My Take: Jews and Muslims should unite against Germany circumcision ban
Arsalan Iftikhar says the debate on circumcision is really about religious freedom.
July 17th, 2012
07:41 AM ET

My Take: Jews and Muslims should unite against Germany circumcision ban

Editor's note: Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and author of the book "Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era."

By Arsalan Iftikhar, Special to CNN

(CNN)–According to recent reports, a German court's ban on circumcising baby boys has provoked a rare show of unity between Jews, Muslims and Christians who see it as a threat to religious freedom, while doctors warn it could increase health risks by forcing the practice underground. This recent ruling has global media commentators on all sides of the political aisle debating whether this issue is an affront to religious freedom or a victory to protect the foreskins of young male babies around the world.

Several prominent writers, including Michael Gerson of the Washington Post, rightfully challenged this recent legal decision by a local German court in Cologne, which would effectively criminalize ritual circumcision for infant males as an exercise of religious freedom for minority religious communities in the country.

Gerson and others have been highlighting this most recent issue vis-à-vis Europe’s infamous history of anti-Semitism, which has long been a sociopolitical stain of xenophobia across European lands.

However, it is quite interesting to note that most of these same commentators are not even adequately addressing the fact that the German case in question actually involved a Muslim family, not a Jewish one.

Basically, many of these commentators are citing a legal ruling against a Muslim family in Germany to fashion entire columns devoted to prejudice vis-a-vis the Jewish community, with barely a reference to the original case involving Muslims or rising tide of Islamophobia in Europe, which exists alongside anti-Semitism on the spectrum of xenophobia and must be eradicated.

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Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel ignored the Muslim origins of this controversy when she recently told her party members that Germany risked becoming a "laughingstock" and that her country should not be "the only country in the world in which Jews cannot practice their [religious] rites".

This entire meta-narrative is even more perplexing since most estimates find that Germany is home to approximately 120,000 Jews and more than 4 million Muslims.

On the other side of the Germany circumcision debate, noted journalist Andrew Sullivan recently wrote about the topic and asked, "[Can] parents permanently mutilate a child's genitals to pursue their own religious goals?"

Although Sullivan clearly states that he "veers on the side of permissiveness" in this case in Germany, he does anchor his position on the belief that the religious practice of infant circumcision is tantamount to male genital mutilation. "At some point, one can only hope this barbarism disappears," writes Sullivan. "And it will have nothing to do with anti-Semitism or Islamophobia; it will be about defending the religious liberty of Jewish and Muslim male [babies] to choose their religion, and not have it permanently marked as scar tissue on their [genitals]."

Although I usually agree with much of his writing on most subjects, I would be curious to see if  Sullivan would also consider parents who pierce the ears of their baby daughters to be committing "earlobe mutilation"?

Probably not.

Having said that, this is yet another instance of a "teachable moment" where Jews, Muslims and people of all faiths (or no faith) can unite to promote religious freedom for all people around the world. Since we tend to live in tribalistic circles where Muslim people tend to focus only on Islamophobia and Jewish people tend to focus only on anti-Semitism, we need to instill a new culture where Jewish people speak against Islamophobia and Muslim people speak against anti-Semitism across the globe.

Similarly, as an international human rights lawyer, it would behoove me to highlight the importance for the global community to protect the legal and political rights of all religious minorities in every part of the world.

In the case of the German circumcision ban, people of conscience should stand with both Muslim and Jewish communities in Germany to help ensure that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are equally challenged, especially since we are seeing right-wing xenophobic political parties continue to rise to prominence in many part of the European Union.

Similarly, we should also speak up for disenfranchised religious minorities in other parts of the world, whether it is Coptic Christians in Egypt, the Baha'i community in Iran, the Rohingya Muslims in Burma (now known as Myanmar) or the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan.

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Even though we do not yet live in a world where many Jewish and Muslim people agree on many geopolitical matters, the concept of  religious freedom should be something that people of all faiths (or no faith) should be able to agree upon wholesale.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that, "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

Basically, at a time where the world seems to become even more polarized on a daily basis, this latest Germany circumcision debate should be used by Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities to stand in solidarity and unite in an essence of true Abrahamic camaraderie, regardless of whether we are circumcised or not.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Arsalan Iftikhar.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church and state • Germany • Islam • Judaism

soundoff (1,235 Responses)
  1. Blah

    Stupid people mutilating their children for some fairy tale. It can't get uglier than that...

