the Western secular liberal-democratic order is simply a smokescreen for Christian domination and assimilation of non-Christians, and that the latter therefore need to retreat into the fortress of their traditional practices, as a means of preserving the purity of their groups from the threatening contamination of the majority population, and from the dangers of modernity and integration. As if we are not primarily individuals and citizens and inhabitants of the world, but essentially just members of our respective ethnic or religious groups; our identities black-and-while and rigidly distinct. As if we are obliged to uphold these groups in their traditional forms, if necessary through segregation or through amputating parts of our children's bodies so as to stake out our group's ownership of them.

Forgive me, but I don't think it's a very positive worldview

Modernity's Ghost said...

I am loath to enter this discussion, as an atheist I find much of the debates an anathema to my belief, anachronistic.

However, I find that the authoritarian tones used by supposed atheists (presumably, "converts" as they make the most feverish believers, to religion or atheism) rather disturbing.

Merely because they don't hold a particular belief they feel that everyone else who does is either an idiot or a fool.

It is an incredibly offensive and condescending position, and rather illogical, based on the evidence of the nature of religious belief.

Further, if you are going to ban something (or restrict individual freedoms) then you have to make a very strong case that it is harmful to individuals and a wider society, etc etc

I could see the case for banning smoking, completely, everywhere, if you were of such a mindset.

I think a very strong case could be brought for banning the consumption of alcohol, given its health costs, detrimental effect on individuals and the cause of breakdown in many relationships.

I suspect, however, that those who argue for a ban on circumcision would probably throw a fit and they were told they could never, ever, consume an alcoholic beverage, nor have a quick smoke, or their favourite treat?

And then, of course, should we ban the consumption of red meat?

Isn't it far worse than circumcision?

What about banning baptism? Having babies go near water must surely be dangerous? No doubt there are a few accidents every year?

What about banning Christian/secular marriage? As it leads to parties, where people invariably consume alcohol, get drunk, fight or cause trouble?

All absurd, of course.

But once you start down the authoritarian route banning things it's pretty easy to draw up a long list of pet hatreds, which most other people would consider harmless indulgences, or part of their belief system (nonreligious or otherwise).

So I suppose the question for me is, do you support freedom of religious belief? If so, how far? Just within your comfort zone?

And if you don’t support freedom of religious belief, why not?

Marko Attila Hoare said...

Mod, nobody's arguing that adults should be banned from undergoing circumcision if that is what they want; merely that it should not be inflicted on children, who are unable freely to give their consent.

Likewise, we have laws preventing the sale of alcohol and tobacco to children. And there are heavy restrictions on the consumption of both alcohol and tobacco, in order to protect the health and safety of other people. So you can't drink and drive, or smoke in hospitals, aeroplanes, pubs or restaurants.

Quite right too.

bob said...

Jews (like Roma) existed for millennia in particular conditions - of segregation and cultural marginality/exclusion, either relatively benign and tolerant (as in the Ottoman world or pre-nationalist India) or less so (as in Christendom).

Jews survived the Inquisition because enough of them escaped. Many Jews were lost, however, in the Marrano ("crypto-Jewish") period when their customs and culture was wiped out over a couple of generations - who knows how many Spaniards and Latin Americans are descended from Marranos who disappeared into Catholic culture. The ones who made it to relatively tolerant - but not integrationist - places like the Low Countries or Ottoman Balkans survived as Jews, which is different. Same with the Holocaust, which effectively killed secular Jewish culture in central and eastern Europe, including the descendants of those who fled the Inquisition in Salonika etc. Jews survived by escaping, or not being killed before the Final Solution was complete.

Jews surviving in our contemporary tolerant but integrationist capitalist liberal democracies is much less of a done deal. There is much less to keep them in the fold. The borders are permeable; they leak.

I know, because I live on that border. I'm the third generation of secularising mix-and-match Jewishness, and try as I might to pass something on to my kids, I don't try hard enough and their Jewishness is so attenuated I don't know you could even call them Jewish.

I'm not arguing that circumcision (which you emotively ("hysterically") describe as "amputation") is needed to keep my sons in the fold. I'm arguing that a Protestant/rationalist model of theological faith will not cut it (no pun intended).

Going to put my un-circumcised sons to bed now, and hope to answer the liberal democracy as smokescreen point afterwards.

modernity's ghost said...

" merely that it should not be inflicted on children, who are unable freely to give their consent."

Should *anything* be inflicted on children ?

Why is nipping off a bit of flesh *proven* to be harmful?

Surely, filling their heads full of hymns, Christian fairy tales and guilt is worse?

Need I remind readers of the RC Church?

Again, if you are intent on *banning* something it is incumbent to prove that it is bad, vile or harmful, more so than other practises and in doing so you have to employ some objective measure.

Arguing along the lines of "I don't like it, therefore it should be banned..." is rather weak and highly subjective.

And this is what I want to return to the *subjective* nature of this debate

PS: my argument was for the *total* banning of booze and smokes, not a half way house....that cuts deeper for those who indulge and I would hope they might see the parallels?

The Contentious Centrist said...

The author of this article seems to feel that the Circumcision ban is due to German disillusionment with multiculturalism. He makes a similar point to the one I made earlier on,
though he has an altogether positive attitude to the trend, but not to its particular application:

"It has been shown that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection; circumcised men are at lower risk for genital cancer, and there are obvious hygienic advantages. Yet, I am neither a medic nor a lawyer and I may be missing out on something, both on the medical and the judicial side.

Either way, the fact that Europeans in general and Germans in particular are beginning to overcome cultural relativism, as they don’t take for granted anymore that any religiously sanctioned ritual must be permitted under the provision of the freedom of religion, but rather weigh and debate carefully whether a particular ritual can really be accommodated with the basic principles of a state’s overarching socio-political order, shows that they have become more mature in their approach toward cultural diversity and moral conflict.

Hence, even though I disagree with the verdict of the Cologne court, I also think it is far from being “outrageous,” as Dieter Graumann called it (or had to call it) in his function of the chairperson of the council of Jews in Germany.

The verdict is a healthy expression of a libertarian state of law that tries to deal responsibly with the reality of cultural diversity and moral conflict. Slowly overcoming their post-World War II moral insecurity, Germans may need some more years to fine-tune their approach to the tricky task of accommodating their young democratic constitution with the diversity of moral perspectives.

It is not unlikely that, in the meantime, German lawmakers will step in and try to make circumcision legal."

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=276284

The Almighty Gypsum Fantastic said...

Christ, we are fucked if you lot are anything to go by. You may believe God, Allah or whoever the fuck you follow from the dark ages says it's okay, or the fact that your group identity makes it okay to cut a piece off a child's penis. However, your views are rabid, pig-ignorant and stultifyingly ill-informed.

We need to marginalise you as you are clearly way beyond education, and this is indeed what is happening - this discussion is but one small step in that direction. You are losing because intelligence and humanity will triumph in the end. We should continue to evolve without you spreading peace and love across the planet. You are holding us back. Kindly stop breeding and fuck right off.

All this 'Abraham' nonsense - we evolved from a lineage of prosimians that eventually became anthropoids, you clusterfucknutted twats.

btw, it says in The Book of Darren Verse 20, Chapter 5 "And lo, it shall pass that he shall come forth from the wilderness and he shall smote thee with terrible curses and you shall be wholly afeared of his name and become supplicants to his will - and cease forthwith all of this cock-cutting malarkey for you are weak of mind and body and know not what day it is, like.

It has as much chance of being right as you pricks.

modernity's ghost said...

Almighty Gypsum Fantastic,

Sorry, but you ain't that bright.

Cos if you were, then you'd stop the juvenile swearing and try to engage with the arguments being put forward.

If you are trying to put the case for atheism, you ain't succeeding.

If you truly believe in reason and logic, then please try and employ some...save the preaching for another day!

bob said...

The Almighty GL exemplifies to me everything wrong with the so-called New Atheism (although I know that's an inadequate term): an utter self-belief and self-righteousness that mirrors almost perfectly the worst religious fanatics.

Marko's position (thoughtfully articulated, as always) is a million miles away from Gypsum's rhetorical style, but shares a fundamentally liberal conception of society as "we're all individuals and citizens and inhabitants of the world", which is a lovely idea but denies precisely all the aspects of our lives and identities that matter most to actual living people, such as faith, ethnicity, gender, homeland - all identifications which can lead to bloodshed, of course, but need not...

Not expressing myself very well. Back later.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"... all identifications which can lead to bloodshed, of course, but need not..."

Right on.

____________

"We need to marginalise you as you are clearly way beyond education... You are losing because intelligence and humanity will triumph in the end. "

What does it mean "to marginalize"? And where exactly are "intelligence and humanity" to be found in anything thus far provided by AGL?

Sounds like a Nazi wannabe, to me. Let's get rid of all those circumcised circumcising Jews and immediately humanity will be bathed in goodness and intelligence. His rabid love for humanity reminds me of a proverb I learned from my Morrocan-Jewish boss: He came to kiss him but gouged his eye in the process.

bob said...

OK, I’m back, to finally reply to Marko’s 4 July 16:32 comment.

In sum, you are arguing that the Western secular liberal-democratic order is simply a smokescreen for Christian domination and assimilation of non-Christians

No, I don't think that “Western secular liberal-democratic order” is simply a smokescreen. I am arguing that in the specific form it currently takes in Britain and (some) other European countries does (not “simply”, but among other things) mask a normative Christianity. I don’t know if this the case in Germany, as I’ve spent very little time there. But it is the case in France, where the much vaunted laïcité is essentially Catholic in content. And it is certainly the case in Britain (and especially England), where we have an established church, where the Church of England is inextricably woven into our Houses of Parliament and our constitutional monarchy, where corporate Christian worship is compulsory in schools. Just count how many Christian crosses you see in your daily movements through London.

And it has become more not less so under the Blair and now Cameron governments. When you look closely at the muscular liberalism promoted by Cameron, Baroness Warsi and so on, the normative Christianity is not hidden.

This normative Christianity is largely invisible to the culturally Christian ethnic majority, as whiteness is invisible to white people, but it is almost constantly obvious to Jews, Sikhs, Muslims and other religious minorities.

I am not arguing that this is a bad thing. I’m comfortable with it.

But I am arguing that the free market in religions the liberal fantasy imagines is bullshit. So, yes, if non-Christian cultures want to survive, they do need to gird their loins to some extent.

If you believe in race and genetic determinism, if you think biology is destiny, then of course Jews (and Roma and so on) will survive because the blood line isn’t about to die out. But I don’t. Jewishness means nothing without Jewish cultural practice, just as being Roma is meaningless if you don’t participate in any Romani collective cultural practices.

Jewish cultural survival, Roma cultural survival and so on are not my personal or political priority. Politically, I am more concerned with democratic freedoms and social and economic justice, for example. Personally, I’d personally rather live as a funky marginal Jew than in the haredi fortress.

But it is a stark fact that Jewish cultural survival is fragile in the society we live in, and the mix-and-match Jewishness which I practise is unsustainable beyond a generation or two. I am reasonably confident, for example, that I will not have Jewish grandchildren.

I not about to retreat into the fortress for the sake of Jewish continuity, but I think there is something enormous lost when any culture dies, and not least a culture that has contributed so much over so long a time, and thus something to mourn.

And so I find the glibness with which liberals urge Jews to just simply, er, get over it deeply offensive. And if my view on this is “not very positive”, well, that’s how I see it.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

I'm sorry, Bob; I didn't mean to cause you offence. I simply do not accept that the choice for the Jews is between circumcision and disappearance. In fact, there is a strong tradition of opposition to circumcision among Jews, that has been upheld by Theodor Herzl, among others.

See the following article, which argues that opposing circumcision can be totally compatible with upholding Jewishness. It also argues that circumcision is harmful and unnecessary:

http://www.jewishcircumcision.org/spectator.htm

modernity's ghost said...

Marko,

Sadly, you have skipped around these arguments, from one to the other, the current one being (some Jews are against it therefore that makes opposition OK?, Where have I heard that before?).

Please can you deal with the central arguments:

1. Why ban circumcision and not booze?

2. Also, how can it be 'liberal' to enforce the States view of what is right/wrong on people's (their children's) bodies

3. Bob's point of "Parents do nothave absolute sovereignty, but the state should generally only intervene against parental authority to protect children against actual harm, and I don't see the case that this is an example."

It is the very nature of these discussions that we leap about a bit, but I would welcome you addressing these and my above points in 23:49.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

'1. Why ban circumcision and not booze?'

a) This is an extremely silly comparison; the two are not remotely equivalent.

b) I'm not in favour of banning either circumcision or alcohol for adults. But I believe children should be protected from both. As I said, we have laws preventing children from buying alcohol, so why not protect them from circumcision as well ?

c) There is a strong case that alcohol is a curse upon society. When I see drunks rampaging around the city centre on Friday and Saturday night, fighting and throwing up, I can't help but feel some sympathy for the Islamic prohibition on alcohol.

'2. Also, how can it be 'liberal' to enforce the States view of what is right/wrong on people's (their children's) bodies'

Of course it is. Otherwise, we would have to recognise the right of parents to carry out female genital mutilation, and Catholic priests to abuse children sexually.

'3. Bob's point of "Parents do nothave absolute sovereignty, but the state should generally only intervene against parental authority to protect children against actual harm, and I don't see the case that this is an example."'

Well, I've just linked to a long article explaining why circumcision is harmful. Perhaps you could read it and address the points it raises ?

The Contentious Centrist said...

"Well, I've just linked to a long article explaining why circumcision is harmful"

__________

And I've read of the very opposite:

"In a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post, Moore said he had a growing interest in the importance of health and disease prevention, and said his visit was meant to promote HIV awareness and education. "Prevention is the best cure of disease," he added. He disclosed that he himself had been circumcised at the initiative of his parents when he was eight. "It was the unkindest cut of all," he joked. "But really, it was for hygienic reasons. My two sons [now 42 and 35] have been circumcised as well. They have never complained." In the spring of 2007, the World Health Organization, UNAIDS and UNICEF recognized "compelling evidence" that adult male circumcision was an "additional important intervention" that could reduce the risk of HIV transmission. There are several biological explanations as to why circumcision reduces the risk of infection. Removal of the foreskin minimizes the ability of the AIDS virus to penetrate the skin of the penis. In addition, Langerhans cells and other special immunological bodies are located on the underside of the foreskin and are targeted by the virus. It may also be that tiny lacerations on the inner surface of the foreskin during sex allow the AIDS virus easier entry. Sixteen months ago, a three-member Israeli medical delegation traveled to Swaziland to teach local surgeons how to circumcise men. The first of three such missions to Africa - teams have also traveled to Kenya and Zambia, and will soon go to Uganda - Swaziland was chosen to launch the campaign because its population had a very low male circumcision rate and a 40 percent rate of HIV infection - among the world's highest. Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have, through their family foundation, donated $18 million to fund circumcision among adult men in Kenya to fight the spread of HIV. Moore said he had met Bill and Melinda Gates at the UN and had been very impressed by their philanthropy to fight infectious diseases. He added that until recently, he had been largely unaware of the role that circumcision can have in preventing the spread of AIDS. "I have since read up about the disease a lot, and I appreciate Israel's input in prevention," he said. Moore has visited African countries devastated by AIDS and said he hoped a vaccine would soon be available. In the meantime, abstention, safe sex, male circumcision and anti-retroviral drugs were the only hope, he said. Scientific studies have shown that male circumcision in sub-Saharan Africa could prevent 5.7 million new cases of HIV infection and three million deaths over the next two decades. Male circumcision is also thought to reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer."

http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=133816

Sarah AB said...

