walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
Feed
Features
Reviews
Podcast
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles this month. A quality publication is not cheap to produce.
Subscribe today and support The American Interest—only $2.99/month!
Already a subscriber? Log in to make this banner go away.
Published on: June 28, 2012
Jews and Muslims Unite to Fight Germany for Basic Human Freedom

On Tuesday Via Meadia blogged about a decision by a court in Cologne that ruled “the body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision.” Our take was that by banning what for thousands of years has been seen as a core element of Jewish identity, law and tradition, the court was […]

On Tuesday Via Meadia blogged about a decision by a court in Cologne that ruled “the body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision.” Our take was that by banning what for thousands of years has been seen as a core element of Jewish identity, law and tradition, the court was essentially criminalizing the practice of Judaism in Germany.

The blogosphere erupted as people defended and attacked the ruling. Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Dish was quick to blast Via Meadia:

Walter Russell Mead’s response is beyond self-parody…

But that it [circumcision] is an assault on a child seems obvious to me. If it were done not for religious reasons, it would be banned. And so I do not see making this mutilation as illegal as it is for girls to be somehow bigoted or intolerant.

And the religious liberty involved is obviously not the child’s. If he wants to, he can get his genitals mutilated later as a sign of his religious commitment – when he is old enough to be able to make such a choice of his own free will. At some point, one can only hope this barbarism disappears. And it will have nothing to do with anti-Semitism or Islamophobia; it will be about defending the religious liberty of Jewish and Muslim males to choose their religion, and not have it permanently marked as scar tissue on their dicks.

But Sullivan’s former colleague Charles Lane, now at the Washington Post, took issue with Sullivan’s reaction and the court ruling:

Andrew’s latest transgression against fact and logic is just too indecent…

The most astonishing link in the judge’s chain of reasoning was his assertion that circumcision, because permanent and irreversible, would limit the child’s own ability to decide what religion to join later on. I do not know of any faiths that bar circumcised converts; maybe in Germany there are some.

In any case, what this remarkable judge does not grasp — or does not care about — is the fact that a father cannot be a Jew in good standing unless he circumcises his son at eight days. Nor can the child himself unless he sees to his own circumcision once he comes of age. (A separate rule applies to converts.) Jewish law is crystal clear on this and has been literally since the dawn of recorded time.

The Cologne court’s sloppy legal balancing act — kid’s physical integrity vs. parents’ religious interests — completely ignores the nature of religious tradition, which is that it is transmitted from parents to children. To posit a world in which the parents have their religion, and kids choose theirs, when they’re old enough, is to imply that even sending one’s child to a religious school — or making him prepare for a bar mitzvah — might be a form of brainwashing. Certainly it pushes progressive notions of human rights past the point at which they would undermine the spiritual basis of ancient communities…

Many Germans have criticized this sickening court decision; I doubt it will be allowed to determine national law over the long term.

But in the comments of those in Germany who did celebrate the ruling, there is a whiff of something very ugly indeed. Law professor Holm Putzke hailed the court for “not letting itself be frightened by the concern of being criticized as anti-Semitic or anti-religious.” Putzke added: “After the reflexive outrage has faded, hopefully a discussion will begin about how much religiously motivated violence against children a society is ready to tolerate.”

Did you get that? Jews and Muslims appease their gods by doing violence to their children. I almost prefer the older version of blood libel.

Instead of declaring the Jews untermenschen, maybe Hitler should have charged them all as accessories to religiously motivated violence against children, put them on trial in Cologne, and then packed themoff to prison. People like Prof. Putzke would have stood and cheered.

That last seems a little harsh; it’s quite possible that Professor Putzke simply hasn’t reflected very deeply on the full implications of the decision he defends.

But Muslim and Jewish groups across Germany understand very clearly just what a threat this decision poses to their right to live by the light of their consciences in the Berlin Republic. Both groups were quick to criticize the ruling.

“This ruling is an outrageous and insensitive measure,” said Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Committee of Jews. “Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practised worldwide for centuries. This religious right is respected in every country in the world.”

Via Meadia stands firmly by our earlier comments. This is the real thing, and it matters. More and more often around the world, you see a real effort to criminalize religious observance in the name of what claims to be a higher morality of the enlightened secular conscience.

Besides the circumcision controversy, and there are activists in the US who would also like to see the banning of child (male) circumcision, there is a movement in many countries to ban the methods of killing animals required to comply with Jewish and Islamic law.

This is very much the way anti-Semitism worked in the medieval past — the majority had one ethical framework, Jews had another, the majority interpreted the differences as “evil” and went to work, making it impossible for Jews to live normal Jewish lives in the name of enforcing “universal” moral values.

Tolerance does not just mean allowing people to do things that you like. It also means allowing them to do things that you don’t like when those things are central to their identity and world.

Obviously, there is no hard and fast rule here. To defend the right of  Muslims and Jews to circumcise boys in compliance with central tenets of their religious faith is one thing; to defend honor killings or hanging homosexuals because some people believe these acts fulfill their religious beliefs is something else.