    July 17, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Bethany

      I hope you are a woman writing that. I'd hate to think you were a man and didn't have that done. Now, that's gross.

      July 17, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Bethany's a virgin who's all of 16.

      July 17, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • jimmer

      "I hope you are a woman writing that. I'd hate to think you were a man and didn't have that done. Now, that's gross."

      You wouldn't think it was gross if all 11 inches of my uncut beast was plowing you.

      July 17, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Jaysfan

      We dont live in 1000BC where soap and proper hygiene products arent available. If you get an infection then your just stupid.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • bczu

      jimmer, still looks like an uncut cigar. And females dont approve. I may not be 11 inches, but every girl I've screwed loves blowing me. Have fun cleaning out that from under cheese.....

      July 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • MYOB

      nothing to do with faith and everything to do with looks.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • jimmer

      "jimmer, still looks like an uncut cigar"

      They look exactly the same when erect. (well yours looks smaller)

      "And females dont approve"

      Never had a woman complain. Most think it is great that I have not had my dick mutilated.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • bczu

      Ha, "most" girls.....

      July 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • bczu

      BTW is this the part where I pretend to have an 11.5 inch pen is? Its fun to play pretend on the internet isnt it?

      July 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Jenvy44

      Leave it on, keep it clean. More to play with!

      July 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • sense

      BCZU... I've had both, cut and un cut. I much prefer un cut. It's true, it's more to play with - it's all fun. And it's nice, knowing my partner is more sensitive, since the portion of his body with the most nerve endings has not been removed. My partners have been clean, but naturally, they will be clean – the body takes care of itself pretty well, I think. I love the o ral act, and I find the skin just gives me something more to focus on and play with. I'm sorry to say it, but you're missing out, and I think it's a travesty that this is done so often. I also think the women are missing out - there are reasons for the women's enjoyment to leave the skin, it has to do with the way things move. So stupid to mess up what was already perfectly made.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • bczu

      Sense is either a man with an uncut member. Or a fat ugly chick that is married to an uncut man. "Im sorry but you are missing out" How the heck would you know if you are female!!!! You have no clue of what you are talking about!!

      July 18, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • sense

      BCZU, you are wrong on both counts. I was married to a cut man and before him, all my boyfriends were also cut. Since I left my ex, however, I've had a few relationships – and I won't say the skin is everything, but I do prefer it. Both ways – o.ral and otherwise. I'm not an ugly, fat chick, either. On the contrary, I'm generally considered pretty hot. I have plenty of options – and I prefer men who are tall, dark, strong, and natural. 🙂

      July 18, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  2. HeavenSent

    A little snip, who cares, and it is written in the bible, so it must be good, GOD has spoken. I myself have had forty eight face lifts, that is why, even at my advanced age, my t*its have not sagged and jesus still loves me.

    July 17, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Jaysfan

      you must look like absolute HORSE with that many face lifts. Your in denial women!

      July 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • derp

      You have never seen one, so you have no say in this matter.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • PunchInTheFace

      So essentially God messed up when He made the penis and now mankind has to fix it. But I thought God was perfect....

      July 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  3. DaVuVuZeLa

    foreskins are as useful as the appendix. You don't need them, get rid of them.

    July 17, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I like my foreskin. It's sensitive to touch in a pleasurable way.

      Also, your appendix can just decide to kill you or make you seriously ill some day (if we can allow the personification of organs for a second). Your foreskin isn't going to kill you.

      July 17, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Blah

      You should consider chopping your external ears, your eyebrows, eye lashes, your hair(remove the follicles), your nails, your toes, external part of nose as they don't serve any purpose right?? In your case, you might as well cast your brains away as its seems to be useless.

      July 17, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Logic

      Perhaps you should not stop at the foreskin, keep your genes out of the pool.

      July 17, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Jaysfan

      Clearly those with no foreskin will never really understand why someone with it would never want to get rid of it. Do you have an idea how many nerve endings are down their? HA id hate to be in your situation where you dont feel as good as I do while plowing the misses.