I must say that Marko does seem to have (a lot of the) logic on his side. But I quite liked David Aaronovitch's reflections in the Times:

"I think circumcising an infant is an odd thing to do, and I vaguely hope that one day it’ll be regarded as unnecessary. But there are millions of men walking round who manage to cope with their truncated situations, and there are millions more for whom a ban on the practice would cause real (if irrational) distress. On balance I’d permit the snip."

modernity's ghost said...

"a) This is an extremely silly comparison; the two are not remotely equivalent."

It most certainly is not.

As for the comparison if you grasp the essence of my argument, which I am loath to belabour, as I thought it was bleeding obvious?

My central argument is that when you ban things then there should be strong evidence, compelling evidence that they are 1) bad for individuals 2) society 3) relationships and social interactions, etc. 4) lead to major problems in the future etc etc

That's my criteria.

And, frankly, the evidence for banning circumcision is very low, given
1) it has been conducted the thousands of years
2) millions of people have gone through this procedure
3) little significant detrimental data has come forth in the periodicals, that I've read.

Further, liberals who argue for banning simply don't think it through.

It would continue underground, conceivably with detrimental results and can you imagine the first prosecution and headlines? “Father prosecuted for organising circumcision of son”.

Outside the court cheering on his prosecution would be neo-Nazis, the far right and a handful of liberals waving banners saying “ We need to nip it in the bud!”

I imagine the Stormfront forum would-be convulsed with laughter at the idiocy of liberals.

Further, anyone with an elementary knowledge of efforts to combat HIV would know that circumcision has been highlighted as helpful in this area.

That this is where I, as a libertarian, disagree with bleeding liberals, whilst they are prepared to fight for a fascist right to speak, yet wince when circumcision is mentioned.

Ironical or what?

I think there's a lot of sexual issues which this topic brings out, much like when you see a football getting hit in the groin and most men wince at the same time.

That and some underlying Christian sentiment, which as Bob pointed out is “…largely invisible to the culturally Christian ethnic majority, as whiteness is invisible to white people…”

One aspect of this, is the feeling as long as the majority, Christians (cultural and religious), are not to overtly offended by the practices of others they might condescend to allow them, but it's always a "gift", not an entitlement or right.

And this is a problem with the liberal approach to this topic, it is intolerant.

It is intolerant of the practices of others, yet wouldn't even think about banning conduct which is 1) incredibly detrimental to individuals 2) cost society a small fortune* 3) destroys relationships 4) and of little productive use.

Yes, that's why the comparison with booze and smoking is valid.

They will never be banned, not because of the damage that they do, which is significant and happens to millions of people, but because the majority indulge in them.**

Finally, had circumcision central to the Christian faith then I would bet we wouldn't be having this discussion now.


* If people wish I can cite chapter and verse on the costs of booze/smoking, etc. In 2011 booze cost the NHS some £2.7 billion.

**[Incidentally, just in case someone confuses my arguments, personally I'm not in favour of banning smoking or even booze, but they are far more detrimental than circumcision or that’s what the evidence suggests. Therefore, you have to ask why ban one and not the other? If you're going to be logical that is.]

dreamer said...

"but the state should generally only intervene against parental authority to protect children against actual harm, and I don't see the case that this is an example."

Tell that to the parents of kids who die after being circumcised - i.e. the ones who received herpes from a mohel in NY or the ones who bleed to death. Tell that to the kids who end up with a mutilated penis. Tell that to the adults who end up suffering from pain during sex due to not having enough skin for a normal erection.

You can close your eyes, but harm is done to babies who are incapable of defending themselves

Marko Attila Hoare said...

Nobody here appears to be disputing the harmful effects of circumcision noted in the Ronald Goldman article linked to above: that it is extremely painful and traumatic for babies, and can lead to them lapsing into semi-comas and experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. Or the loss of sexual sensitivity for adults. Or the misery and trauma reported by mothers of circumcised boys after the operation. Or the point raised by Hugh above, of boys in South Africa regularly dying after botched circumcisions, or losing their penises. We can recall here the case of David Reimer, whose life was ruined by a botched circumcision:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Reimer

Instead, supporters of circumcision counterpose its beneficial effects in reducing the spread of AIDS. Well, that's an extremely brutal and crude way of controlling a disease; equivalent to using forcible sterilisation to control overpopulation in the Third World. It's not as if circumcised men don't still need to use condoms. Men in countries suffering high rates of AIDS should be supplied with condoms, not pressurised into undergoing circumcision.

I doubt many adult West Europeans, presented with the pros and cons of circumcisions, would volunteer to undergo the operation in order to reduce the risk of catching AIDS. The health benefits are presented disingenuously, by people seeking to justify a religious/cultural practice that really isn't motivated by considerations of health.

Only one reasonable argument has been made above against the idea of a ban on child circumcision: that it would be essentially unenforceable, would drive the practice underground, and would create traumas for religious believers that would outweigh the benefits. The problem with such an argument is that it could be used to justify allowing FGM as well.

modernity's ghost said...

"Instead, supporters of circumcision counterpose its beneficial effects in reducing the spread of AIDS."

Just to make two things perfectly clear.

I am against the banning, in much the way I am against the banning of the Higab and Niqab, etc

I find that the assertive preachy Christian (and yes it is Christian, even if people are not conscious of this discourse) prescriptive attitude exceedingly annoying.

I would ask those who favour banning circumcision, do you wish to apply that to baptism? Or Christian rituals which lead to fatalities?

Would you also ban forms of religious dress? The Hijab ? The Niqab?

And if so, you where does your banning zeal stop?

And if you would ban circumcision but not type of religious garb, why not?

Why one and not the other.

Sarah AB said...

I'm not sure it is entirely fair, Modernity's Ghost, to present any opposition to the practice as simply (culturally) Christian and preachy. It seems a perfectly defensible position. Although I am personally swayed by the fact that bigots are likely to support a ban - I think about why these debates seem to be gaining such traction right now - I don't think that it is fully logical for me to be swayed by that. I don't think the health benefits seem overwhelming, or cancel out the health negatives, or the fact that babies should not have this imposed on them. I'm surprised you ask why the hijab is a different issue - putting on a hijab is an easily reversed step! Although I think alcohol is a bad comparison, as children can't buy it - you might invoke many ways in which children are allowed to be seriously harmed through bad parenting, quite legally - and, apart from ear piercing, there is the question of the way in which women are legally able to eg smoke or drink when pregnant causing harm to their babies (leaving aside abortion of course.

The Contentious Centrist said...

Everyone has their horror inspiring analogies.

"Well [says Marko Attila Hoare], that's an extremely brutal and crude way of controlling a disease; equivalent to using forcible sterilisation to control overpopulation in the Third World. It's not as if circumcised men don't still need to use condoms. Men in countries suffering high rates of AIDS should be supplied with condoms, not pressurised into undergoing circumcision."

"an extremely brutal and crude way of controlling a disease"??

How is it more brutal than injecting the body of a baby with a live virus or bacteria which can induce the very disease it is supposed to prevent and always is followed with the baby suffering from a mild form of it anyway for a couple of days? And on rare occasion even resulting in death?

My son was a wee bit uncomfortable after his circumcision, crying only when he was urinating for maybe 8 hours after the procedure. The morning after he was completely recovered. If you want to carry horror stories about circumcision you will get a more receptive audience among those who do not actually have any experience of how benign the procedure is, that is to say, among the ignorant and strangely overpassionate consumers of "human" rights etc.

If circumcisions are botched in South Africa, though they are recommended as a preventative measure against the spread of AIDS, then maybe the solution is better training for the doctors who administer the procedure, better hygienic environment, etc.

The only analogy I can contemplate is that between circumcision and abortion. If you are for abortion where the mother is slightly sedated as the foetus is being torn to pieces without any regard to the pain inflicted, then you have absolutely no moral grounds for objecting to circumcision. I speak as someone who had to undergo that cursed procedure rather late in the pregnancy and none of the doctors involved answered my question: is the foetus anasthesized before being ripped apart? From which I concluded that it was not. I had to console myself afterwards that the amount of sedative on my blood surely affected the much tinier foetus.

Let's see all these humanists screaming so shrilly about stopping abortions because they are detrimental to the lives of foetuses.

modernity's ghost said...

"I'm not sure it is entirely fair, Modernity's Ghost, to present any opposition to the practice as simply (culturally) Christian and preachy. "

I did not say *all* opposition, but my feeling is that if there is NO objection to Christian rituals which are dangerous or habits in the West which are *considerably* more detrimental then you have to explain, why that is the case?

I don't think that is all of it, but culturally Christian attitudes certainly play in it, how much is, of course, debatable.

Such subjects tend to fixate Westerners and out of the windows goes their liberalism, live and let live attitude and my betting is a lot of these fixations are related to latent or otherwise Christian attitude, particularly when it relates to Jews or other ethnic minorities.

" I'm surprised you ask why the hijab is a different issue - putting on a hijab is an easily reversed step! "

Sigh, I didn't ask.

My point is concerning attitudes towards prescription, the banning of certain things and not others.

I am trying to highlight the contradictions in the liberal mindset, which would fight for freedom of speech for fascists, yet object to circumcision (freedom of religious practice).

There are many who would object to the banning of the Hijab, etc and presumably one of their arguments would be cultural sensitivity, religious freedom, not going along with the bigots, etc and yet many of these people would freely ban circumcision, without thinking it through?

So my points are concerning subjectivity of choice, why ban one thing but not the answer.

What criteria is used to decide?

Some subjective repugnance were certain religious practices? An intolerance to ethnic minorities (conscious or otherwise)? A fixation with certain minorities? An authoritarian outlook? Or just preachy English paternalism?

As I said, it is incumbent on those arguing for a ban to say why this particular issue above all else is key?

And what I think you find in the end is, a lot of subjectivity, emotiveness, a lack of history and plenty of Christian disdain.

bob said...

To clarify my position in light of some of the comments. I have no problem with Jews who turn away from circumcision for whatever reason, or for Jewish faith evolving over time. I also didn’t propose a start choice for the Jews between circumcision and disappearance. I have a problem with the glib proposal that all Jews can simply abandon two millennia of core practice to fit in with the liberal Western culture of the Herzls and Hoares. The fact that Ronald Goldman triumphantly talks of “hundreds” of Jews abandoning circumcision points to how radically he departs from the core practice of the overwhelming majority of the community.

But I have a serious problem with the proposal that Jews not only can change but must. Choosing to abandon the practice and radically re-define Judaism is one thing. The use of a state ban to force Jews change their practice – making them choose between being Jewish as they understand it or breaking the law – is another entirely. Here Mod’s point that the criteria for banning this, and this specifically, needs to have incredibly clear and well substantiated criteria to outweigh the consideration of religious freedom and cultural survival.

I haven't managed to fully digest the interesting article by Ronald Goldman that Marko flagged. If I saw significant data suggesting that circumcision was indeed harmful, I’d change my views. However, the facts Goldman marshals stand, for me, next to the testimony of the overwhelming majority of Jews I’ve heard, which are along the lines of Noga’s above, as well as my own experience, which utterly belie the emotive talk of abuse, misery and trauma.

As far as I can see, most of the instances of harm cited are not caused by circumcision but by botched circumcision. (And this is one reason why the FGM comparison doesn’t work when it comes to the driving-it-underground argument: FGM itself is harmful, overground or underground; circumcision itself isn’t but botched circumcision is more likely underground. Here again the arguments around legalising versus banning abortion are relevant.) Botched circumcision in South Africa is particularly irrelevant to discussion of Germany, where I believe the majority of infant male circumcisions are carried out in completely different and highly regulated hospital environments.

As for the herpes example Dreamer mentions, I’ve already (in this thread and/or the last one) argued that the practices that cause this (the mohel sucking the blood) probably should be banned, as indeed they are in the US. Those practices are analogous to FGM in some Islamic cultures, in the limited sense that they are a relatively recent accretion to tradition practised by a minority stream within the faith, and not part of the core covenant considered non-negotiable by the mainstream.)

Marko, however, is probably right that the “health benefits are presented disingenuously, by people seeking to justify a religious/cultural practice that really isn't motivated by considerations of health” – although circumcision was hugely medically beneficial to me, that’s beside the point for my advocacy of it. My defence is based on a different moral issue, and the HIV question is a red herring.

However, I think the alleged health evidence against is also presented disingenuously, by selectively raiding the facts to justify an argument which I suspect draws on the deep prejudices suggested by Modernity, and on a psychologically suspect victimology cult from the North American intactivist identity politics practitioners.

bob said...

[cont...]

There is also some weight against my and Mod’s position from the facts presented by Entdinglichung: to understand this court ruling in context with some other [German] court rulings during the last two years prioritizing children rights e.g. awarding compensation to survivors of sex reassignment surgery, banning two "biblical parenting manuals" from public sale, investigations against a leading evangelical fundamentalist for promoting "chastising children" on TV or closing down a school of the Society of Saint Pius X for practicizing corporal punishment.

Here, it seems that a liberal-secular children’s rights regime is increasingly belligerent against faith-based child abuse in general, and not specifically Jewish or Muslim practices. However, as with animal rights arguments against Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter, it is the racist effect of the bans that needs to be considered when Jewish and Muslim people are targeted, and also the political traction that these specific bans get which, say, the sex reassignment compensation ruling doesn’t. That is, why does this become a crusading issue while that doesn’t.

kellie said...

Like Sarah, I think Marko's logic is sound, and the court's logic as reported also seems sound.

In the case before the court, the child had to be taken to hospital as a result of the medically unnecessary procedure. It seems obvious that the doctor who carried it out was in the wrong in causing injury to the child to satisfy a religious rather than a medical requirement.

I also like Reuben's post, arguing that it's wrong but that the degree of wrong is relevant. In connection with that, I would also regard piercing ears of infants too young to give consent as wrong, but not normally a serious matter.

Modernity's comparison with baptism is irrelevant to a court judgement on the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity", but as he brings it up, I don't object to my parents having allowed my head to get wet, but I did very much object to being told by others that this meant I was forever a "lapsed Catholic" whatever else I chose to call myself.

Branding infants, physically or mentally, is not a good thing. They're not their parents property, nor the property of their "community". A ceremony to welcome a baby into the world is a fine thing, but they're a being held in trust, not livestock for the herd.

modernity's ghost said...

