Circumcision Makes Strange Bedfellows

Jews and Muslims on the same side of a protest?

As far back as history records, the Jews have had problems with their non-Jewish neighbors.  This was often because of the peculiar and non-negotiable religious practices of Judaism.  One of the reasons that tolerance of the Jews is a major hallmark of Western civilization is because Judaism is the archetype of an odd but harmless religion: Jewish tradition requires nothing harmful or even inconveniencing to non-Jews, but as can be seen regularly on the streets of New York, traditionally devout Jews stick out as weird!

So do Muslims - even more so, as unlike Jews, their religion requires that members of other religions be oppressed where feasible, to push them into conversion.  Since the days when the Koran was written, Jews and Muslims have been bitter enemies.  Indeed, the main feature of the Islamic final Day of God's Judgement is a massacre of Jews:

The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews , when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.

 - Sahih Muslim, 41:6985

To a non-Jewish, non-Muslim observer, Judaism and Islam seem to have notable similarities.  They both wear funny clothes and are given to loud chanting in foreign languages.  They both are finicky about what they'll eat, and in mostly the same ways.  And they both demand circumcision of all male children or devotees.

Nein danke!

The Enemy of My Enemy?

Germany of the 1930s didn't have many Muslims, but millions of Jews suffered under Hitler's depravity.  One notorious disadvantage of a hiding male Jew was that, unlike virtually any other German males at the time, the Jew would be circumcised.  A simple check at the hands of the SS and the Jew would stand revealed.

With this history, it's not surprising that circumcision is a touchy subject in Germany to this day.  Thus, news that a German court had declared circumcision to be child abuse sent up rockets of warning:

The court in the western city of Cologne handed down the decision on Tuesday in the case of a doctor prosecuted for circumcising a four-year-old Muslim boy who had to be treated two days later for post-operative bleeding.

It ruled involuntary religious circumcision should be made illegal because it could inflict serious bodily harm on people who had not consented to it.

The judges didn't outlaw circumcision per se, they merely required consent beforehand.  However, both Muslim and Jewish scriptures require the procedure to be performed on infants who can't consent.  In effect, the court tried to outlaw this millennia-old religious practice by fiat.

Local Jewish and Muslim leaders were equally horrified and made their protests known.  This is no more than we expected.

What we didn't expect to see, though, was a joint protest by these two sworn enemies:

Around 500 mainly Jewish but some Christian and Muslim protesters gathered in Berlin on Sunday to demand the right to circumcision after a disputed court ruling in Germany outlawing the rite.

The article goes on to say that the Jews wore orthodox dress and waved Israeli flags, which might normally expect to bring on violence from Muslims who outnumber them in Germany by more than 20 to 1.  Not this time; a common cause brought about a temporary peace.

We'd prefer to see a more permanent peace between Muslims and Jews, though after examining the Koran, we won't be holding our breath.  But hey, it's a start.  Even so, those German jurists should be ashamed of themselves.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

I think far more important is the diseases passed on by the uncircumcised. Strong evidence shows the uncircumcised pass on more uterine cancer, AIDS, bacteria, yeast infections. Very small price to pay for these young boys to make sure they are not disease carriers.

So please, parents, make your daughters safe by circumcising the boys.

September 13, 2012 12:10 PM

Anne, where is your empirical evidence? Are you saying AIDS would not be passed on if a man was circumcised? Uhh, I don't think so. And really, uterine cancer is caused by an uncircumcised penis? So to prevent cancer, women should abstain from sleeping with uncircumcised men and voila, that disease would be eradicated. Bacteria and yeast infections would happen from the exchange of fluids (semen) and changing the composition of the female environment, I doubt it's because there is some sneaky bacteria hiding under the foreskin. Are there people who don't know how to clean their parts? Sure, but I think that goes for both men and women, and it's a matter of personal hygiene (showering everyday for example) not a matter of cutting off a piece of skin.
How about we let babies keep their foreskin, then right before they are about to start engaging in sex we take them to the doctor, show them the tool that will be used to lop off their penis, and ask them to decide. I know of people who have done this, and there are obviously lots of adults who are aware of this procedure and have not done it. You might ask yourself why we have not done it: 1) we were born this way, 2)no matter what you have been told, there is a lot of sensitivity in that area that does make sex that much better, 3) we are not Jewish or Muslim. I can understand that a lot of people were led to believe that through circumcision you could prevent masturbation (since you're cutting off a really sensitive area) or other sexual perversions, but isn't that why they do the same thing to women? I am glad I have the chance to know what I would be missing out on, too bad so many will never know what was taken from them without consent. I am all for religious freedom, but what if religion said that we should stone people for adultery?

