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"?
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.
About this blog
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.
Hands off the frankfurters.
LOL! Love your handle!
disgusting. genital mutilation. chopping of a piece of the human body for religious rites is absolutely disgusting. we rail the middle east and africa for female genital mutilation, but we don't blink an eye at male genital mutilation.
Its a medical procedure too- prevention...
American Academy of Pediatrics says:
"data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circ.umcision."
Yes mandy its a medical prodcedure that stops disease
not true. science does not support that old urban legend.
@Booty – the American Academy of Pediatrics would disagree:
Summary – there are benefits and risks. The decision should be up to the parents after receiving information on said benefits and risks.
"the American Academy of Pediatrics would disagree"
no, they wouldn't. you say there are risks/benefits, as do they, but the Academy says the risks/benefits are so minimal that "these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circ.umcision." and that's what i meant. there is no good reason to do it.
here's another quote from the website:
'Circ.umcision has been suggested as an effective method of maintaining p.enile hygiene since the time of the Egyptian dynasties, but there is little evidence to affirm the association between circ.umcision status and optimal p.enile hygiene."
it's a barbaric practice, cutting off a piece of a human p.enis. there is no outstanding medical reason to circ.umcise. abolish this awful practice. if someone wants to be circ.umcised at 18 as an adult, let them make that decision, but to cut of a piece of a baby's body without consent should be illegal.
@Booty – they just don't recommend it across the board for everyone. That's a lot different than calling health benefits 'urban myths'. There are benefits. It's like taking daily asprin. It doesn't provide enough benefits (from what I've read) for it to be recommended across the board for everyone. That doesn't mean that it doesn't provide benefits and people should weigh all of their options and consult their doctor when deciding whether to take asprin daily.
So a child is automatically the property of the religion of his/her parents?
Why do you think their so adamant about no abortion or contraception.
It is appalling that a man trained as a lawyer and specialising in human rights can not see the difference between piercing a child's ears, which removes no tissue and can reverse itself, with cutting off a normal, healthy, functional, non-rewing body part. It is in any case illegal to pierce a child's genitals.
Leaving a baby girl's genitals alone is exactly the same thing as leaving a baby boy's genitals alone. One is rightly required by law. Why not the other?
Wow so many republicans trying to stop circu-cissions. Tom who is the republucan spokesman is trollin trying to stop sensible medicine which stops the spread of HIV and HBP via male circcu-mcission. I bet romeny is all about taking the right to circu-mcise from your child. I bet he wants to spread HPB. silly chauvinist. GOP please stop the war on women!!!!
Reminds of the scene in "Schindler's List", where there's a loud speaker going through the street proclaiming that it is forbidden to prepare food in a kosher manner. As far the "health reason" tripe, the Nazi's hounded Jews into ghettos also for "health reasons"
That there are two traditional forms of male circu_mcision - one is to remove the foreskin, the other is to remove a very small portion of the foreskin for ritual purposes. It seems that the latter form should satisfy religious requirements; therefore, some possibility of compromise seems to exist.
Q: Why are rabbis so fat?
A: Because they eat all the foreskins.
Jews and Muslims should come together and agree to stop being so stingy and stop exploding in public.
Agreed, they act worse than blacks do sometimes. And the blacks are the lowest form of humans. Fact.
Interesting that a man of this education and with this job would cry foul at a law meant to protect the human rights of newborn infants to not have to endure unnecessary pain, suffering and lifelong scarification. In Mr. Iftikhar's world, religious rules and traditions obviously take precedence over the individual's right to self-determination. Human rights indeed. Religious freedom? Please... there's still nothing preventing parents and communities from indoctrinating children with religious drivel of any couleur – I'm sure the boys will be eager to chop off their own foreskins by the time they reach puberty!
It'll be difficult, but I'm hopeful that Germany will stay the course on this and will refuse to allow religious doctrine to control its legislation. Perhaps its time for ALL of the "great" world religions to finally scratch and claw their way out of the dark ages and release their dreadful stranglehold on male foreskins, female genitalia and human minds around the world.
Like Elaine Bennet from Seinfeld said : It has no personality
It's nobody's business except for the family !!!!!!!!
It's nobody's business - and decision - but the ADULT OWNER of the genitalia!!
To the author of the article:
Removing the foreskin of a boy cannot be compared to piercing ears because the foreskin amounts to about 12 square inches of skin in the adult male and is rife with nerve endings. Piercing ears amputates no part of the body.
Do you also believe that the lesser forms of female genital cutting should be allowed in Germany for religious reasons? Why do you conveniently not bring this topic up? Why should the genitals of baby girls be protected from any alteration, but not boys?
12 square inches of skin? Wow, that's some big infant!
12 square inches????? maybe on an elephant
Mike was unclear.
