29 June 2012

No more pecker snipping in Germany

With a ruling that circumcising boys constitutes grievous bodily harm, a German court has effectively outlawed the practice in that country. The case was brought against a doctor in Cologne who circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy on his parents' wishes. When, a few days after the operation, the boy was bleeding heavily and taken to a hospital, the doctor was charged. "The body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision," the court said. "This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs."

As might be expected, Jewish and Muslim leaders immediately attacked the decision, calling it insensitive and discriminatory, and saying it was an attack on centuries of religious tradition.

It is indeed an attack on religious tradition, but calling a legal ruling against cutting off bits of little boys' penises insensitive and discriminatory is more a comment on the barbaric traditions of religion than on the court's decision. Deliberately inflicting injury on a baby in order to enforce conformity with religion is sordid. The surprise is that they continue to get away with it in modern societies.

What kind of religious observance is this anyway? Why would God put a foreskin there if He meant it to be chopped off? Is this god an idiot, or a sadist?

Not that boys have only been snipped for religious reasons. Circumcision became very popular at the turn of the last century in order to prevent masturbation, and more recently in order to prevent AIDS. The supposed benefits all vanish with further studies—the disease prevention worked about as well as the masturbation prevention.

Holm Putzke, a criminal law expert at the University of Passau, observes, "After the knee-jerk indignation has subsided, hopefully a discussion will kick off about how much religiously motivated violence against children a society is ready to tolerate." We should consider also the latter part of the German court's ruling about contravening the child's future ability to decide on his own religious beliefs.

We have, in this country, seen a particularly tragic example of indoctrinating children in religion—the case of Omar Khadr. Omar was immersed in extreme religious belief from the time he was born with catastrophic results. His parents turned him into a jihadist when he had barely reached his teens, he was nearly killed in war, brutally abused by the Americans and finally betrayed by his own country. With this tragedy staring us in the face, it would seem long overdue to give thought to just how far we are prepared to go in allowing religious zealots to theologically abuse their children.

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