Circumcision contravenes the Rights of the Child
This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant (Gen 17:10-14).Both Jews and Muslims in Germany are more than a little concerned about an Appeal Court ruling from Cologne which stipulates that the removal of the foreskins of babies and young boys amounts to bodily injury, and is therefore a violation of German law.
Sweeping aside millennia of religious custom and ritual, the Court has determined that State law in this regard is above God’s law, and that the child’s fundamental constitutional ‘right to physical integrity’ is challenged by the parental fundamental right to freedom of religion.
In cutting the boy, they reason, he is denied the freedom to choose his religion, because the outward change to his body and permanent. This is not, of course, the case with Christian baptism, which is also usually inflicted on babies, but a sprinkling of water on the forehead is not deemed to have enduring effects on sexual pleasure later in life. This Higher Court ruling expresses the view that the boy should have the freedom to choose whether or not to be circumcised when he reaches the age of majority and there is informed consent; that he is born with the right to ‘physical integrity’ which nobody should be permitted to take away (other than for acute medical reasons).
The verdict has some specific context, but the precedent has far-reaching implications. The case involved a four-year-old Muslim boy who suffered serious bleeding after undergoing a botched procedure. His mother took him to the emergency unit at Cologne University Hospital, and state prosecutors subsequently charged the doctor who had performed the operation.
A lower court found that the doctor had carried out the operation properly and ruled that the child’s circumcision was in his interests as it signified his membership of the Muslim community. However the prosecution appealed to a higher Cologne court which overruled the lower court’s verdict and concluded that circumcision caused bodily harm and was therefore not justified.
There are some four million Muslims in Germany and 200,000 Jews. Dieter Graumann, the President of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, denounced the ruling as ‘outrageous and insensitive’. He views it as an ‘unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination’, and he demands that Parliament intervene to ‘protect religious freedom’. Aiman Mazyek of the Central Council of Muslims said the ruling was both ‘inadmissible’ and ‘outrageous’.
Mindful of past German antipathy toward his people, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said: "There's not a snowball's chance in hell the Jewish people would ever look to a German court, especially when it comes to how we should define our values or fulfil our traditions."
Now, there are those who insist that circumcision is not merely gratuitous Abrahamic law, but has been proven to be hygienically preferable and helps to prevent cancer or inhibit the transmission of HIV-AIDS. And yet (it seems to this Christian) there is nothing medically preventative about the practice if you wash properly and remain faithful in marriage.
The debate about banning the practice is even more interesting in the context of Kantian notions of human rights and his categorical imperatives on human dignity and liberty. Germany intends to outlaw female circumcision as it is considered barbaric: if man and woman are equal, the law may not discriminate against boys. Ergo, they must also be spared the barbarism of circumcision dogma.
His Grace can hardly wait to see how Germany’s 4.2 million children of Abraham react to this. It beggars belief that ancient religious practices which are symbolic of the sacred Covenant can be overturned by notions of inviolable human rights which have existed for all of five minutes. Once again, it is individual religious identity must give way to secular state orthodoxy. As JS Mill might put it, we once again observe the tyranny of the majority.
Either the judgment will be overturned by the Federal Court, or there will be one or two riots on the streets (probably not courtesy of the Jews). Another possibility is that David Cameron might extend an invitation to German’s Semites as he did to France’s millionaires: if your government is oppressing you financially or religiously, you will find the United Kingdom more conducive to your tax affairs and blood rituals.
Britain is surely open for a bit of circumcision tourism.