“Modernity's comparison with baptism is irrelevant to a court judgement on the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity"

"Modernity's comparison with baptism is irrelevant to a court judgement on the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity", "

Sadly, it seems my ability to communicate my points is not up to scratch.

I will reiterate just in case readers didn't manage to take them in, or bother to read my arguments.

I am not concerned with the merits or demerits of circumcision.

I am concerned with prescriptive attitudes, banning certain things and not others.

I am concerned at a certain blindness which exists in Western societies, tolerant and oblivious to their own peculiarities, yet highly critical of minorities when it suits.

My point all along is to get a logical, justification as to why circumcision is such a critical issue.

And why does circumcision, above everything else, have to be banned?

Like many issues in society, this is brought out a pile of emotions and subjectivity, but few direct answers.

So there are essentially three points here

1. Why the focus on circumcision?
2. Why ban it and not other things?
3. And what objective criteria are being used to decide which is which?

If anyone feels capable of providing me with a logical reason, which encompasses those three points, I should be most grateful to hear it.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

This is a bit like debating with Noam Chomsky. Whenever anyone challenges him on his apologias for Serb atrocities in Bosnia or Kosovo, his response is always along the lines of 'What about East Timor ? What about the genocide of the Native Americans ? If you're so concerned about atrocities, why don't you condemn that ?' It's a debating tactic called 'whataboutery', which effectively derails any discussion into a discussion about something else.

'1. Why the focus on circumcision?'

Because Bob published a blog post about circumcision. If Bob had blogged about alcohol or tobacco or red meat or abortion or East Timor, we might be focusing on that instead.

It's like turning up at a seminar on English Literature and asking 'Why the focus on English literature ? Why aren't we discussing History or Mathematics or Engineering ?'.

'2. Why ban it and not other things?'

Other things should be banned as well. The point has been made about a billion times already in this thread, that we have, for example, bans on the sale of alcohol and tobacco to children, and on drink driving, and smoking in pubs and restaurants. We also have bans on abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy, fox hunting, certain types of animal cruelty, possession of firearms, sex with children, theft, murder, genocide, etc.

So yes, other things should be banned. Personally, I would ban all religious indoctrination at schools, and ban all face-covering religious garb from schools and universities. I'm no libertarian.

Generally speaking, adults should be free to do what they want to themselves (e.g. smoke, drink, wear burkhas or circumcise themselves) but when it's a question of their freedom to do painful or injurious things to children or animals, then that's another matter.

The accusation that opposition to circumcision stems from Christian prejudice is moral-relativist nonsense. Christopher Hitchens was not exactly a devout Christian, but he was a fierce opponent of circumcision. He wasn't very pro-abortion either (since CC raised the issue). So it doesn't follow that opponents of circumcision must be strong supporters of abortion. Or of alcohol, tobacco, red meat or religious garb.

Circumcision has been practised within my family, and some of my close relatives are circumcised. So no, opposition to circumcision is not a reflection of background prejudices. Any more than opposition to FGM is an expression of Islamophobia.

The Contentious Centrist said...

It wa smy understanding that Modernity's ghost's puzzlement was not about why we discuss circumcision in this thread but a more general bafflement at the sudden focus on circumcision as the ultimate barbarity to be battled with such ferocity as expressed in some of the comments made here, a complaint along the immortal lines of Rick Blaine: "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine."

modernity's ghost said...

"This is a bit like debating with Noam Chomsky. "

Whilst I don't think we will agree on much, in that I will concur, but not necessarily in the way that you mean it.

Whenever I have an exchange of views with Chomskyites about the second thing they do is to suggest that their interlocutors are being disingenuous, as Marko did.

The first thing that they tended do is take an emotive and subjective view of the topic and embed it with plenty of unspoken assumptions.

I would naturally prefer it that didn't occur here, and I'm surprised that I have to reiterate self-evident points.

Incidentally, it is not a debating tactic, it is called logical reasoning.

When someone makes a specific point on a specific subject, in its incumbent on them to give the reasons why.

A very simple parallel, which I shouldn't have to explain, but nevertheless.

Whenever some argues for a boycott or ban on Israelis, I asked a question why **particularly** those, and not say China, Syria and Saudi Arabia, etc

I normally ask, what is the logical criterion for that choice? What method of selection out of all of the issues and country's means that that ranks highest.

However, whenever I ask those questions Chomskyites, Leninists or BDSers tend to throw a fit. They are unaccustomed to thinking through their own assumptions.

And that's simply what I'm doing here, arguing logically, asking questions.

I have no dog in this race, however, I wonder why people wish to ban certain things and not others?

I don't do that cynically or as CC suggest, naively, I simply don't know people's views, after all I am not a bleeding mind reader.

I just wish people would articulate a logical case and substantiate it, whether or not it is arguing for a boycott of Israelis or a prohibition of circumcision, for religious beliefs. I am only asking for a rational case, without the baggage and societal subjectivity

"Christopher Hitchens was not exactly a devout Christian, but he was a fierce opponent of circumcision."

Far too crude, Hitchens was the product of a Christian and Western upbringing.

It imbued his thinking in much the same way that Richard Dawkins, although a contentious and argumentative agnostic, has demonstrated culturally Christian attitudes and thinking on many occasions.

This is not some vulgar Marxian notion, rather that, as Bob argues, those who grow up in such societies are often blind or unconscious of the attitudes that they portray.

I would hope that some scholar has looked at the influence of subliminal messages passed along in society as part of the education system, media and broader thinking, etc be interested in reading it.

That was my point.

Again, I would not dream of accusing anyone of being disingenuous rather inarticulate (which I suppose for an academic is a worst crime!)

I am not questioning the motives of those arguing against circumcision, instead hoping that they would put an objective case and leave out their emotions.

kellie said...

Noga, the only place in this thread where the words "ultimate barbarity" occur are in your comment, so I suggest you may perhaps have a distorted view of what others are arguing.

Modernity, the short version of "why circumcision" is because it came up. If you read the chronology in this report, a child was injured to the degree that he needed hospital care, the doctor responsible was charged with grievous bodily harm, religion was used as a defence, and consequently a ruling had to be made. It's not a case of a politician calling for a ban, nor is it a case of anyone being charged with GBH in a circumcision completed successfully without complications. If the doctor hadn't used religion as part of their defence the issue wouldn't have been ruled upon.

As to why it's causing so much comment here, I read Marko as seeing a disturbing inconsistency between Bob's argument on this, and the argument often made in these circles that individuals shouldn't forfeit rights due to their being categorised as being part of one or other religious or cultural or ethnic community.

In this case Bob's argument could be seen as meaning that Muslim and Jewish infant boys to some degree forfeit their right to protection from bodily harm. This looks like a classic case of concern to avoid discrimination against a particular community leading to denying less powerful individuals in that community their full rights.

When the issue is women's rights in minority communities, we all stand for women's rights, but when it's children's rights, you say we should 'leave out the emotions'. But try turning it around: can you 'put an objective case' as to why a male child's right to protection against bodily harm is a less legitimate cause than women's rights?

The Contentious Centrist said...

"Noga, the only place in this thread where the words "ultimate barbarity" occur are in your comment, so I suggest you may perhaps have a distorted view of what others are arguing."

When people describe circumcision as chopping of penis, I am allowed to assume that they consider such practices as barbaric in the extreme. Otherwise they would not be so ferocious in their arguments. I doubt it is I who has a distorted view, when it is you who express yourself as the concerned protector of little Jewish babies from their parents' superstitions and barbaric designs on their male children's genitals.

Sarah AB said...

It's interesting, modernity's ghost, that you ask those arguing against circumcision to 'leave out their emotions' because, for me, it's my head that might be inclined to support a ban and my heart that's against it. That's putting it a bit too crudely of course because

a) the fact that circumcision cannot objectively said to be very harmful in the scheme of things

and

b) the fact that a wish for a ban might arise from (and certainly create an effect of) antisemitism

are both factors which it seems rational to take into account, and, WRT (a) do mean that MC must be treated differently from FGM although I still find it a bit worrisome to see exactly the same arguments being invoked in favour of the former practice as the latter.

kellie said...

You're doing it again Noga. In this thread you're the one introducing the word "chopping".

Anonymous said...

Fuck me, I agree with Marko (well not the tosh about the 'decent left').

There's no barbarity - animal torture, child abuse, racism or genocide - that doesn't have religious cheerleaders and defenders.

FPMMM

Entdinglichung said...

from http://dasendedessex.blogsport.de/2012/07/01/the-circumcision-of-the-foreskin-in-boys-is-not-equivalent-to-violent-medical-treatments-directed-against-intersexes/

For the same reason the district court did not include in its decision the circumcisions of the foreskin in boys for „hygienic“ reasons routinely carried out in the U. S. and also known in West Germany. Here, too, the terse reply is „medical indication.“ So let´s get to the point: While it appears difficult to tackle the dogma of „medical indication“ that has become so powerful in the European modern age (and still is), it is easy enough to follow the racist and anti-Semitic Zeitgeist and tell Jews and Muslims how to view the world.

kellie said...

Ha! Heinz-Jürgen Voß finds it a matter of wonder that a court didn't answer a question it wasn't asked. An indicator of medical-Christian dogma even. And Heinz-Jürgen Voß has a Ph.D.

modernity's ghost said...

"It's interesting, modernity's ghost, that you ask those arguing against circumcision to 'leave out their emotions' because, for me,"

NO, I'm not saying that.

I am saying with any argument, any debate on any subject at its best to hear objective reason and less emoting.

But I am surprised that I have to remind academics of that particular approach.

"Modernity, the short version of "why circumcision" is because it came up."

Thank you Kellie, but again that wasn't my question.

My point, which may be difficult to understand, is to wonder how liberals or anyone else can reconcile in their own minds their conflicting desires for:

1) freedom of speech for fascists
2) freedom of religion
3) freedom against dress codes (restricting the Hijab, enforcing beards etc)

with a prescription against circumcision by Muslims or Jews.

If someone were of an authoritarian mindset I could understand how they could reconcile all of that, they basically ban things they don’t like, in a subjective fashion.

However, as I've argued at length, if you're going to say “ this particular issue is critical and needs action” then you have to put the case, why this particular one and not others.

How is circumcision so utterly detrimental, that it alone, deserves banning?

And to answer that question it is incumbent to provide some objective reasoning “I choose this because….” and work through the criteria, etc

Again, I am not asking the facile ‘why are we arguing about circumcision’, but I am asking those who wish to prescribe it to provide their criteria of choice and do so with objective reasoning.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"... does not give people the right to amputate part of their children's sexual organs today." (Hoare)

"... Children ... should not have part of their bodies irreversibly removed for the sake of a religion or identity that was essentially imposed upon them." (Hoare)

"As if we are obliged to uphold these groups in their traditional forms, if necessary through segregation or through amputating parts of our children's bodies so as to stake out our group's ownership of them." (Hoare)
"The fact that part of the body may be cut off when it is so diseased that it is no longer any use for its purpose is an unfortunate fact, but we do not cut off every baby's feet because some mountaineers lose their feet through frostbite, do we?" (Hugh)

" If you're okay with people mutilating their children, you can have a but of swearing." (Gysum)

"it's a question of their freedom to do painful or injurious things to children or animals, then that's another matter. (Hoare)

_________

amputate sexual organs, parts of bodies removed, doing injurious things to babies, this kind of language permeates the discourse presented by so called humanitarian opposers of circumcision, and you, kellie, do not see that barbarity and chopping off are the meanings attached to these locutions? Have you any better way of describing these horror inspiring linguistic insertions? You haven't fallen upon any gotcha argument with these attempts to distract from what is actually being proposed by these objecters. You are just trying to shut me up by embarrassing me. If these people cannot discuss the subject without resorting to phantom horror representations that I WILL treat their arguments in the same spirit in which they are made.

kellie said...

Sorry Modernity, you don't seem to be clear in your own mind what your question is, or you seem not to understand the answers you receive.

In your earlier comment which I was trying to answer you asked:
My point all along is to get a logical, justification as to why circumcision is such a critical issue.

And why does circumcision, above everything else, have to be banned?


Marko has made it clear that he doesn't prioritise a ban on circumcision above everything else. My reply showed that the reason religious circumcision was a critical issue for the court to rule on was because religious justification was the basis of the doctor's defence.

Your further question of how to reconcile a ban on religious circumcision with religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of dress &c. is not difficult in principle, though the details will provide fodder for lawyers forevermore. It comes down to the Harm Principle. Thus we can argue for freedom of speech but draw a line at incitement to violence or murder, and we can argue for freedom of religion but draw a line at non-consensual physical injury of minors.

kellie said...

Amputate: to cut (as a limb) from the body.

Noga, circumcision is about cutting a part from the body, is it not? A part of the body is removed, yes? It does involve injury, doesn't it? TNC's description of a successful circumcision without complications mentions bleeding, so some small injury at least. Your objection to factual language seems designed to close argument rather than engage. The phantom horror occurs when factual language echoes in your head and comes out as "chopping" and "ultimate barbarity".

kellie said...

Modernity, your question
".. why does circumcision, above everything else, have to be banned?"
is also shown to be based on a misapprehension by Entdinglichung's comment much earlier in the thread:
I think, that someone has to understand this court ruling in context with some other court rulings during the last two years prioritizing children rights e.g. awarding compensation to survivors of sex reassignment surgery, banning two "biblical parenting manuals" from public sale, investigations against a leading evangelical fundamentalist for promoting "chastising children" on TV or closing down a school of the Society of Saint Pius X for practicizing corporal punishment

modernity's ghost said...

[Sigh]

I would almost give up.

A discussion has obviously gone downhill when you have to explain why you made specific points, but as it seems my comments had been misread I shall try to clarify.

My contribution was concerning, that pain in the arse (and presumably one-time convert), Gysum Fantastic giving atheists are bad name.

My prime concern, as a libertarian (and a die-hard atheist), has been to understand the desire to ban things.

That's all, and I'm afraid restricting the discussion just to the participants here isn't good enough.

If a German court prescribes certain activities, we are at liberty to question why.

Is it natural authoritarianism? A real concern of human rights of children?

Or some latent hangup from the 1930s?

Now as a society or societies, we have to decide priorities which things are really significant and detrimental and which are not.

We have to decide on the balance of evidence, which issues are truly serious and which are not.

I am afraid that the cut and paste school of argumentation doesn't quite seem that convincing, more like kettle logic.

kellie said...

I'll see your sigh, Modernity, and raise you another. Check my last comment again. The examples given by Entdinglichung DO go beyond the participants on this thread and show that the German court ruling follows other similar court rulings, including against Christian religious practices deemed to infringe on children's rights.

I'm sorry if I've been irritable, but you keep acting as if no-one is capable of comprehending your question, then fail to take on the multiple responses you receive. It might be time for you to consider that whatever communications failure there is here may be at least partly on your side. Could you at least acknowledge that your ever-evolving question has been answered a few times now?

bob said...

Amputate: to cut (as a limb) from the body.
How is that different from "chopping"?