Andrew Sullivan’s confusion over this issue, and that of many other well intentioned but misguided people as well, may be in part the result of a parallel in their minds between the issues surrounding male and female circumcision. In parts of Africa in particular there are people who defend the practice of female circumcision (or female genital mutilation as it is increasingly known) on religious and traditional grounds. On health, humanitarian and feminist grounds, many people around the world (supported by Via Meadia) are trying to end this practice.

To many opponents of male circumcision, this seems like a clear cut case of sauce for the goose being sauce for the gander. The same rules that apply to female circumcision ought to apply to the males, and vice versa.

This is a clear argument and to many people an appealing one, but it is wrong. There are two reasons why.

First, for Muslims and perhaps especially for Jews, male circumcision is deeply embedded in the core of their religious beliefs. Female genital mutilation (mostly though not exclusively practiced by certain Muslim groups) on the other hand is a folk practice and tradition that is not required or even sanctioned by the Koran and it is at best tolerated but more widely condemned by Islamic scholars and clerics.

Second, the effect of the two operations is profoundly different. The female operation is far more invasive and destructive than the procedure performed on boys. The pain, the health risks and the personal and social consequences of the one operation are orders of magnitude greater than in the other case.

So in comparing the two cases here, we are not comparing apples to apples. On the one hand we have a procedure that is central to religious identity with minor risks and, according to some studies, potential benefits. (Via Meadia contributor Yair Rosenberg discusses the scientific benefits of circumcision at Tablet.) On the other hand we have a procedure with at most a minor religious significance but with major risks and costs.

One does not need the wisdom of Solomon to see where to draw this particular line.

Via Meadia, even at the risk of self-parody, stands by our original take: the misguided decision by the German court criminalizes the practice of Judaism in Germany and, we add, is a profound insult to Islam. There are questions where the religious beliefs of the parents and the best interests of the child do raise tough questions that can justify state intervention (can Christian Scientist parents deny cancer treatment to a child, for example) but the question of male circumcision doesn’t even come close.

[Image: the circumcision of Isaac, Wikipedia]

[Updated to include a mention of Via Meadia blogger Yair Rosenberg's take on this story at Tablet.]

show comments
  • Eom

    I would suggest to those that think it forecloses a choice that the child might make when he reaches adulthood to apply that same reasoning to their views on Abortion

  • vanderleun

    Sullivan’s confused about many issues involving male and female roles and requirements. No reason why this should be any different.

  • http://www.everymanblog.com Everyman

    I hope someone is keeping track of Andrew Sullivan’s pathologies when it comes to sex. There’s already enough for at least an advanced seminar at the college level – maybe in the psych department – and that’s not even counting his persistent vagabonding about in speculation concerning the uterine activities of the daughter of a certain well-known political figure.

    Really, Andrew, get over it, and get a life for yourself.

  • http://ynglingasaga.wordpress.com/ Rolf Andreassen

    > First, for Muslims and perhaps especially for Jews, male circumcision is deeply embedded in the core of their religious beliefs. Female genital mutilation (mostly though not exclusively practiced by certain Muslim groups) on the other hand is a folk practice and tradition that is not required or even sanctioned by the Koran and it is at best tolerated but more widely condemned by Islamic scholars and clerics.

    And if it were not so, if female circumcision were in fact deeply embedded in the religious tradition, would you then support it? If not, the argument is irrelevant.

  • Anthony

    “Everything is good as it leaves the hand of the author of things, and everything degenerates in the hands of man.” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)

    Wherever reasonable men can reasonably disagree WRM, their decision in favor of one or another alternative is a preference of taste (faith) in recognition of religious tradition and/or practice; prescriptive judgment on conduct (in this instance circumcision) is not exclusive to religious coda – tolerance implies pluralism of differing views even when those views are anathema to our belief. Perhaps, the song of Solomon is more apropos.

  • Bill H.

    I’m uncomfortable with Mr. Mead, or really anyone, making the moral distinction between folklore and time honored religion. If he’s comfortable deciding what is real and fake religion i.e. Jewish male and Muslim female circumcision, he should be prepared to make the more difficult call, i.e. the Christian Scientists the author shies away from at the end of the article. I’m not prepared to make those calls, and the Cologne Court is not making the call between real and fake religion. It is making the call of who has the final say when it comes to a potentially dangerous procedure on a 4 year old boy’s body.

  • Snorri Godhi

    First of all, congratulations to WRM for what must have been a record number of comments to the previous post on this issue.

    WRT the issue of banning circumcision, I think that both sides are at fault in not seeing the arguments for the other side.

    I have no time for Andrew Sullivan’s arguments, but surely a sovereign nation can impose certain standards on residents, within reason. Further, while religious belief cannot be banned, some religious practices are actually banned in every country; human sacrifice, for instance. So the argument that circumcision is a religious obligation is irrelevant.