      Girls who "hate it" have watched too much MTV end of story.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Isaard Davton

      My friend you are soooo wrong, the foreskin is not the wrapper, it is the candy! It was removed from me for REAL medical reasons, believe me, I feel less than 50%. You don't know it because you have no reference to compare.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • jimmer

      "foreskins are as useful as the appendix"

      Really, so when you wife licks your appendix it feels amazing?

      You have half the sensation capability that I do.

      Bummer for you.

      Try this, cut off half of your dick head and see how good s e x feels.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • PunchInTheFace

      But with this foreskin I could make a hat.... or a gazelle.... or a broach.....

      July 17, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • L de B

      FYI the appendix is useful, has a purpose and there for a reason, as is the foreskin and tonsils.

      July 17, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • sense

      The appendix has a use. It stores extra helpful bacteria which the gut needs. Just like the gallbladder and spleen. We can live without them, but they have an actual use. The foreskin actually protects the woman during inter.course. It reduces abrasion and enhances the woman's experience, due to the way things work... I am a woman who much prefers men who are intact. I like men the way God made them. I would not cut my sons, and I actually think it a great crime that their father was cut as an infant. I also would not let anyone cut my daughters. Just because SOME cultures find it necessary and good to do so, does not make it so.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  4. pastmormon13

    Or...if you don't like the law in Germany that the German citizens have chosen to back, then leave Germany.

    July 17, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • JWT

      People have the right to protest laws they feel are unjust – just like protesting anyto gay laws in the USA.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  5. Gubbe

    Why would anyone worship a god who demands that his followers mutilate their children's genitals? Any god who would intentionally create children with imperfections and then order his followers to correct these imperfections with a knife is a sadist. If he did it unintentionally he's incompetent. Either way, if a god ordered me to do that to my kid, I would tell him to kiss my misteltoe.

    July 17, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Arnold

      Abraham or this fictional character was a child abuser, he tries to murder his child and when not satisfied the voice in his head says he must cut his son's penus!

      It's called Evolution, if being cut was such a great design why aren't boys born that way?

      July 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • bczu

      Arnold doesnt understand evolution through natural selection.....

      July 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • jimmer

      "Arnold doesnt understand evolution through natural selection"

      It would appear that he does. Over time, the human species gradually developed a protective, highly sensitive covering for their male appendage. I'm quite sure that for the 98,000 or so years that humans existed with out cutting it off, it provided a benefit that improved ones abilities to pass that trait on.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • bczu

      Ummm no. We didnt slowly develop a protective skin over our members. Evolution through natural selection would go somehting like this. A mutated gene would give ONE random individual an uncut member. Every girl would choose him over your cigar di ck and pass on that gene. Then, people with cigar di cks would slowly be phased out.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Tell me

      "A mutated gene would give ONE random individual an uncut member."

      Yes, and that mutation already occurs. I read that it happens in about 5% of males (although I do not have a verified source handy for that exact figure).

      July 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • bczu

      There is no gene that controls whether a man has an uncut or a cut member. I was giving a hypothetical to show what evolution through natural selection is. You are all idi ots.....

      July 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  6. Cal

    A religious ceremony is meaningless if the person doesn't make the decision themselves. You can baptize an infant, but that won't stop them from converting to another religion or no religion at all later in life.

    July 17, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  7. Luis Wu

    It's ritual mutilation of a baby. Who in their right mind would be FOR that? Just illustrates the stupidity of religious people.

    July 17, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  8. Doc Vestibule

    While genital mutilation is a strange religious rite, is it really much more odd than ritual drowning, cannibalism, or self flagellation?

    July 17, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Forced drowning and cannibalism are illegal. As for self flagellation, you're only hurting yourself, so the state should have no input into it.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I'm not considering the legalities – just the absurdities.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      I believe that Doc was talking about ritual drowning (baptism) and cannibalism (transubstantiation and the Eucharist).

      July 17, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Well, being linguistically literalist, I didn't read into that, seeing as only in Catholicism is communion cannibalism, and I don't think wetting a baby's head const.itutes drowning. I was thinking of Occultist cannibalism and Christians drowning "witches".