The words Noga quotes seem extremely emotive to me, and nothing like the reality of circumcision for the overwhelming majority of Jewish infants.

By the way, Sad Red Earth has a new post on this, with similar concerns to mine and Noga's:
http://sadredearth.com/male-genital-enhancement/

kellie said...

Amputate normally refers to surgery. Chopping suggests wielding an axe. I think one is more appropriate than the other.

The Contentious Centrist said...

So Kelllie in your scheme of things, circumcision is the equivalent of amputating the penis, or part of a penis, of a baby? You mean that in the process of circumcision, part of the boy's penis is chopped off, cut, removed?

Would you characterize a blood test of drawing blood by puncturing the skin with a sharp instrument, something that is both painful and causes bleeding, as a knifing?

Amputating is to circumcision what
knifing is to doing blood test. I once had the misfortune of being subjected to the most torturous kind of having a blood test, unrelieved torment for 10 minutes before it was decided to try on the other arm (not very successful but at least done), and then three weeks to recover from the pain and large dark blue bruises on both my arms. Just to tell you that even a simple blood test can go wrong and cause damage. Yet no one would ever characterize the practice as a knifing, I don't think.

bob said...

Re the JPost article by Marc Neugroeschel linked to by Noga.

The article correctly frames this issue in the context of a deepening Europe-wide backlash against multiculturalism, diversity itself and particularly Islam. And it makes the important point, already made by CC above, that the attack on Muslims all too often (as in this case, as well as bans on ritual slaughter) lands its blows on the smaller, weaker body of the Jews.

However, I find the article completely unhelpful in most other regards. In repeating (and repeating) the cultural conservative myth that Europe has been in the grip of cultural relativism, it represents the backlash as more recent than it is, and what it is lashing back at as more powerful than it was.

For instance, Neugroeschel makes this claim:

An expression such as “Multiculturalism has failed,” as German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it in October 2010 at an assembly of young Christian Democrats, would have been inconceivable only 10 years earlier from a European mainstream politician.

But when did Germany ever embrace a multiculturalist policy? Merkel’s speech in 2010 repeated one she made in 2004 at the start of her election campaign: "multiculturalism leads to communities living besides each other, rather than with each other." Foreigners, she said in 2004, must embrace Germany’s Leitkultur – the Nazi-used term meaning guiding-culture. But she was boxing against a shadow. When her parliamentary party leader spoke in 2006 against Schröder’s government "purring" about multiculturalism, even the right-wing paper Die Welt asked “Who exactly was purring...?” The fact was Gerhardt Schröder, the most pro-multicultural of heads of state in that period, did little more than allow people without German blood who had been born in Germany to acquire citizenship, hardly a radical move from an American or British perspective.

In fact (although I know nothing about Scandinavia, which might be an exception to everything I say), multiculturalism has been state policy in no European country for more than brief periods, and no European mainstream politician of stature has embraced it, and certainly no head of state.

Despite Sarkozy kicking off the “multiculturalism has failed” chorus, France has never embraced multiculturalism. Ten years ago it was governed by Jacques Chirac who said that France "would lose her soul" if she embraced multiculturalism. The ban on “conspicuous” religious symbols in 2004 was the culmination of a series of attempts to ban the headscarf and veil going back to the 1980s, when the Mitterrand orthodoxy was ““Il y a un seuil de tolérance", there is a threshold of tolerance. Although it putatively targets all religion, Christians are not touched by it (just as the putatively secular state pays for the maintenance of religious buildings constructed before 1905, meaning only Christian churches and a tiny number of synagogues).

The UK embraced multiculturalism very limply for a brief moment in 1997 to 2001, although concrete multiculturalist policies legislated in this period (as opposed to rhetorical flourishes in Blair’s speeches) are hard to identify. However, the milltown riots and 9/11 had New Labour turning to “cohesion” and the duties of Muslim minorities to embrace shared British values, a turn led by centre-left pundits like David Goodhart, Trevor Phillips and Yasmin Alibihai-Brown insisting multiculturalism had failed. In truth, multiculturalism in Britain has only practically been official policy at a municipal level.
[cont...]

bob said...

[cont...]
Even the much-used example of the Netherlands had a very thin multiculturalist approach. Building on the long-standing “pillarisation” system (which long-institutionalised cultural relativism by segregating Catholic, Protestant and secular citizens from each other into their own state-funded ghettos), an Ethnic Minorities Policy in the 1980s gave limited recognition to cultural rights of non-white people, ushering in the fabled age of Dutch multiculturalism. Substantively, though, most state action taken in this period was to promote labour market integration and outlaw discrimination – in the field of culture, language and religion, the state’s policy was more or less one of laisser-faire. But the backlash was soon launched, with Liberal leader Fritz Bolkestein questioning the compatibility of Islam with Dutch culture in 1991, a theme which found a ready public response and mobilising a mass movement under Pim Fortuyn and now Wilders. The Labour Party’s Paul Scheffer had massive publicity for his 2000 repetition of Bolkestein’s thesis and declaration that multiculturalism had failed.

A new Integration Policy, stressing duties and common values, was introduced in 1994, abandoning the multicultural experiment before it even took root. Although some municipalities (notably Amsterdam) continued to pursue some multiculturalist themes into the 1990s, others (most notably Rotterdam, the ethnically most diverse city in Holland) never did, and the rhetoric had waned by the start of the current century.

So, the “new” right Neugroeschel identifies (Marine Le Penn [sic], Wilders and Thilo Sarrazin) are only the latest examples in a two decade long anti-multicultural and anti-Muslim trend.


Neugroeschel’s article also repeats the cultural conservative nonsense that “totalitarian concepts that are constantly being brought to Europe by immigrants”, a gross misuse of the word “totalitarian” and a complete misrepresentation of the situation, especially the situation in Germany where the largest body of immigrants are Turkish, the most liberal of Muslims.

Finally, and perhaps more trivially, it makes a mockery of the concept of “libertarianism”. How can a ban be “a healthy expression of a libertarian state of law”? In this claim, the liberty to have a flap of skin dangling at the end of your penis is a real liberty, while the liberty to live your life as a Jew free from state interference in your beliefs is somehow not a real liberty. For real libertarians, the problem of conflicting liberties is a challenge, but the default is always against state interference. Bans are not libertarian. A ban might be justified, but whatever it is it ain’t a healthy expression of a libertarian state of law.

kellie said...

Note that the phrase "circumcision is the equivalent of amputating the penis" is Noga's own. Neither myself nor anyone else has suggested any such thing. Once again she is the one introducing phantom horror and ascribing it to others. I can't know if this seeming inability to distinguish between what others write and what the voices in her head say is a pathology or a habitual dishonesty developed through too much time spent arguing in the gutters of the internet, but for the sake of my own mental health I think it would be best not to engage further with her.

"I don't want to go among mad people," as Alice says.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

‘Amputate’ as ‘emotive language’ ? Honestly, get a grip.

What really is ‘emotive’, though, is to fling an insinuation of Nazism against a Jewish man who regrets circumcising his sons. As in:

'Note this almost Atzmonesque and rather racist sentiment: "this point has to be made loudly and repeatedly to all Jews, Muslims and other tribal types who feel they have no choice but to put their sons through this." In other words, thank the enlightened Aryan goyim for rescuing these backward Semites from their barbaric practices.'

I have become extremely disillusioned with the Decent Left, largely because it seems to have become to Jews and Israel what the Galloway and Livingstone currents of the Indecent Left are to Muslims and Islam. As some will fling around phoney accusations of Islamophobia to silence, for example, criticism of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, so others use phoney accusations of anti-Semitism in a similar way. It has reached the point where, over at Harry’s Place, people like Peter Tatchell and the eminent genocide scholar Martin Shaw have been accused of anti-Semitism. A climate is being created by the zealots on both sides – the Israel-haters on the one hand and the Decent Left on the other – where it is increasingly impossible to have any sort of a reasonable discussion about Jewish or Israeli themes (kudos to the folks over at Engage Online, where that is still possible).

To clarify: what shocked me unpleasantly about Bob’s latest posts, was not the fact that he opposes a ban on child circumcision (there are respectable reasons for opposing such a ban) but the allusions to Nazism and medieval European anti-Semitism directed against supporters of a ban.

I consider Bob a friend and comrade, and greatly appreciate his blog. I don’t know if ‘Modernity’s Ghost’ is any connection with the sadly terminated Modernity Blog, but that was another of my favourite blogs. I would be extremely sorry if either of them were to become contributors to the climate of hysteria that is being created. Because the group that is losing most from such a climate is the Jews and the Israelis (apart from the Palestinians, obviously).

modernity's ghost said...

"but you keep acting as if no-one is capable of comprehending your question"

No, I'm just disappointed that my rather simple questions are misread.

I am sure that most people here are perfectly intelligent, which is why it is all the more annoying, when academics make elementary undergraduate errors, ascribing bad faith to their interlocutors, misconstrue arguments, constructing strawmen, etc

I think most thoughtful people would be disappointed when a discussion or debate turns into a quarrel, but I imagine that is part of the nature of the Internet, it encourages quarrelsome people (and I don't exclude myself from that).

"Could you at least acknowledge that your ever-evolving question has been answered a few times now?"

Do you mean answer to my satisfaction, or to those who are putting rather poor arguments for banning circumcision?

I think, naturally, those who put these arguments will think they are fine and dandy, and that they answer all criticisms, however, they seem to be incomplete.

But to return to my previous analogy it's much like "anti-Zionists" they can never see any faults in their arguments, they tend to emote and when you ask them to objectively justified their positions with evidence they throw a tantrum.

And let me say that as a libertarian, I support the right of everyone to throw a tantrum, however, it doesn't make for terribly amicable discussions, as the evidence shows :)

modernity's ghost (formerly known as) said...

Marko,

"A climate is being created by the zealots on both sides..."

Tut tut, political hyperbole.

Frankly, I am disillusioned with ex-Trots who change their politics but so often keep the worst aspect of their political heritage, excessively pushy attitudes, the desire to bludgeon interlocutors and a steak of authoritarianism.

I am not saying that as a personal rebuke, merely as an observation, that I have noticed when dealing with many ex-Trots (from Blairites, Greens to manic ‘anti-Zionists’).

I would much prefer if the evidence showed that these ex-Trots became pluralists and tried to find common ground in these discussions, but I haven't seen that approach much.

Also I wish that ex-Trots would try, or at least make an effort to become more sensitive to aspects of life & history outside of their own.

PS: I am glad you like my past attempts at scribbling my everso incoherent thoughts. I look back at them, sometimes, and wince!

Please do keep writing about the Balkans, in that you show great sensitivity and insight.

kellie said...

Modernity, it may be that some of the answers you received were at fault, but you never explained how. Just repeating that everyone is misreading your question is not helpful. At least you should recognise that your question was based in part on a false premise, as neither Germany's courts nor any of Bob's commenters have argued that circumcision "above everything else" should be banned. It's rather senseless to demand that others justify a position that they don't hold.

The Contentious Centrist said...

kellie said...

"Note that the phrase "circumcision is the equivalent of amputating the penis" is Noga's own. Neither myself nor anyone else has suggested any such thing."

_____

A few comments earlier:

Kellie said... "Amputate: to cut (as a limb) from the body.

Noga, circumcision is about cutting a part from the body, is it not? A part of the body is removed, yes? It does involve injury, doesn't it? ...Your objection to factual language seems designed to close argument rather than engage."

______________

Having provided a dictionary entry for "amputate" and then proceeding to use that dictionary meaning to describe what circumcision is, Kellie will have you believe he/she meant nothing of the kind.

It is time perhaps to confront your own position about this procedure with honesty, Kellie rather than accuse others of misreading what you are so clearly saying and calling them lunatics for doing so.

modernity's ghost said...

Kellie,

"but you never explained how. Just repeating that everyone is misreading your question is not helpful."

Neither is it helpful to assume that one 'sides' arguments are marvellous, whilst their interlocutors are rubbish, etc etc

This is all elementary and stuff that undergraduates are taught to avoid.

Once you end up arguing about the arguments, any meaningful discussion is clearly long past.

I see no productive purpose in reiterating my previous points which were, as far as I can see, misconstrued, because I assume that any of my clarifications would be, er, misconstrued too.

Surely, you can see one thing follows from the other?

All in all I am not terribly bothered.

If people wish to misinterpret my arguments, shorten them or whatever that is their choice.

But it is more than disappointing when a discussion becomes a quarrel.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

'I would much prefer if the evidence showed that these ex-Trots became pluralists and tried to find common ground in these discussions, but I haven't seen that approach much.'

So you think that comparing supporters of a ban on child circumcision - including Jewish supporters - with Nazis, Spanish Inquisitors and medieval anti-Semites is compatible with being pluralist and trying to find common ground ?

kellie said...

Bob, I agree with your criticism of Neugroeschel's article in that his location of the challenge to European liberarian societies as coming solely or even primarily from immigrants is wrong. The context that Entdinglichung provides of earlier German court rulings defending children's rights against the practices of Christian groups demonstrates this, as do various recent legal run-ins in this country between Gay rights and some Christians.

But your assertion that the idea of banning religious infant circumcision "makes a mockery" of libertarianism is very surprising. You're making a fundamental error here, one which I would not expect from someone familiar with so many similar arguments from the past few years.

Individual liberty does not include liberty to do harm to another.

A parent's religious liberty does not give them the right to infringe on the rights of their child.

A child is not property, and it has rights.

The child's liberty must be protected as well as the parent's.

The default is not against state interference, but for the rights of the individual, and that means not just the parent's right to practice their religion and inform their children about the parent's religion, but also the infant's right to not be subjected to medically unnecessary surgery at an age where it is unable to give informed consent.

Where religious practice infringes on the rights of individuals then it is not consistent with liberty as JS Mill and others describe it.

As our legal system charges the state with defending individual rights, the state has a duty to uphold the rights of the child.

I hope that was logical and unemotional enough.

modernity's ghost said...

"is compatible with being pluralist and trying to find common ground ?"


Ahh, the smell of Tu Quoque in the morning.

Pluralism, to me at least. is about accepting difference, that people will disagree with you and that such disagreements are healthy.

That isn't an attitude found amongst Leninists, many Trots or authoritarians, but surely that was obvious?

I must say that whilst these exchanges have been singularly ill tempered (and I'm partly to blame) it has lead to Bob making some very good points, in particular:

" In this claim, the liberty to have a flap of skin dangling at the end of your penis is a real liberty, while the liberty to live your life as a Jew free from state interference in your beliefs is somehow not a real liberty.

For real libertarians, the problem of conflicting liberties is a challenge, but the default is always against state interference."

kellie said...

Jews are perfectly at liberty to live their own lives under the ruling, Modernity. The limitation is upon the extent to which they can live their children's lives.

kellie said...

And of course, to remind ourselves,the ruling is not just regarding Jews, but anybody.

bob said...

And of course, to remind ourselves,the ruling is not just regarding Jews, but anybody.