September 13, 2012 12:47 PM

Alin, it has nothing to do with religious superstition or trying to stop teenage masturbation.

Most doctors agree that circumcision is cleaner and more hygienic in the long run. This is an axiom of modern medicine.

Of course, the blogosphere loudly disagrees (as it does with every other issue under the sun).

Some facts...

Cancer of the cervix in women is due to the Human Papilloma Virus. It thrives under and on the foreskin from where it can be transmitted during intercourse. An article in the British Medical Journal in April 2002 suggested that at least 20% of cancer of the cervix would be avoided if all men were circumcised.

Balanitis is an unpleasant, often recurring, inflammation of the glans. It is quite common and can be prevented by circumcision

Some older men develop cancer of the penis - about 1 in 1000 - fairly rare, but tragic if you or your son are in that small statistic. Infant circumcision gives almost 100% protection, and young adult circumcision also gives a large degree of protection

Many older men, who have bladder or prostate gland problems, also develop difficulties with their foreskins due to their surgeon's handling, cleaning, and using instruments. Some of these patients will need circumcising

Urinary tract infections sometimes occur in babies and can be quite serious. Circumcision in infancy makes it 10 times less likely


September 13, 2012 1:10 PM

Of course most doctors agree, they make money off the surgery. Our pediatrician did not recommend it for my boys, because it's really not been proven to be more effective in preventing anything. Most of the concerns I've heard is that it would hurt to have it done later in life, as if that somehow makes it OK to do to a baby. What is the above say: "boy who had to be treated two days later for post-operative bleeding". So if my choices are hospital treatment for post operative bleeding or urinary tract infection, I guess I'll roll the dice..
Like I said, let them grow up and then give them the chance to know what will be taken from them.

"Evidence regarding the association between cervical cancer and a woman’s partner being circumcised or uncircumcised, and evidence regarding the effect of circumcision on sexual functioning is inconclusive. "

I can find evidence and you can find some as well, but I will tell you that I cannot subject my children to genital mutilation. You can call it whatever you want, but let's admit that the Jewish and Muslim people were doing it before all these "studies" were done, and it was for religious purposes. And for preventing HPV and STDs well that's all about sexual activity, so easy to prevent. Hygiene is also called washing with soap and water, and any human being should partake in such activity. :-)

September 13, 2012 2:18 PM

Men are not less likely to pass AIDS onto another person if they are uncircumcised they are more likely to get AIDS. The foreskin provides a good place for STDs to live since it is more protected from the open environment (that whole warm and moist thing).

"From one study of 2,776 documented cases of a STD, uncircumcised compared to circumcised men had an odds ratio of 4.0 (1.9 to 8.4) of having syphilis, an odds ratio of 1.6 (1.2 to 2.2) of having gonorrhea, and an odds ratio of 0.7 (0.5 to 0.9) of having genital warts; the association for nongonococcal urethritis, chlamydia, and genital herpes was not significant"
from the source you cited... same paragraph in fact. They can not show a causal relationship it sounds like but I do see a collelation.

September 13, 2012 8:48 PM

Men are less likely to pass or contract AIDS if they abstain from promiscuous sexual relations regardless if circumcised or uncircumcised. It's a pretty easy solution.
But I think we have gotten off topic, the article above was not discussing the ethics or morality behind the act of circumcision, and I seem to have started this conversation responding to Anne's comments. I guess you could say she called me (or the majority of Europeans for that matter) a disease carrier. To paraphrase her quote: "...parents, make your daughters safe by..." having them keep their legs closed. Or at the least tell them to have sex only with circumcised men, and that will for sure mean they will not get any STDs. Because after all, given that the majority of men in the US are circumcised, there aren't any STD's or AIDS in the US, right?
I obviously posted that link having read the information and knowing what their limited data was showing. The study of 2776 in a world of billions is a pretty small sample, wouldn't you think? And did they take into effect sexual activity? Was this a country where most men are or aren't circumcised? Was the data then weighted to account for that population? There is a reason I quoted the conclusion instead of cherry-picking incomplete data...

September 13, 2012 11:19 PM

@Alin - you said a mouthful. "Of course most doctors agree, they make money off the surgery." How does the government think they can cut medical costs when everyone in the business, and it is a BIG business, just like all employees everywhere, wants more government money? We get what we subsidize. We subsidize medical procedures. We get more procedures. Do we get more health? Not so much.

September 14, 2012 6:34 AM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...