On an adult, the foreskin equates to approximately 12-20 square inches of flesh, nerve endings and sensitivity. If that child were and adult, that would be what's missing and is what nature had intended.
People should not mess with what God or nature (or what you believe in) had intended.
This procedure (for males or females) should be banned except in rare cases of medical necessity.
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 hardly a medical concern for an infant; it can, however, be a decision for the young adult to make when they become se_xually active.
Religious custom is no excuse at all. Any “custom” (religious or otherwise), that physically mutilates a child should be banned. When the child reaches adulthood, they should be able to make that choice for themselves.
Except, of course, drilling into the babiy's head and sucking its brains out, right???
Difference between born child and fetus.
Steve, said procedure has been banned for YEARS. Try to keep up, dumbfvck.
Foreskin restoration is now a common practice in the US:
Lots of strange and perverted things are now commonplace.
Perverted things like adults thinking that mutilating healthy normal babies is a perfectly acceptable thing to do for instance.
But it can never restore all of it – not the nerves, which are the main reason for having one.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend routine circu*mcision.
@Voice of Reason,
"Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circu.mcision; however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circu.mcision. In circu.mstances in which there are potential benefits and risks, yet the procedure is not essential to the child's current well-being, parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child."
There are benefits, but they are not so overwhelming as it needs to be done to all boys.
I don't think the statement is misleading more than it is informative. Anyone with a brain should question the process and the AAP is merely pointing-out the obvious. It is not recommended. If there was empirical medical evidence that if the process was not completed there would be harm then I'm sure AAP would state otherwise.
As far as STD's are concerned, practice safe s*ex and this solves the problem of transmission. Same goes for cervical cancer in women, be smart and practice safe s*ex.
From my understanding the only real benefit MIGHT be the percentage of urinary tract infections decrease. Like you said, the verdict is still out. Science will figure it out.
@Voice of Reason,
Interesting point on the STD aspect, although technically there would still be less risk if the male is 'cut', with or without safe se.x.
However, I think it may still be misleading, because just as you stated, "It is not recommended," is not the intended message, IMO. The AAP is trying to say that there isn't enough evidence to recommend rountine circu.mcision, i.e. they can't recommend that every infant get cut.
They are not saying that they recommend not getting circu.mcised, just that not everyone needs to get circu.mcised. I think the diffidence is important.
sorry, difference not diffidence
"Interesting point on the STD aspect, although technically there would still be less risk if the male is 'cut', with or without safe se.x."
As far as the statement is concerned I stand on it being informative not misleading. It's not recommended and there's a reason for that, it's not necessary, if it was then the statement would be "AAP recommends". What is so misleading about that? What is your agenda?
@Voice of Reason,
How is it interesting? jk
My thought is that safe se.x is not 100% effective therefore if there is a some non-zero reduction in risk due to circu.mcision, then that reduction however minute would still apply in a safe se.x scenario. In other words, if condoms are 98% effecitive and circu.mcision reduces risk of HIV infection by 50%*, then the effective protection with condom and circu.mcision would be 99%, roughly, i.e. the the 2% ineffective risk is reduced by 50%. Unless I'm mistaken, of course.
@Voice of Reason,
"What is your agenda?"
Okay... why jump to that conclusion? Seriously.
The AAP did not, in fact, say that it "did not recommend" circu.mcision, it said it did not "recommend routine neonatal circu.mcision." I'm not saying that AAP is being misleading, I'm saying that your wording of "It is not recommended" is misleading. What is your agenda?
Sorry forgot the notation
* "When the data were reanalyzed to account for these occurrences, men who had been circu.mcised had a 76% (South Africa), 60% (Kenya), and 55% (Uganda) reduction in risk for HIV infection compared with those who were not circu.mcised."
I've got to go, but one other approach is that while the AAP may not think it is necessary, but they are saying that there are benefits to circu.mcision, i.e. beneficial, but not essential.
Alright then, they do not recommend routine, meaning, performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason. So what's the special reason? In the case of religion it is ludicrous, in science it's a choice, there is no need for it therefore it is not recommended EXCEPT by choice or a specific medical concern.
My agenda? The truth and choice. Get the facts and choose. Mutilating via surgical procedure for no special reason placed upon a person that has no say in the process is not the right thing to do. What is your agenda?
@Voice of Reason,
"What is your agenda?" I don't have one, not in this discussion.
The data seems to indicate that there are rational reasons to circu.mcised infants. Those reasons, however, are not so overwhelming that it needs to be done routinely, but can be left to the decision of the parents, as the AAP states, "...the procedure is not essential to the child's current well-being, parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child."
You brought up the AAP statement. Are you only willing to listen to the part that you agree with?