You're right that the ruling is not just regarding Jews. But it is a red herring to say it regards anybody, because not anybody ever practises male infant circumcision, whereas most Jews always do, along with many Muslims, most Coptic Christians, etc etc. It's like saying if you ban kosher/halal ritual slaughter you're banning anybody from practising these, but in reality only Jews/Muslims do. This is precisely the problem with the application of liberal universalism to these sorts of cases.

Even with FGM (which I'd want banned), it would be utterly disingenuous to claim that a ban on FGM prevents anybody from practising it, when the only people who practise it come from a limited number of specific cultures.

bob said...

I have become extremely disillusioned with the Decent Left, largely because it seems to have become to Jews and Israel what the Galloway and Livingstone currents of the Indecent Left are to Muslims and Islam. As some will fling around phoney accusations of Islamophobia to silence, for example, criticism of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, so others use phoney accusations of anti-Semitism in a similar way. It has reached the point where, over at Harry’s Place, people like Peter Tatchell and the eminent genocide scholar Martin Shaw have been accused of anti-Semitism. A climate is being created by the zealots on both sides – the Israel-haters on the one hand and the Decent Left on the other – where it is increasingly impossible to have any sort of a reasonable discussion about Jewish or Israeli themes (kudos to the folks over at Engage Online, where that is still possible).

Well, I understand this frustration, if you take Harry's Place commenters as paradigmatic of the "Decent Left". Myself, I'd only accept a very qualified ascription of decentness (in fact I'm probably more indecent than most people commenting at Engage) and probably the same goes for Mod - and I feel that the others taking the a sceptical line towards the ban here (the two Centrists as well as AJ Adler at his place) may be more more decent than me but not exactly left. So this criticism seems at least as beside the point here as Mod's alleged whataboutery.

bob said...

The allegation of emotiveness.

I've had first hand (as it were) experience of circumcision, but never actually seen infant circumcision. I know many, many people who have, including that of their own sons. So, in a robust piece of social science exclusively presented here, I've asked four Jewish friends about their experience. To my irritation, one said something similar to what Jessica said above, but the other three said something much more like what Noga said above. I'm open to changing my view, and if I could be convinced that Noga's experience and not Jessica's was the exception rather than the rule, I would sway my position. But my strong sense is that people who have first hand experience of male infant circumcision will tell you that the language of chopping, amputation, abuse and mutilation is totally at odds with the reality.

If I'm right, then that sort of language is completely inappropriate to the topic we are discussing.

And if I'm right about that, then we do need (as Mod and AJ Adler suggest) to ask questions about the motivation for that language.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

Bob, the point is not whether or not you are part of the Decent Left. The point is that sections of the Decent Left are helping to create a climate in which it is impossible to have a reasonable discussion about Jewish and Israeli themes.

If you are flinging an insinuation of Nazism against a Jewish man who regrets circumcising his sons, and comparing opponents of child circumcision with medieval anti-Semites, then you are contributing to this climate. That applies whether or not you consider yourself part of the Decent Left.

bob said...

On allegations of unreason.

Following on from my immediately preceding comment, I am fascinated and perplexed by the allegations of madness made against those who don't buy into the language of amputation for this (in my view) minor, benign procedure.

Almost immediately, Marko said: "Comparing it to medieval European anti-Semitism is simply hysterical - in more than one sense of the word. (I don't actually know what he means by the "more than one sense" bit - maybe something to do with having a uterus?) The Gypsum called us lot "rabid". Then from Kellie, quoting Alice: "I don't want to go among mad people".

This seems a completely disproportionate response to a conversation that has actually been relatively calm, considering the topic, despite the use of language of amputation and chopping from the antis.

To me, this speaks of a second problem with liberal universalism, the assumption that Western Christian values are the only rational ones, and all the rest of us are literally unreasonable.

The Contentious Centrist said...

The madness theme entered Kellie's discourse in direct reference to me. It was not meant to include you, Bob, or mod, in the compliment. The "mad" attribution is aimed at the hysterical Israeli-Jewish woman who is not timid about answering fire with fire. It has been Kellie's contention all along that I deliberately, malevolently and insanely misrepresented the kind of arguments the anticirs were making. He/she implied that no one used such violent terms as "chopping off penis" or "amputating penis" to characterize the practice and it was my wild, incontinent imagination that saw the shadows as mountains.

I maintained that I was only doing justice to the anticirs' positions and simply reflecting back to them what they were saying. I believe I even quoted Kellie's own comment as referring to circumcision as an amputation. But for some reason it is I who am deemed mad for actually reading what is there in plain sight.

Perhaps a misunderstanding took place and when posters use the term "amputate" they expect it to be taken as a metaphor, a linguistic embellishment, for making a point with emphasis. In that case, perhaps Kellie would be so kind as to re-define circumcision in terms that do not suggest such horrors as amputations and chopping off little babies' penis.

I'm always open to learning new stuffs from the humanitarians of this world.

bob said...

On the Nazi analogies.

Marko probably has a point here. I generally dislike any "reductio ad Hitlerum" (non-)arguments. So, for the record, I don't think banning circumcision is "like the Nazis" or "like" medieval antisemites.

I think my initial Nazi comparison, the that presumably "really shocked" you Marko, was this:
"this point has to be made loudly and repeatedly to all Jews, Muslims and other tribal types who feel they have no choice but to put their sons through this." In other words, thank the enlightened Aryan goyim for rescuing these backward Semites from their barbaric practices.

In this sentence, "Aryan" was hyperbole, and I should have avoided that language, as it suggests a Nazi analogy. But Derfner IS calling Jews tribal and saying that if they won't stop doing tribal stuff because the exceptional Jews like him persuade them to, we should welcome the German law making the point to them "loudly and repeatedly". That's a really dodgy thing for him to say.

And the "tribal" allegations are repeated again and again, directly or by association. By association for example when Hugh spends so much time talking about "tribal" circumcision (by which I presume he means African - both a questionable use of language and beside the point in relation to German Jews and Muslims) or when people dismiss Jewish practices because they are "ancient". And directly for example when Anonymous says "There's no barbarity - animal torture, child abuse, racism or genocide - that doesn't have religious cheerleaders and defenders".

I also may have come across as overplaying my being offended, as I am not personally offended and bear no animosity to my friends Marko and Kellie for their position, by I do think it is offensive to say that Jews just need to stop doing the Jewish things they do because they don't accord with liberal values.

kellie said...

Bob, that Alice passage is worth re-reading in full.

'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.

'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'

'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.

'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'


As I said in my earlier comment, I don't know whether Noga's repeated introduction of language like "chopping" and then ascribing it to others is a pathology (mad) or habitual dishonesty (bad) but my concern was that in engaging with such seeming madness I might go mad myself.

You are no doubt right that you should "ask questions about the motivation for that language". In the case of "chopping" the language is Noga's.

She is not so much fighting fire with fire as setting fires and calling all about her arsonists.

bob said...

I might change the strapline of the blog to "You must be mad or you wouldn't have come here."

kellie said...

So just in case it wasn't clear Bob, there were no "allegations of madness made against those who don't buy into the language of amputation", there was a characterisation of seeming madness applied to the tactic of introducing emotive language and ascribing it to others.

Sorry to go on, but you mischaracterised what I did, and I want to be sure you understand the difference.

kellie said...

On red herrings, for "anybody" feel free to read "anybody wishing to carry out male infant circumcision." The implication seems obvious. I didn't know until you pointed it out that anybody included most Coptic Christians. Anybody may be a greater number than either of us know. In the case of any legal restriction though, anybody will not be everybody as there is invariably somebody who doesn't go in for that sort of thing.

kellie said...

On Marko's multiple meanings of "hysterical", I wouldn't want to put words in his mouth but perhaps he meant that the comparison was both over-emotional on the part of the writer and also that it was likely to induce laughter in a reader?

kellie said...

On "tribal", obviously I can see the word can be problematic, but I'm not so certain it has no place in the discussion.

Where the purpose of the ceremony is to be a token of the covenant between God and Abraham and his seed after him, in other words to mark the child as party to a covenant between Abraham and his descendants, it's hard to get away from its tribal character.

And in defending religious infant circumcision, you're claiming that a group, call it a community or tribe or sect or nation, has rights that outweigh the rights of an individual child born into that group.

This is placing tribalism over individual liberty.

Sarah AB said...

This conversation has gone on so long that I have quite forgotten whether I - or someone else - has already linked to this.

http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2011/05/male-circumcision-and-jewish-identity.html

Marko - but I'm sort of decent left, I suppose, and I did agree with your logic! HP still crossposts Peter Tatchell ATL as far as I am aware - I don't always agree with him about Israel but certainly wouldn't accuse him of a/s. There have been some very thought provoking posts critical of Israel on HP recently, eg by Marc Goldberg and a guest poster called 'Phil'.

the sad red earth said...

Some observations, by the by, I will probably expand at my place in a day or two. Once we get past the inflammatory, insupportable, and prejudicial language such as “amputate” and especially “mutilate,” we begin and are left in this discussion, most innocuously, but doubtfully, with “harm.” The vague news accounts of the originating case report that the parents took the child to the hospital out of concern over bleeding. The reports say, too, that the bleeding was judged to be normal. Pain and bleeding do not constitute “harm.” Beneficial medical procedures commonly produce both. Harm is impairment, a qualitative diminishment (not mere material subtraction) from an earlier state, and that, by commodious vicus of recirculation of reasoning, is one of the central issues of dispute.

To meet that challenge we get the too strenuous claims of, indeed, diminished erotic sensitivity in the circumcised penis, in the manner of all those foreskinless dicks over the millennia fucking up a storm to great orgasmic satisfaction, only to be told by some foreskinned liberators that all this time the shorn have been coming in four sad dimensions only when they might have been losing it in five. Penises in chains, throw off your shackles, your shadows of sexual illusion.

The accounts I can find are especially sketchy – as on a blank paper – about how the prosecutors came to be involved. They “became aware” of the child’s visit to the hospital. Such legal antennae. This was a case waiting to be brought, with some people looking to wait.

The Cologne court itself declared circumcision to constitute “grievous bodily harm.” Well, a botched circumcision would be just that, like any bungled operation. We don’t ban the good with the bad. It is all circumcisions the court so condemns? Did the judges make the case, beyond the assertion of their own values, or are they too confusing immediate and long-term consequences?

Infants have no autonomy. They are not self-governing, self-directed, or independent moral agents. From the moment the umbilical is cut, they have no say, neither over the innie or the outie they end up with. They do not offer the assent to nails being cut – which brings tears and even, from a nervous new mommy or daddy, blood – or to their hair being clipped. Yes, the circumcision is more serious than that – it is lasting, and by that fact a discussion to be had, but not likely of worth in the hothouse of curious passions that seems always to be erected around it.

the sad red earth said...

Purely random findings: I do some searching on the topic. I come across an anti-circumcision post at a blog I never knew of, and in the first sentence, of course, is the word “mutilation.” I follow a link to a site that cites a lot of serious “literature” on the significance of the foreskin. At random, I pick one of the citations to pursue, just to evaluate it. The scholarly journal in a field not my own seems legitimate enough, but among the four joint authors, two are openly not disinterested researchers, but clearly advocates, one even a lawyer. The article is not the product of research but a work of advocacy with the research veneer of much cited literature. With little thought, I choose to research the lawyer, among the four authors unknown to me. J. Steven Svoboda turns out to be the founder and executive director of Attorneys for the Rights of the Child. He is also “senior board member of and Public Relations Director for the National Coalition For Men
, the world’s oldest and largest non-profit devoted to educating the world about the harm done to men and boys by gender discrimination.” Both Svoboda and Matthew Hess were active in pursuing anti-circumcision legislation in Massachusetts. In fact, Hess has been published
in Svoboda’s Attorneys for the Rights of the Child Newsletter. And Hess, as I complete my random circumnavigation, is the person I wrote of in the post of mine to which Bob so kindly linked, author of the world’s first evil mohel fighting comic book superhero, Foreskin Man, a fact that seemed of little concern to the anti-circumcision advocating president of the National Coalition For Men. Snoopy the Goon, a more reliably phlegmatic reporter than I, provides further low down on Matthew Hess here
.

Now I really must go open the window.

bob said...

Thank you AJA - and put so lucidly.

Folks, Here are clickable links to AJA's excellent first post cited above, and to Norm's post from last year when a circumcision ban was sought in San Francisco.

And off-topic but for those that still remember that Brendan O'Neill was the first link in the chain that began this discussion, I've been meaning to link to another well-aimed attack on him by Reuben.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

Thanks, Bob. Yes, Kellie is right in his assumption of my two meanings of the word 'hysterical'. I don't think opposing a ban on child circumcision makes one mad. There are legitimate grounds on which one can oppose such a ban, to one or two of which I am sympathetic. I do, however, feel that to attribute anti-Semitic or even Nazi motives to supporters of a ban serves needlessly to inflame things and prevent a rational discussion.

Perhaps opponents of a ban could accuse supporters of merely being misguided, and we can keep this friendly ? Supporters of a ban are motivated by a desire to protect the rights of children, whereas opponents believe that circumcision isn't harmful, and are motivated by a desire to defend the right to a religious or cultural practice that they consider legitimate or necessary. Can we agree on that ?

I'm with Kellie on the question of 'tribalism'. I tend to avoid using the word myself, precisely because some of its connotations are problematic. But in principle, it can legitimately refer to the upholding of a narrow sense of group identity and loyalty vis-a-vis the rest of the world. Larry Derfner is using 'tribal' in the same way that, for example, liberals in the UK might accuse UKIP of being 'tribal'.

In fact, I am happy to go on record as viewing UKIP and hardline Tory Eurosceptics as being tribalist in their opposition to the EU.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

Sarah, I probably still count as a Decent myself, albeit a disillusioned one. The current isn't a uniform one, by any means.

There has long been a disparity between the often reasonable and intelligent individual contributors to Harry's Place, yourself included, and the overall thrust and tone of the blog, as defined by the overwhelming weight of the comments. I came to the conclusion some time ago that the climate that Harry's Place is generating, through the character of its comments, is so poisonous and hysterical that it simply outweighs the fact that some of its individual posts are rather good.

modernity's ghost said...

A few thoughts, random, sarcastic (like many of my comments) and puzzled.

1. As I commented earlier, this discussion reminds me of the dingdongs that occur when fervent "anti-Zionists" tried to argue their positions (and let me hasten to add, before anyone gets the wrong end of the continual stick, I am not accusing anyone here of being an "anti-Zionist", merely employing a similar form of their fevered rhetoric).

That's a pity, as it essentially takes the form of a polemical shouting match and any good points are missed.

It's common enough in political debate, but as North America shows, it is exceedingly off-putting and offer looks more like a clash of egos than any desire to reasonably discuss a complex issue.

2. I didn't comment earlier, as I thought it was offensive, but just a throw away line.

In my book, suggesting that someone is "mad" is grossly offensive.

Who is actually sane?