      July 17, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Cal

      Depending on the severity to which one hurts themselves, the state could confine them to a mental insti tution.

      July 17, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Bethany

      It's more sanitary that not having it done.

      July 17, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  9. D

    So were we draw the line..... no vaccines to minors until they can choose.... no elective operations.... no ear piercing...... no blood transfusions....... no experimental cancer tratmensts....... it is a mater of the parens patria, what their parents consider to be for the best interest of the minor....... and if religion is envolved then it is a matter of their culture and no one wants their children singled out because they are different in a discriminatory society...........

    July 17, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Almost all of those things can be medical necessities or beneficial.

      The only questionable one is ear piercing, although I know I'd prefer to have a little hole in my ear than have the top of my winky cut off.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Matt

      I've never heard of parents piercing their childrens' ears. The rest are all medical procedures. What's your point?

      July 17, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Rational Libertarian


      To be fair, plenty of parents pierce their kids' ears.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • John

      but some "religions" believe you should NOT do those things to your children or yourself. Should they be punished if they watch their child die of leukemia if their faith says they must just watch? Where is their religious freedom. We routinely step in a take the children away. Mutilation is mutilation, whether or not you are doing it for religious purposes. Why can't people that do this to children admit it is mutilation? How would that change the "holiness" of what they are doing.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Boytjie

      If someone's ears were pierced and they don't like it, they can remove the jewelry and the hole will close up; you cannot regrow a foreskin. Also, pierced ears do not remove lots of pleasurable nerve endings.

      July 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  10. Rational Libertarian

    If you base your life and beliefs on a guy who fantasized about infanticide, you must have mental health issues.

    July 17, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • barnbldr

      First of all, Abraham didn't fantasize about infanticide. Isaac was a grown man at the time of the almost sacrifice. In his 20's. His father was near 100. If Isaac didn't want to go along with it he surely could have gotten away from the old man. He also made a choice based on his beliefs.

      July 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  11. Matt

    Apparently, religious freedom does not apply to defenceless, dependent children. Furthermore, reading as far as him equalling "islamophobia" (a nonsense term) with anti-semitism is about as much as one needs to know about the author's point of view.

    July 17, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  12. Colin

    The belief that an immortal being that created the entire cosmos caring about how much skin I have on my member is fvcking ludicrous. Societies should not pander to people who believe such garbage. This should be addressed as a purely health issue.

    July 17, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • lunchbreaker

      Skin that said creator put there himself. Of course he corrected himself before by destroying the majority of his favorite creation, what's a little skin?

      July 17, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  13. Rational Libertarian

    My Take: Jews and Muslims who want to disfigure children should go f.uck themselves.

    Does anybody else think the child in the picture looks like an alien?

    July 17, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Colin

      He's more like, "You want to do WHAT?"

      July 17, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Haha. A very apt response from the child, given what his weird parents are forcing onto his member.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • SHAME

      HAHAHA!! thank you that was hilarious! 'GET it away from ME!!!!

      July 17, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Lucy

      Are you kidding me? That is one cute baby and for you to think it looks like an alien tells me a whole lot about you. Disgusting excuse for a human.

      July 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  14. Honey Badger Dont Care

    The paragraph that got me the most was the one in which the writer stated:

    “Gerson and others have been highlighting this most recent issue vis-à-vis Europe’s infamous history of anti-Semitism, which has long been a sociopolitical stain of xenophobia across European lands.”

    Yea, and the church doesn’t have a history of kiIIing Jewish people and burning people who don’t believe as they do at the stake.

    Hypocrisy, thy name is religion.

    July 17, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  15. llɐq ʎʞɔnq

    What a load of crap. Genital mutilation is genital mutilation. The elephant in the room, as they all know, is the the next step will logically be that it is abusive to indoctrinate children into these cults, which it obviously is. THAT is what they know, and fear. Parents do not have the right to mutilate their kids. Yeah Germany.

    July 17, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  16. William Demuth

    We all know the Muslims have supported previous German policies, and would gladly man the gas chambers tomorrow given half a chance.

    This article is as absurd as the Bible.