"To make an informed choice, parents of all male infants should be given accurate and unbiased information and be provided the opportunity to discuss this decision. If a decision for circu.mcision is made, procedural analgesia should be provided."
Does that sound like they are recommending against it?
I agree with you 100% about being informed and making reasonable decisions, hands down. The CDC article is a good one and everyone should read it but at the end of the day the verdict is still out on the necessity of having the process done. Is it really necessary? There are a lot of studies but a lack of empirical advice, meaning if the numbers are in and we can empirically state that it is recommended then fine, state it.
@Voice of Reason,
"Is it really necessary? There are a lot of studies but a lack of empirical advice, meaning if the numbers are in and we can empirically state that it is recommended then fine, state it."
I don't think anyone is claiming that it is "necessary,' but there is empirical evidence that it is medically beneficial, or beneficial but not essential. I don't think that the AAP is recommending for or against circu.mcision, in each case, they are ust against routinely ordering the procedure.
And, I am agreeing with the AAP in that the decision should be left to the parents, who 'should' strive to be as informed as possible.
Do they recommend it or not?
As I quoted before, they say, "...parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child."
Cutting a baby boy's foreskin off is not in any way like piercing ears. Please stop justifying the mutilation of baby boys under the guise of "religious freedom". Exercise your religious freedom on yourself, not on helpless babies who have no voice and no choice but to submit to this practice which should be banned worldwide.
If it was solely for religious reasons I would agree, but apparently there are at least some medical benefits as well.
It's always funny watching religious idiots plead these pretenses for "medical reason" under the guise of religious freedom.
Look into the medical aspect of a blood transfusion and you'll see the difference in the context of a valid medical reason vs the inept defense of a religious one.
I'm sure that you think it is ok to murder the baby though, right???
If you see any babies being murdered, Steve-O, call 911. Abortion isn't murder and no 'babies' are found in uteruses.
From Tom to HS...all of you are a bunch of idiots that think they are superior to other ppl for one reason or another. You pretend to support a person's right to expression until it counters your own position and your ego won't stand for it.
Bite me. If you don't like what I write, don't read it.
CB, you suffer from the misapprehension that my right to disagree or even ridicule you somehow impinges on your right to express your opinion. Who's preventing you from posting whatever idiocy you wish? You can say whatever you choose. And so can I. You have every right to post your opinion and I have every right to tear it apart if I wish. That's what freedom of expression is all about. I am not required to respect your opinion; only your right to express it.
Ugh, more whining. Whatever, CB.
This isn't about YOU but all of you. Dang your ego won't deflate even for a second. There is rational disagreement but that isn't good enough. It's too sane for you lot. Instead you have to trash anyone that has a belief. Of course, they also have to trash you for something as silly as whatever crap your dredge up.
Day in and day out you parasites come on here and declare your grand notions on faith and religion. But the truth is, you don't know squat about anything. Don't even get me started on the copy pasters that haven't had an original thought of their own in months. They are even a step below you.
So get over yourselves and if you can't take a little criticism, then I was right all a long and you should grow up.
Gotta "love" how the self-proclaimed, ultra-tolerant group is far-and-away the least tolerant of anybody with a different opinion then them!
See..another lemming spouting off his own intolerance as if it was some grand notion. My gosh you are a twit. You assume I must be religious...why? Because I hurt your weak little ego. You ignore that I was critical of those that also spout off against the opposition. But hey, don't let that ruin your self importance any.
😉 just wanting to fire you up steve for a moment..lol
CB, you're the little pansy who can't handle disagreement. Get over yourself or leave. No one gives a crap about your sensitivities. Blow.
Look who can't handle it little girl. Why don't you just shut up for a moment eh? Read something other than your own hateful and ignorant drivel.
Like what? YOUR hateful, idiotic drivel? You clown, either scroll or scram. I don't care which and I doubt there are many who do. If my posts put your diapers in a bind, then don't read them, you moron.
You stupid little girl....for someone that doesn't care you keep coming back..haha.
You are dense...I basically insult every single one of you and you actually think I care what they think?? And come on...try to come up with better material little girl instead of stealing from your superiors.
My friend did not want her ears pierced as a child and was held down by her mom w/ help of her siblings while her mom pierced her ears. My friend should have been protected. Children NEED the right to consent.
Piercing, tattooing and cutting off body parts because the parent wants it so should be illegal. No one should go through what my friend did. Children NEED to be protected.
What if the parent has a sound health reason to do so?
Should tonsillectomies be banned? How about removal of a mole or nevus?
It is a personal health choice, and we made it on behalf of our sons' future health, knowing many boys and men who were forced to have the surgery when they knew what was going on.
Circu.mcision is not a major health concern, nor is it a health imperative.
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.
I agree. My daughter is 16 and still without pierced ears. She can do it when she wants to. It shouldn't be my call to put wholes in her body.