Why is there a need for such a comment to come in to these discussions, except as an insult?

In my experience, there is no such a thing as sanity, merely levels of functionality.

Such references, whatever their original meaning, are best avoided in such exchanges.


3. Bob continues on a roll when he says:

“ by I do think it is offensive to say that Jews just need to stop doing the Jewish things they do because they don't accord with liberal values.”

4. AJA’s contributions are enjoyable, in particular:

”Yes, the circumcision is more serious than that – it is lasting, and by that fact a discussion to be had, but not likely of worth in the hothouse of curious passions that seems always to be erected around it.”

5. I am puzzled that those opposed to circumcision with such vigour, have clearly not thought through some of these issues (banning, its implications, probation of human activities and circumvention, etc).

6. I assume that had we been discussing (say) a historical topic, however contentious, then the discussion would have been more balanced. We would have seen the relative positions discussed with the degree of objectivity (not perhaps 100%, but at least examining the varied arguments).

Yet the fiery rhetoric employed here, solely relating to circumcision, has diminished any common ground, which is a shame.

I can't think of another topic, outside of the conflict in the Middle East, which would have ignited such passions and in the back of my mind (if no one else's) I have to ask why.

kellie said...

AJA, some thoughts on your comments:

"The Cologne court itself declared circumcision to constitute “grievous bodily harm.” Well, a botched circumcision would be just that, like any bungled operation."

This confuses a religious rite with a medically justified operation. Not the same thing obviously, and negative consequences of medically unjustified surgery can't be regarded as legally or morally the same as negative consequences of medically justified surgery.

"It is all circumcisions the court so condemns? Did the judges make the case, beyond the assertion of their own values [...]?

This seems very akin to the kind of 'imposing Western values' stuff that our mutual friend Terry Glavin criticises the anti-Western anti-imperialist Left for in his recent book on Afghanistan. And to be slightly more objective about it, according to the Jerusalem Post article linked to earlier, the ruling was grounded in Germany's basic law, so not in an assertion of the judges' personal values.

I'm sure anyone with a serious journalistic interest and time on their hands could come up with more detail regarding what degree of detail the case was made in.

"From the moment the umbilical is cut, [infants] have no say, neither over the innie or the outie they end up with. They do not offer the assent to nails being cut – which brings tears and even, from a nervous new mommy or daddy, blood – or to their hair being clipped."

Again, confusing what is medically and hygienically necessary with what is not. A waste of time.

"Pain and bleeding do not constitute “harm.” Beneficial medical procedures commonly produce both. Harm is impairment, a qualitative diminishment (not mere material subtraction) from an earlier state [...]"

This I find particularly interesting. Marc Neugroeschel makes a similar argument, writing that "circumcision does not cause injury in the sense of damaging, depriving or limiting a man in his physiological functioning." So the argument is that harm or injury is only harm or injury if it causes some permanent disability. By this reasoning a papercut is not an injury. Nor the extremely painful incident some years ago when I accidentally stabbed myself in the leg with a scalpel. Not harm. Not injury. So if I similarly stab someone else in the leg with a scalpel I do no harm, no injury? And so many forms of corporal punishment do no harm, no injury? I'll stop there, except to say that it all seems a liittle reminiscent of the bizarre arguments attempting to diminish what level of harm constituted torture. Once you start down that path..

"The accounts I can find are especially sketchy – as on a blank paper – about how the prosecutors came to be involved. They “became aware” of the child’s visit to the hospital. Such legal antennae. This was a case waiting to be brought, with some people looking to wait."

You may find that the aforementioned Mr Neugroeschel of the JP can alleviate you of the need to indulge in conspiracy theory. He writes: "The medic in charge at the emergency room reported the case to the prosecutor’s office that pressed charges against the physician who conducted the circumcision."

kellie said...

Where I wrote "bizarre arguments attempting to diminish what level of harm constituted torture" I should really have said redefine rather than diminish, as the arguments were about setting the bar higher than previously accepted rather than lower.

Obviously there's a difference in intent between circumcision and torture. My point is that there is an obvious danger in choosing to minimise harm to suit your argument.

the sad red earth said...

Kellie,

This confuses a religious rite with a medically justified operation. Not the same thing obviously, and negative consequences of medically unjustified surgery can't be regarded as legally or morally the same as negative consequences of medically justified surgery.

Medical necessity is not the issue here; otherwise we would be speaking of banning piercings and tattoos. That is not the point of comparison, rather the faulty logic and policy of any general prohibition based on imperfect execution. We should not need to prove an act of utilitarian necessity – or even benefit – to avoid its proscription.

So the argument is that harm or injury is only harm or injury if it causes some permanent disability. By this reasoning a papercut is not an injury. Nor the extremely painful incident some years ago when I accidentally stabbed myself in the leg with a scalpel. Not harm. Not injury. So if I similarly stab someone else in the leg with a scalpel I do no harm, no injury? And so many forms of corporal punishment do no harm, no injury? I'll stop there, except to say that it all seems a liittle reminiscent of the bizarre arguments attempting to diminish what level of harm constituted torture. Once you start down that path.

By your reasoning the insertion of a needle to draw blood is an injury. The two features I most note about anti-circumcision sentiment are its emotively prejudicial language and the restrictive parameters of argument. If I reset a fellow’s dislocated arm, and you choose to limit the boundaries of consideration at the moment he screams in pain, you can claim I harmed him. Intention, consequence, and the full story count in all matters. (This is one reason, for instance, that any and all comparisons of circumcision to female genital mutilation are so profoundly dishonest.) You seem so far from wishing to recognize these requirements in this debate that you actually suggest my quite reasonable arguments verge on the bizarre. Well…

And to be slightly more objective about it, according to the Jerusalem Post article linked to earlier, the ruling was grounded in Germany's basic law, so not in an assertion of the judges' personal values.

I wasn’t suggesting that the decision of the judges emerged from merely personal values alone, but I am reassured to know that their thinking was founded objectively in Germany’s basic law, just as and Ruth Ginzberg’s and the Dissent’s mutually refuting arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act were both grounded in the U.S. Constitution.

You may find that the aforementioned Mr Neugroeschel of the JP can alleviate you of the need to indulge in conspiracy theory. He writes: "The medic in charge at the emergency room reported the case to the prosecutor’s office that pressed charges against the physician who conducted the circumcision."

I intended no implication of conspiracy, but instead of predisposition waiting to act. The medic in charge, then, I am to understand, was shocked, shocked to discover there were circumcisions being performed in Germany. Just so.

kellie said...

I may be wrong, but I would have thought that tattooing an infant would similarly be seen as an infringement of the child's rights. I would also have thought that the same would apply to pricking a baby with a needle for no good reason.

It would also be interesting to know if anything like Bob's earlier example of a child with ears pierced had ever come up in a German court.

kellie said...

On medical necessity - this is absolutely the issue according to the court ruling. This AFP report says that "the court specified that circumcision was not illegal if carried out for medical reasons."

Your painful resetting of the arm returns to muddling the issue of medical necessity. Here, as where a surgeon needs to create a wound in order to carry out a necessary medical procedure, the likely medical benefit must outweigh the harm or injury in order for the operation to proceed.

the sad red earth said...

Kellie,

This is how arguments go nowhere and become futile.

1. I am not arguing the German decision as a matter of German jurisprudence. I am arguing it philosophically against those defending the decision.

2. Those supporting the German court decision, such as you, have been basing the support on two arguments: a) harm, as the basis for the “medically necessary” distinction, and b) autonomy.

3. The medically necessary distinction is predicated on the judgment of harm. Thus the harm argument is prior. So, no, when we are arguing harm, medical necessity is very pointedly not the issue, for it only arises if one posits harm, which I dispute.

4. I offered the examples of tattooing and piercing in the context of dismissing medical necessity as the relevant issue before the matter of harm is decided. In responding to me, you switched my examples to the autonomy argument, when I did not raise them in that context.

kellie said...

Well, I may be able to put to rest all the comparisons with tattoos and pierced ears. Here's a quickly Googled blog post on child protection laws in Germany, though I can't vouch for its accuracy:

"Tattoos and piercing (exception the normal earrings) are forbidden to any child under 16. Kids 16 and older can get tattooed or pierced with parental permission only. This has to be in writing or the parent accompanies the child. Without permission you have to be 18 to get it done."

The passage on plastic surgery might also be seen as relevant:

"Nothing goes without parental permission unless you are 18 or older. But they do have guidelines to some of the more common procedures. For example: Ears that need to be corrected because they stick out, 6 years and older, Nose jobs and liposuction 16 and older and boobjobs not until your 18. Now these are guidelines and they are at the doctor’s best judgment to use."

In short, we can see that in ruling that German law on children's rights extends also to Muslim, Coptic, and Jewish children, the court was acting consistently with established precedents. For the court to have withheld legal protection due to religious considerations would have been to have discriminate against Muslim, Coptic, and Jewish children.

For the court to have discriminated against Jewish children due to guilt over the actions of the Nazis, as that Sad Red Earth post suggests, would have been dreadful.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"For the court to have withheld legal protection due to religious considerations would have been to have discriminate against Muslim, Coptic, and Jewish children.

For the court to have discriminated against Jewish children due to guilt over the actions of the Nazis, as that Sad Red Earth post suggests, would have been dreadful. "

Mind boggling irony. How did it ever come to this kind of twisted thinking? And pronounced with all the vigor, certainty and conviction of a shrill humanitarian.

In order to not discriminate against Jewish children, it is necessary to trample over one of the most important and foundational practices of Jews anywhere anytime in history.

When the Nuremberg laws were enacted in 1935, Jews who had enjoyed legal protection and the benefits of secure citizenship found themselves overnight on the wrong side of the law. Through no fault or transgression committed by them. The fence suddenly was moved and relocated to exclude them from the general polity. Jews who had lived there for centuries were suddenly guilty of a crime of identity. And there was nothing they could do about it but to comply with their new inferior and fugitive situation.

How is the ban on religious circumcision any different in its impact on the life of Jews in Germany today?

The intention was different. Under the Nazis, Jews became criminals because they were considered racially inferior.

This time the intention in grounded in the rights of the child; suddenly it is a crime to circumcise your Jewish baby boy, a religious practice that has been performed in Europe, for millenia without any interference from the state. So once again the fence has been moved and relocated to turn any Jew who would circumcise his child into a criminal.

This does not make sense. Why circumcision? Why now?

kellie said...

AJA, I think that my previous post should be enough, but as it crossed with your previous post, I'll try to avoid any loose ends here.

1. Jurisprudence depends on a foundation in philosophy, and I don't think you can separate a philosophical argument against the defence of a legal decision from a discussion of its legal basis.

2. Harm, yes. But on autonomy, I don't think anyone has so far argued that infants are autonomous. Rather the argument is about a child's right to care, and a dispute over the child's interest versus the carer's interest. The conventional view is that the child's interest is paramount, and if the carer cannot or will not act in the child's interest, the state must act to protect the interest of the child.

3. Argue harm before medical necessity you say. Very well, but note that in trying to argue against harm you found yourself leaning on an example of medical necessity, setting an arm! And followed it with "intention, consequence, and the full story count in all matters." Which is exactly what the medical necessity argument is concerned with.

4. Tattoos and piercings. Yes, well, I think we're done. Unless you've posted another comment in the time it took me to compose this one. We'll see.. click!

The Contentious Centrist said...

I presume, from the zealotry of the anti-circumcision advocates, that they hope the German ban will eventually extend to all of Europe, so that no Jew can find a corner where he can practice his religion in the manner of his tradition. This ban will affect the life of approximately 0ne million Jews (minus
Larry Derfner and his few Jewish friends). There are approximately 14 million Jews in the world today. So what to do about the other 13 million? What about the fact that in Israel 99.99 Jews circumcise their kids. I see a new campaign of vilification gathering acceleration to de-legitimize the Jews of Israel for severe infraction of human rights. I see even a complaint tabled on the UNHR council to denounce Israel's violations of human rights. I see a new campaign for boycotting Israelis from participating in European events because of its refusal to abide by European laws.

Tell me, how long before this scenario plays itself out, unrolling like a released tight coil?

Marko Attila Hoare said...

'Tell me, how long before this scenario plays itself out, unrolling like a released tight coil?'

I don't think you need to worry. For obvious reasons, Israel's enemies in the Arab and Muslim world are unlikely to join in condemning it for upholding circumcision.

Apparently, circumcision rates in Iran and Saudi Arabia are higher than they are in Israel:

http://www.circs.org/index.php/Reviews/Rates/Global

bob said...

Marko, those stats are not completely reliable in this case. They assume ALL Jews and ALL Muslims circumcise. The Israel figure is the Muslim population plus the Jewish population which (a) misses any non-circumcised Jews and (b) misses any circumcised non-Jews/non-Muslims - e.g. any Orthodox Christians or American missionaries. (Do Druze circumcise?)

Second, different Muslim traditions circumcise at different times, many (most?) not in babyhood, and old enough to make the child protection issue less relevant.

--

As I write this, Bessie Smith's "Gimme A Pigfoot And A Bottle Of Beer" has come on, which seems appropriately treyf for the conversation.

bob said...

Supporters of a ban are motivated by a desire to protect the rights of children, whereas opponents believe that circumcision isn't harmful, and are motivated by a desire to defend the right to a religious or cultural practice that they consider legitimate or necessary. Can we agree on that?

I would completely agree that SOME supporters/opponents are motivated by these concerns. I am sure that Kellie, Marko, Reuben and maybe even Larry Derfner are motivated by a desire to protect the rights of children, and are misguided in (a) radically over-emphasising the “harm” involved and (b) radically under-emphasising the importance of the practice to those who do it. In this sense, it is productive to have the conversation AJA has pushed, re the nature of the “harm” at stake and so on. More on that later maybe.

However, I am not so sanguine about the motivation of ALL supporters

It is probably un-productive for opponents of a ban to invoke strong comparisons with medieval antisemitism (Furedi) or Nazi Germany (me and Noga). But this is a symptom of the importance we know Jews invest in the procedure, something as I said under-emphasised by ban supporters and possibly frustratingly impossible to understand within a purely liberal philosophical framework of individual rights and autonomy. It is also a symptom of the historical context in which we are operating (whether or not this was the proximate cause of this specific German legal decision), a period in which bans and boycotts which fall on Jewish shoulders are mooted with depressing, wearying regularity (as in last year’s attempt to ban circumcision in San Francisco, and the recent targeting of kosher ritual slaughter by British parliamentarians, Dutch politicians, EU officials etc).

(There is a parallel depressing, wearying legal assault on Muslim practices. The burkha ban has been raised with so many different justifications – integration, women’s rights, security – that is becomes harder and harder to take the justifications at face value and not conclude the real motivation is anti-Muslim racism, even though some individual banners might genuinely have other motivations.)

On the other hand, it is probably un-productive for banners to invoke the language of amputation, mutilation and barbarity, an extraordinarily excessive inflation of language which can only encourage suspicion about motivation. (Unlike Noga, I know Kellie and Marko well enough to not be suspicious of their particular personal motivations.) And that un-productiveness is enhanced when the barbarity language is yoked to accusation of un-reason against anti-banners.