    July 17, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Very true. Many people don’t know that the current wave of Arabic anti-Semitism was fostered by the Germans during WWII in order to destabilize the region and attempt to get them to fight on the side of the Axis.

      July 17, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  17. Morris Greene

    Jerry Sandusky's biggest mistake was not being a mohel or Muslim cutter for the Sunnet. Just watching any videos these religious kooks actually put up on You Tube would make even the toughest guy (assuming you have any empathy) both vomit and cry at the same time. Anybody who actually believes the right to mutilate a child is religious freedom, just watch some party "clips" from a Turkish Sunnet. If this author is human rights lawyer, pity the poor soul he is trying to save. MGM is a crime against defenseless children.

    July 17, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  18. don't do it

    Don't cut up those poor babies. And don't give me that old bunk about hygiene. Stupidity. Leave them along and all natural.

    July 17, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Your non-medical professional opinion does not matter. I don't have sons but I have a nephew who was not circu.mcised and ended up with severe health issues. This is honestly a matter that is between a professional in the medical field and the parents, it is not the business of anyone else.

      July 17, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • MashaSobaka

      Look, my dear, the fact that you clearly choose to ignore medical evidence does not actually mean that there is no evidence. Just a few days ago a report linked the practice to lowered risk of UTIs and other diseases. But I bet that was all dirty Moslem propaganda, eh?

      July 17, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Have your brain examined.

      July 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Ralf

      To "truthprevails":
      The often-cited excuse that it is a health benefit is overstated for the simple reason that there is a membrane between the foreskin and the head of the peni_s that prevents germs (bacteria) from collecting under the foreskin. This membrane is usually ruptured after first inter_course (or rough mastur_bation). So circu_mcision is not warranted for an infant, and is not worth the risk that ANY kind of surgery has – especially at such a tender age. When the child comes of age, then they can make the decision as to cut or not cut.

      July 17, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  19. Henry

    For an "international human rights lawyer" you sure don't seem very concerned about the human rights of the children.

    July 17, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • Boytjie

      My thoughts exactly!

      July 17, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Dennis

      You are so correct.

      July 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  20. Mirosal

    There is also the question of hygenics.... Almost all people I know have had their sons circu'mcised, and I did it to my 2 boys as well from a purely hygenic point of view. No religious reasoning is/was required. Anjd it does NOT take away anything at all from "endowment" .. you won't lose any size.

    July 17, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • don't do it

      This hygiene argument is totally ridiculous. You had it done to you so you want to inflict the same pain on your sons. Shame on you. You should have thought a little harder before you mutilated your babies.

      July 17, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Mirosal

      I'm glad it was done to me. It's much easier to keep clean, and I have never had a complaint from any lady about it. I am not Jewish, nor am I Muslim. I was raised Catholic, where it's not even an issue one way or the other.

      July 17, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Brooke

      you sound too lazy to wash yourself properly.

      July 17, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • robert

      How could you know that it is easier to keep clean? It all gets cleaned at the same time as the rest of your genitals, so no special tools or soaps required. After all, if He intended for you to be without a part of your body, such as your foreskin, why were you born with it? Glad I have not been mutilated in the name of religious belief and antiquated rituals.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • MashaSobaka

      Report after report has been released which links circu'mcision to lowered risk of various infections, some of them extremely dangerous. I don't understand the jump to blanket bans. Why not modify the procedure to make it more humane, if that's the fundamental complaint? Why deny children the right to have lower risk of potentially deadly disease?

      July 17, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Cal

      You have no idea about the cleanliness.. you just assume it would be difficult to keep clean? From someone with a complete package I can tell you it stays about as clean as the rest of me. Pure guesswork is a good reason to deform children

      July 17, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I'd be very skeptical of any report advocating circ.umcision. The Jewish lobby has far reaching influence.

      July 17, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Boytjie

      The "hygiene" excuse is pure BS! I guess we need to cut off kids' eras too since that seems to be skipped in washing quite often. It takes all of a few seconds to take care of when washing the rest of your body.

      July 17, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • bczu

      More chance of UTI's and contracting STD's. Keep lying to yourself though cigar di ck

      July 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Tell me

      "it stays about as clean as the rest of me."

      I doubt that you have never been "up close and personal" with a hooded one?

      July 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.