The Contentious Centrist said...

I think you are gravely underestimating the ingenuity of the hatred of Arabs and their European lackeys in the UN. A formula will be found. After all, Hitler who thought all semites were inferior became the protector of Haj Amin al Hsseini. When it comes to Jews, every principle suddenly suffers from severe osteoporosis. For a body that finds ways of doing things like these, it is a child's play to find a way to single out Israel if the ends justifies it:

"In the past decade, the U.N. Human Rights Council elected Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya as chair, hailed Sri Lanka’s “promotion and protection of all human rights” after its army had killed thousands of civilians, and convened an emergency session to lament the death of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder of the Hamas terrorist organization.

Even so, historians will now have to decide whether the U.N.’s flagship human rights body is about to sink to a new low.

According to a U.S.-sponsored and EU-backed draft resolution that was debated today during informal meetings at the council in Geneva, the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad is a declared candidate for a seat on the 47-nation U.N. body, in elections to be held next year at the 193-member General Assembly."

The cognitive dissonance will not matter one whit if the goal is the demonisations of Jews (err, Zionists).

Have a great week, you all. I'm off to Israel today. Shalom Aleichem :)

bob said...

On tribalism.

I guess I agree with Marko that there is a sense in which it is legitimate to use the term “tribal” in this discussion. I think it is true that one can say something like Jewish religious practice (exemplified by male infant circumcision) more closely resembles what we might call tribal religion than it does the later monotheistic religions, in that it privileges collective, habituated practices over theological belief or what we call “spirituality”, and in that its mode of belonging and membership is based on more on genealogy and inheritance than confessional creed, hence the importance of initiation rituals and discouragement of conversion.

Although it needs to be carefully qualified, this is arguably a more meaningful “tribalism” than the tribalism of UKIP Little Englanders (or the tribalism of the Labour constituency written about by many commentators at the time of the 2010 election).

However, it is very different (and this is why I always insist context matters) to talk of Jewish tribalism than UKIP or Labour tribalism. Talking about Jewish tribalism (as you will see if you google “jewish tribalism”) risks invoking a centuries-old (and sometimes genocidal) structure of persecution and exclusion, in which the “tribalism” of Jews has given licence to acts of violence and discrimination. The image of the letting of children’s blood (as in certain representations of mohels, or in blood libels which always focus on Christian children) has been a staple of this discourse and reality.

bob said...

Enjoy Israel Noga.

bob said...

On decentism.

I can see why Marko raised this, given a genuine difficulty of discussing Israel/Palestine and antisemitism/Islamphobia, and the role of some decents (as well some Zionists and neoconservatives) in shutting down some discussion through shrill kneejerk denunciation. But it is interesting that Reuben raised the issue in a diametrically opposite way, as his sense was the prevailing liberalism and strident secularism of many decents sees them on the pro-ban side (as some were on the pro-ban side on the burqa issue). I haven't visited Harry’s Place lately, but I suspect that decents have not been mobilising against this ban, but rather that the opposition is more likely to come from a Jewish perspective of whatever political stripe. Maybe I’m wrong.

bob said...

Last comment from me for now.


On harm.

I think it is completely clear that the philosophical and jurisprudential basis on which this ruling was made, based on an interpretation of the German Basic Law (given that the Law itself has been silent on circumcision), and on which it has to be justified, is that of harm. As AJA says, only if we accept harm do we need to move to any discussion of medical necessity or conflict with freedom of religious expression/belief.

We don't need to accept the German law’s definition of harm, but it would be helpful to understand it. I have done some very quick superficial googling and come up with the following.

The German term is Körperverletzung, bodily harm. German law actually defines all invasive medical intervention as harm, and therefore harm itself in a medical context is not illegal, but only where there is neither explicit or implied consent nor emergency justification. In English law, harm is clearly defined, and involves the shedding of blood or cutting of skin.

Harm in general, therefore, can be a child protection issue, but not necessarily a legal issue, in that all harm is to be avoided, but not all harm is of severity to warrant intervention, and there are large grey areas where child protection practitioners will need to exercise subjective judgement. Kellie is right that we need to be wary of too high a bar for harm, but defining the bar too low for intervention is surely also to be avoided, as more or less any parent would agree (I doubt any parents have never harmed their children).

The law does not really deal with harm, but with grievous harm (schwere Körperverletzung), which is ill-defined in English law but better defined in German law, as one of the following: loss of sight, hearing, speech or reproductive capacity; loss or permanent disabling of an important part of the body (ein wichtiges Glied des Körpers); or permanent disfigurement, paralysis or illness.

Under this definition, it seems to me inconceivable that circumcision constitute GBH: the foreskin is not an important part of the body, and its removal is not disfigurement. I can see how a botched circumcision would risk GBH under this definition, but not circumcision in general. So, I’d be really curious to see how the court reached its judgement.

If we are inclined against the German legal definition as too high a bar, or think that harm itself rather than grievous harm, should be outlawed, then that’s fine, but we need to set a clear standard, that makes sense in cases other than circumcision.

I am also curious about the case reaching the court. I don't know about German hospitals. What is the “medic in charge at the emergency room” and why was the physician guilty of something that the medic was not, if it is circumcision itself rather than the botching of circumcision that is grievous bodily harm.

modernity ghost said...

Bob,

Concerning the statistics, what has been left out and should be obvious to see is, time.

Opponents of circumcision, thus far, as far as I can see, have plucked out anecdotal evidence but not addressed the total numbers and time involved.

If we make a working assumption that it's gone on for at least 2000 years and has been wide spread, then one might not unreasonably conclude that anywhere between 200-400 million to over a billion men have undergone this procedure.

Therefore, if it is incredibly detrimental there should be (given the sampling) widespread data on these matters.

Further, given its historical usage one would reasonably assume, if it is terribly detrimental, that there should be a wealth of literature going back at least to millennium.

However, for some inexplicable reason that evidence hasn't been put, or even intimated at.

Again, if any practice has been going on for thousands of years and has deleterious effects (be it alcohol usage, drug abuse or even bloodsports, etc) then there should be a wealth of evidence to make that case.

If it exists.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

'I think you are gravely underestimating the ingenuity of the hatred of Arabs and their European lackeys in the UN. A formula will be found. After all, Hitler who thought all semites were inferior became the protector of Haj Amin al Hsseini.'

It's exactly this sort of OTT rhetoric that makes it so difficult to have a reasonable discussion relating to Jews or Israel.

Leaving that aside, hope you enjoy your stay in Israel.

kellie said...

Bob, on your confusion regarding the “medic in charge at the emergency room”, referred to in the JPost account, this would be the medic dealing with the patient when according to the AFP report "A few days after the operation, his parents took him to hospital as he was bleeding heavily." So not someone involved in the initial circumcision.

On defining the bar too low for intervention, I'm amongst those parents who has harmed a child in exactly the way AJA describes, drawing blood while cutting an infant's nails. This doesn't argue against a low bar for defining harm, however. Clearly I caused harm, and the argument against intervention is that it was a once-off accident.

Had it been clear that I had deliberately drawn blood to even the same small degree, without any justification of it being necessary for the physical well being of the child, that would have been justification for state intervention.

And (less relevant to this case) had it happened accidentally but repeatedly, or been accompanied by numerous accidents of a similar degree, it would have justified intervention on the grounds that I would then have been demonstrably unfit to care for the child.

bob said...

Clearly I caused harm, and the argument against intervention is that it was a once-off accident.

One of the nice things about circumcision is it is usually a once-off procedure ;)

Marko Attila Hoare said...

'One of the nice things about circumcision is it is usually a once-off procedure ;)'

Not if you have more than one sons...

kellie said...

Now Marko, this is the heart of the confusion: who is having the circumcision, child or parent?!

kellie said...

Going back to your previous post, I now see that some of the extreme language Noga introduced into this thread (chopping of penis, barbarity,) came from there. I still don't understand why she was so insistent that what others said on this thread was interchangeable with those extreme words that she had held onto so tightly from the earlier occasion, nor why she didn't just point out their true provenance.

I do think though that Noga seems very comfortable with extreme language, and probably prefers a debate in those terms rather than something cooler and more measured.

modernity's ghost said...

"probably prefers a debate in those terms rather than something cooler and more measured."

Bob,

Kellie makes a point on language, but I suspect that would be true of any group of people who felt that something intrinsic to their identity was being denigrated or attacked.

But not being satisfied with my own subjective view there's a way to prove it

As an experiment, pick a topic which is central to the identity of a group of people, say, the Welsh or the Irish.

Then go to a forum where such people congregate & argue (in very reasonable terms) that
1) it is anachronistic
2) harmful
3) old-fashioned (or nationalistic, etc)
etc

I assume that the language in response would be a lot fruitier and contain a lot of venom, more so than the above.

Again, try and attack something that is perceived as being central to peoples’ belief systems and invariably you'll get a vigorous response, and this is verifiable by conducting that small experiment above.

That applies to Jews, the Welsh or even the Irish!

kellie said...

Modernity, I wouldn't want to fall into some nationalist way of thinking in claiming that one group was less capable of temperate language than another. My main thought is that if one does wish for a less heated exchange it might be better not to exaggerate the words of others.

bob said...

Ah yes, I'd thought there was more vitriol in the thread; it was Gypsum and Dreamer in the previous one. And now we have a new example from our friend Will placed, oddly, in the next thread: chopping the ends of kiddie cocks - that's your business now. You utter fith job cunT. You need to be belted about a bit. hopefully untill you die.

kellie said...

Will the conversation killer. It would have been a mercy to leave him alone ranting in the wrong thread. Is it necessary to note that his incitement to violence crosses a line not necessarily protected by the standard liberal view of free speech?

Less seriously, I fully intend to object "phantom horror!" the next time I hear someone on the radio talk about pay cuts, or spending cuts, or interest rate cuts. The brutality!

modernity ghost said...

Bob,

If people want to have a less heated discussion around such topics you might remind them that suggesting one of posters might be "Mad" is grossly offensive.

Also, using the term disingenuously, to imply that other posters are contriving, shifty and insincere, etc is arguing in bad faith.

Not forgetting that such remarks cut both ways, but do have a natural consequence of ruining a potentially intelligent exchange.

All of that aside, it is clear there are people with objections to circumcision, coming in two broad forms:

1) those concerned with botchy, unhygienic circumcisions, etc

2) those with a more fundamental objection to the principle of circumcision.

I think it's perfectly possible to ensure that all circumcisions are carried out to a high level of hygiene by medical specialists, and thus eliminate many of the genuine concerns, etc, *if* that is an issue.

Of the latter group, those fundamentally opposed to circumcision, I doubt anything will placate them (much like fanatical 'anti-Zionists') and I wonder why bother?

kellie said...

Bob, could you ask Modernity's Ghost to pass the salt? I'd ask myself but from his last comment I get the impression that we're no longer on speaking terms.

Also on seeming madness, could you mention to him that though I'm not very well read, I think Hamlet is at least as fine a play as Alice in Wonderland is a book.

Also, that I agree on the impossibility of diagnosing madness, certainly across the internet, which is why I didn't attempt it in any of my comments above.

If you have a mo, could you also mention that I think motive just as hard to accurately ascertain, even in oneself, and it's quite a waste of time to try. Bad motives don't guarantee bad outcomes, any more than good motives ensure good outcomes. Likely and actual outcomes are by far the best measure of any action, not the guessed at motives of its proponents.

An awful lot of effort has been spent on motive here, not least by our own Ghost on the battlements.

Entdinglichung said...

another legal remark: German law also contains the possibility that something is "illegal but permitted", e.g. the regulations on abortion are tailored in that way, some commentators in Germany have raised, that a similar position can be applied in the circumcision question

Anonymous said...

I am frequent lurker who is also shocked to see Bob take such a lax stance on ritual/cultural child genital cutting.

Humans may not have "absolute sovereignty" but this is a very simple matter of protecting children from medically unnecessary surgery, mostly done without any chance of consent. Girl children receive this protection and a basic sense of legal equality demands that boys be similarly protected.

To see the likes of Furedi and O'Neill so viciously attack a human rights issue is sick and unsettling. This is the worst of leftist moral relativism and 'racism' hysteria at play.

-- Elisabeth

Sarah AB said...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2012/jul/17/german-circumcision-affront-jewish-muslim-identity?utm_term=Faith+in+the+Media&utm_content=Hour+Faith&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=FMA

I suppose people have seen this? I didn't find it particularly persuasive, personally. For example:

"Which is why I regard the liberal mindset as a diminished form of the moral imagination. There is more to right and wrong than mere choice."

Neither sentence seems to mean anything much.

Bob said...

Elisabeth also left an interesting comment at Reuben's 3rd Estate post, linked to above:

“whole range of decisions on behalf of their children”
I cannot help laugh that you write that whilst speaking of a sense of “proportion”.
This is not forcing a child to play the cello, do lousy chores or get a vaccine for a dangerous disease. We are talking about medically unnecessary removal of part of the body without consent simple because a religion or culture approves of it.
The fact you dismiss concern as “cod-Freudian melancholia” sounds very defensive. As a man who is circumsised, you seem to basically to fall into the usual ugly machismo pattern of belittling any display of ‘unacceptable’ feeling in other men, since acknowledging its validity for them might force you to examine yourself. In essence, you tell us that a manly man is only concerned with the effect on sexual pleasure, not some effette notion of bodily violation.


Myself, I am extremely dubious about the principle of "bodily violation", which is a very modern development of the liberal obsession with personal autonomy which I think to be skeptical about. I don't think it's macho to say that the obsession with the foreskin displayed by the intactivist movement seems to me to display a vicarious male desire to claim victim status, due to the ubiquity of victimologist identity politics in our litigious, me-me-me, pop psychology culture, correctly named years ago by Lasch as a culture of narcissism. Ulrich Beck (not a theorist I like) rightly notes that in our contemporary moment, politics is about the distribution of "bads" not the distribution of "goods", and crying victimhood is the path to political success today. Hence the utterly inappropriate comparison with FGM and real bodily violations experienced by women and girls.

Humans may not have "absolute sovereignty" but this is a very simple matter of protecting children from medically unnecessary surgery, mostly done without any chance of consent. Girl children receive this protection and a basic sense of legal equality demands that boys be similarly protected.

This is a version of Kellie's claim that not letting Jews practise their traditions constitutes discrimination against Jews. These notions of "equality" and "discrimination" are so abstract as to be meaningless, given the different position boys and girls have in our society.

Bob said...

Thanks Sarah, for Giles Fraser's excellent Guardian comment piece. Interesting he grounds his objection in exactly the same terms as me: critique of liberalism. I thought more highly of it than you did, I think.

"Which is why I regard the liberal mindset as a diminished form of the moral imagination. There is more to right and wrong than mere choice."

The liberal moral imagination reduces all moral questions to personal autonomy, which diminishes the moral imagination in the sense that it cuts us adrift from the web of connections tying us to wider communities and collectivities, to the dead and to the not yet born, to our ever-changing cultures and indeed (although this is not relevant to the circumcision issue, but is part of Fraser's broader critique) to our species-being and planet.

--

I relate to Fraser, in the sense that his response to this, like mine, is rooted in his own attenuated Jewishness and his sense of how little there is to pass on. (My wife, it is probably relevant to say, agrees with Kellie and Marko on this topic; my boys are not circumcised and I never even thought of arguing for them to be circumcised.)

I was intrigued though, and I'm sure he's written about it elsewhere, by the "long story" of his conversion to Christianity, in that Christianity, and the notion of conversion, are based on a theological concept of faith ("something that goes on in your head"), which he calls a "modern mistake". I'll obviously have to read more of his writing!

kellie said...

I hadn't seen it. Awful. But the man's a priest, so rationality would be too much to expect. 28 pages of comments? I don't dare look.

".. to abandon one's Jewish identity was to do Hitler's work for him" - first time I heard that phrase was in an anecdote from a friend of my partner, a non-Jewish man who told of going out with a Jewish woman in his younger days in Manchester. They would sometimes drop into visit her grandmother, who seeing them together would shout at them, "you're doing Hitler's work for him!"

bob said...

Stella Duffy's criticism of Fraser is the most powerful one: "er, quite a few Jewish women might think being Jewish isn't limited to being a circumcised man?" which is in response to this:
"And circumcision is the way Jewish and Muslim men are marked out as being involved in a reality greater than themselves."

However, I don't think he is (or at any rate meant to be or should be) suggesting that circumcision is the only way Jewish and Muslim men are marked out as being involved in a reality greater than themselves, but nonetheless this is the way that is practised in Jewish culture.

--
I hadn't seen Angela Merkel's comment before, which seems spot on to me:
"I do not want Germany to be the only country in the world in which Jews cannot practise their rites."

bob said...

Kellie, I didn't like the Hitler's posthumous victory argument either, a form of the reductio ad Hitlerum that I skirted near to above and drew back from. I've heard it used in similarly dubious (and effectively racist) ways.

bob said...

One more thing, while I'm here. This issue plays very differently for Jews than for Muslims, in that, as Fraser says, you can be an atheist Jew - but (I believe) you can't be an atheist Muslim. More importantly, Jewish practice is very clear about this happening on the 8th day, whereas in Islam there are a variety of traditions, many of which circumcise around eight or ten, and therefore could probably slide by under the new interpretation of the law, if I read Ent. right when he says the consent point will probably be "10 years, the age when children according to German law also have to be consulted about a change in their religious adherence".

On the other hand, it seems to me that circumcising at age eight or even more ten or eleven must be significantly more traumatic and painful than as a baby, and much more likely to cause the long-term psychological harm which infant circumcision most certainly doesn't.

stelladuffy said...

Correction, my tweeted response to Giles Fraser : "er, quite a few Jewish women might think being Jewish isn't limited to being a circumcised man?"

was actually in response to his tweet : "To those who hated my Guardian circumcision piece, one question: Are you really happy for the Germans to ban what it is to be Jewish?"

Which does rather suggest that 'to be Jewish' = to be a circumcised MAN.

While we're on the topic though, when my (Jewish) wife and I were trying (and sadly failing) to have children, we decided we would not circumcise a son. As my wife's son, any boy she gave birth to would have been born Jewish anyway - circumcised or not. For two women to chose then to circumcise a baby boy, seemed to us to be both anti-male and unnecessary.

kellie said...

Bob, where you write "These notions of "equality" and "discrimination" are so abstract as to be meaningless, given the different position boys and girls have in our society." in response to Elisabeth's comment that a basic sense of legal equality demands protecting boys as well as girls from medically unnecessary surgery, I'm afraid I'm utterly bewildered.

There's nothing abstract about the words medically unnecessary surgery.

If your point is that we have to give greater rather than equal protection to the weakest, and therefore should give greater protection to girls rather than boys, I have difficulty in seeing how you can argue that a male infant not yet able to even sit up, let alone crawl or speak, is in any position of strength. They may end up in a stronger position as an adult compared to their sisters, they may not, but that has absolutely nothing to do with their position at the point where you wish to justify this non-consensual medically unjustified minor surgery.

Equality and discrimination are being argued in quite clear terms here, and trying to evasively blur their meanings won't wash.

Religious freedom is the freedom for an individual to practice their religion, and to have freedom of speech on their religion, and freedom of assembly with their co-religionists. It is not the right to impose their religion on others. Non-consensual religious circumcision is not an expression of freedom of religion, it's the old imposing their will on the bodies of the young.

To argue that religion gives people the right to mark their children's bodies in a way not otherwise allowed is to argue that the children of religious parents have fewer rights than other children. That is clear language, not abstract, not meaningless, and your attempts to fog the meaning won't wash.

kellie said...

Clumsy double use of "won't wash". Must proof read.

I also agree with Angela Merkel: I don't want Germany to be the only country that gives all children equal protection under the law.

bob said...

I notice some "anti-Zioinists" are taking some pleasure in Merkel's intervention. A Russia Today commenter: "This Merkel broad will do anything for money, Zionist money rules Germany that's why they are using the banks (Usuary) to enslave the people through debt." A topix.com commenter: "Merkel will not be allowed to break the law to satisfy the Zionist politicians." DavidDuke.com: "Jewish Supremacists Hysterical over Circumcision Ban in Germany". Not that this invalidates the pro-ban argument of course...

bob said...

Thanks for visiting Stella. Sorry if I misrepresented your argument, or its context. I think the point is a strong one, although not enough to convince me.

When Giles Fraser said "To those who hated my Guardian circumcision piece, one question: Are you really happy for the Germans to ban what it is to be Jewish?", he was off course constrained by the Twitter word length, and his comment does suggest that "what it is to be Jewish" is only accessible to males. But it is the case that something that almost all Jews take to be one of the core practises of Jewishness and Judaism is being made illegal in Germany, and that is, to say the least, problematic.

While we're on the topic though, when my (Jewish) wife and I were trying (and sadly failing) to have children, we decided we would not circumcise a son. As my wife's son, any boy she gave birth to would have been born Jewish anyway - circumcised or not. For two women to chose then to circumcise a baby boy, seemed to us to be both anti-male and unnecessary.

This is very interesting, and I can relate. But the "born Jewish anyway" bit, though accepted by so many people, is problematic. The Halachic rule that Jewishness is based on the matrilineal is arguably "discriminatory" by the liberal standards of Kellie, Elisabeth et al, and at any rate no longer held by progressive Jewish denominations, whereas the strictly observant (who would presumably not recognise a same-gender marriage anyway) would not consider someone fully Jewish who is not observant, and not circumcised. Defining Jewishness by biological descent seems to me much more problematic than by practice. In fact, it is precisely because I am opposed to ascriptions of identity simply by genetic that I am so concerned about the survival of practices.

bob said...

Btw, I was using "strictly observant" in the previous comment slightly euphemistically, for the "glat kosher". Not in an approving way; I don't recognise their observance as the only valid one. And by "progressive denominations", I meant it in a very broad way, to include Liberal, Reform, Reconstructionist and Masorti.

kellie said...

Bob, rather than "one of the core practises of Jewishness and Judaism is being made illegal," I think it is more accurate to say it's been ruled as already illegal under existing law. The difference is important.

bob said...

And, as another footnote, Jewish matrilineality is not in the Torah, unlike infant circumcision; it is a folk convention established in exile, apparently in the 2nd century CE, in the Rabbinic period. Hence the relative comfort of the Reform movement in dispensing with it. And I am not sure about what I said about Masorti Jews above; maybe they only recognise matrilineal Jews.

--

I know Kellie's points deserve a reply, but I have to go and cook the kids their tea. Maybe tomorrow.

bob said...

Can I recommend this excellent post by Matt at Third Estate responding to Giles Fraser.

Reading it brought into focus the most objectionable bit in Fraser's invocation of Emile Fackenheim: his use of the word martyr in this sentence: "Jews are commanded to survive as Jews by the martyrs of the Holocaust." What the fuck does that mean? In what sense were the dead of the Holocaust martyrs? Martyrs to what, or for what? Their deaths were senseless and horrific, and to derive some spiritual satisfaction from them is, to say the least, distasteful. To my knowledge, martyrdom is a little used concept in the Jewish tradition, and much more powerful in the later monotheisms, Christianity and Islam. In fact, Fraser here is making a kind of Christological use of the Holocaust, which is offensive.

bob said...

The issue has also spread, via Fraser, to Shiraz Socialist, where, unsurprisingly, the ultra-secularists are ascendant, and circumcision is seen as child abuse.

Prianikoff provides some dissent:
//“Of course, both male and female cicumcision is child abuse, plain and simple.”

The fact that you even equate the two shows that you’re certainly simple.
One denies sexual pleasure, the other doesn’t.
Male circumcision also has potential health benefits; less likelihood of infection in adulthood; lower incidence of cervical cancer.
I’m a socialist and I’m circumcised.
I’ve been to Jewish Brit Milah ceremonies as an adult.
I don’t recognise the description “child abuse”, nor the lurid terminology used by some of the commenters on this thread, which have deeply racist overtones.

Ever since the Romans, state bans on male circumcission have had reactionary, cultural suprmacist motives. During the reign of Hadrian, they even provoked a mass uprising against Imperial control.

The background to the current German legislation isn’t so different.
Having already committed genocide against European Jewry, the German capitalists encouraged millions of culturally Muslim gastarbeiten into their country.
Now that German capitalism faces a Europe-wide denbt crisis, the racists are coming out of the wood-work and encouraging a cultural backlash against them.
Anyone who is a socialist should realise this.
They shouldn’t be providing grist to the mill of another imperialist bandwagon with spurious liberal secular arguments.
//

bob said...

Re Kellie, and these are probably my last words on the subject (he says hopefully)...

The reason we will never agree is that we have a fundamentally different understanding of male infant circumcision. I simply don't recognise it as harm or harmful. If I was presented with real evidence that I'm wrong, I might change my mind. But I have now spoken to several men who were circumcised as children, to parents of boys who were, and am also drawing on my own experience of circumcision as an adult, and with one exception none of these people recognised the experience in the terms you present it. It's like we're talking about two different things. Calling a bris medically unnecessary surgery is like calling a condomble ceremony an arbitrary arrangement of beats, or like calling a Catholic mass a drinking session. It's not a false description exactly, but it's not a truthful one; it is so utterly inadequate as a description as to be unrecognisable to anyone who has experienced it.

--

I am not arguing that the boy child is in a position of strength. I am arguing that there is no comparison between something done to boys and something done to girls in a patriarchal society, so equality is a red herring. FGM is about a systematic denial of sexual pleasure to females.

---

The second reason we will never agree is because I just don't share the conception of religion behind the abstract religious notion of "religious freedom" ("the freedom for an individual to practice their religion" etc). This conception of religion does not speak to the reality of most non-Christian religions, which are not about individual belief. I'm talking about group rights, not individual rights, and cultural rights not religious ones.

--

"The old imposing their will on the bodies of the young" is a banal fact of all actually existing human societies. At eight days old, a child has no autonomy; everything that happens to them is us imposing our will.

--

To argue that religion gives people the right to mark their children's bodies in a way not otherwise allowed is to argue that the children of religious parents have fewer rights than other children.

That would make sense if, say, some people circumcised their kids for kicks, and so circumcision was made illegal, and then there was a campaign for the religious to be excluded from the prohibition. (That's kind of parallel to situations like the use of ganja in Rastafarianism or the use of peyote in the Native American Church. Or perhaps more strictly to the "ritual child abuse" practices said to exist in some African communities in the UK.)

But circumcision is, of course, perfectly legal for medical reasons in Germany. In other words, the reverse of what you say is the case: the ONLY people who will be affected by the ban are the religious, and specifically some religions which are practised only by ethnic minorities in Germany.

--

I think that's all.

kellie said...

Well Bob, we're using very different definitions of harm. By your definition, slapping an infant wouldn't necessarily be harmful either, yet it's illegal. And we don't generally take adult testimony to the effect of "it never did me any harm" to be a worthy counter-argument.

On freedom of religion, I recognise that individual freedom of religion isn't favoured by many religions. It isn't favoured by the Roman Catholic Church either, with its use of the term lapsed Catholic to deny recognition of individual decisions to leave the Church. But if you go with group rights you lose individual rights, and then you no longer have freedom of religion. Are you actually coming out against freedom of religion?

Finally, arguing that " the ONLY people who will be affected by the ban are the religious" ignores once again that this ruling does not impose a narrow ban on circumcision, but it rules that circumcision is already covered by an already existing wider ban that also includes tattoos, piercings, and plastic surgery, on the very young. I think this is about the third or fourth time I've pointed out this fact. You seem to have some difficulty taking it on!

kellie said...

There's a more fundamental objection to your comment that "the ONLY people who will be affected by the ban are the religious", in that those primarily affected would be the children no longer being circumcised, and few would regard an eight day old baby boy as religious in the normal understanding of the word.

AndrewB said...

I don't know much about circumcision, or many people who are circumcised, but I'm sure as hell glad no-one CUT PARTS OF MY FUCKING PENIS OFF when I was baby.

I can't engage with it in any level than that. Lots of jewish people do it, I guess so, ok, but seriously? Why are they CUTTING OFF BITS OF A PENIS? Isn't this so intuitively not cool? It wouldn't even be cool if adults are doing it, you bell-end/foreskin is a crucial bit of your wang! Well, it is for me. I can't believe people don't want to keep their foreskin.

Seriously, has the world gone mad? People are defending CUTTING OFF THE END OF BABY's WANGS???

kellie said...

There's a post today on the UN Dispatch blog about circumcision and AIDS. As it concerns voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) it's different in two key respects to infant religious circumcision, but as the topic came up earlier some may be interested in reading more.

kellie said...

Holiday reading from Max Dunbar - Society and Individualism: Why Giles Fraser Is Wrong About Everything

kellie said...

This Spiegel article from a couple of days ago is very detailed and interesting on the history of the legal debate within Germany, on the difficulty faced by the government as it tries to draft a law excepting non-medical infant male circumcision from existing child welfare law, and on comparisons with Sweden, Norway and France:

The French, who are especially strict about the separation between church and state, remain pragmatically silent on the issue. In principle, the removal of a boy's foreskins is considered assault, and consent of the parents only justifies the procedures in exceptional cases. But there are no accounts of criminal charges having been brought to date. Similar situations apply in other European countries. Lawyers have expressed their concerns everywhere, and yet "we have not become aware of a legally binding conviction in any country," says the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in the southwestern German city of Freiburg.

kellie said...

And a Danish link, from Politiken a week ago, on complaints about regulations on medical supervision of religious circumcisions not being followed.

Entdinglichung said...

there are also some doctors in Germany who promote circumcision saying that it curbs the risk of women developing cervical cancer