    On the other hand, if I were to vote, I’d vote to allow circumcision (though the practice is not always harmless, as can be seen by reading the story that the original post links to) and it is true that Germans should be particularly careful about Jewish sensitivities.

    But that raises an issue that should have been dealt with: was the German court legislating from the bench, or just interpreting German law? you can hardly blame German judges for ruling against an act which is forbidden by German law.

  • Jim.

    It is not simply ignoring the nature of religious tradition that is at issue here… this is a direct attack on religion itself.

    First, secular Leftists try to remove religion from the public square. Then, from the public school. Then, they try to remove religion from private business. Finally, they try to remove religion from the family itself.

    This is a deliberate program of destruction. This is intolerance in its purest form. Fortunately, God is making a mockery of their efforts by increasing the number of converts throughout the world day by day. Fortunately, whether the government reognizes that freedom or not, we are free to help with His great design.

    Eventually, people will notice (as they’re noticing in China, as they’re noticing on this blog) that more children have been sacrificed — either figuratively, through pregnancy prevention, or literally, through abortion — in the name of anti-human feminism or anti-human absolute government power. They will notice that the “evil” of circumcision can in no way compare to the evils of secular anti-humanism.

    Keep fighting the good fight, Professor.

  • thibaud

    “Via Meadia, even at the risk of self-parody…”

    Risk?

  • thibaud

    The Herr Professor is named Putzke?

    Professor Mead, you’re just messin’ with us now, aintcha?

    Was the original post a joke? Did I miss April first?

  • thibaud

    Today offers the biggest story of the last 3 months – and it’s been a packed 3 months, and then some – and Via Meadia talks about … the Great Putz Kerfuffle.

    With nary a word about the GOP’s healthcare fiasco.

  • Walter Sobchak

    Andrew Sullivan’s sexual predilections are not a secret, he is quite clear that he practices the “Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name” (in his case: “Love That Will Not Shut Up”). It is that predilection that drives his opinions about circumcision, and has driven him to become vocally anti-Israel. His opions ought to be regarded as the ravings of a Madman.

  • WigWag

    Via Meadia’s take on this situation is mostly correct. The idea that a parent can provide vicarious consent on behalf of their child is as old as the wind; it’s time tested and it’s right.

    Of course a parent can consent on behalf of his/her child to a procedure which is completely irrelevant to their health and is religiously inspired. The comparison to female genital mutilation is spurious; only the simpleminded would make it. Anyone who believes that removal of the foreskin from a male bears any resemblance to a clitorectomy or stitching shut the labia in a female, knows nothing about human anatomy or medicine; those who make this argument are simply not worth engaging.

    Almost equally absurd is the idea that circumcising a male child forecloses their opportunity to practice the religion of their choice (or no religion) later on in life. If the literally millions of circumcised male Jews who have converted to Christianity over the centuries doesn’t prove this, nothing will. How many young Jewish males who received the bris on the eighth day after their birth have largely abandoned religion and become secular? Again, the number surely is in the millions.

    Where did the idea come from that parents should not be permitted to force their religious beliefs on their children? Isn’t this how most of us get our religion? Given how safe and innocuous the procedure is, if parents can’t circumcise their son, should they also be precluded from sending him for religious instruction? Should they be able to force him to eat only Kosher food? Shouldn’t they be required to abandon all attempts to provide their child with a religious upbringing until he reaches the age of majority and he can make his own decision? To ask the question is to answer it; of course a parent can insist that their children follow certain religious precepts. The younger they are, the greater the parents right to do so.

    And if a parent can’t give vicarious consent for a boy to be circumcised, what else should they be banned from vicariously consenting to? Should courts outlaw consent by parents for their sons to play with toy soldiers? Should it be illegal for young boys to play with toy guns? Should courts get involved with whether a parent can consent to allow their son to watch violent television programs? Many if not all of these choices that parents might consent to on behalf of their children arguably have far greater long term consequences than circumcision. Do we really want the Courts involved in these decisions either here or in Germany?

    Of course the bizarre opponents of circumcision don’t advertise (except amongst themselves) what it is that they really object to about the procedure. It has been apparent for centuries that done correctly (as it almost always is) the procedure is safe and mostly painless; it probably has medical benefits; but even if it doesn’t, it has no drawbacks. The argument that its mutilation of the male member is little more than a ploy to make the procedure sound far more dangerous than it is. The reason that opponents of circumcision really object to the procedure is because, horror of horrors, what they believe is that it reduces the intensity of the male organism.

    Most circumcised males will tell you that their organisms are plenty intense enough; those looking for an even more intense variety either have other sexual problems of their own or they have a strange psychological fixation on sex. Suffice it to say that they are in need of serious remedial therapy.

    Of course, the relationship of circumcision to the male organism is completely unclear. To the extent that it’s been researched at all; the findings are not only inconsistent, but they provide absolutely no credible information that could convince a reasonably objective person than the intensity of an orgasm and circumcision are related.

    So, if circumcision opponents dramatically exaggerate the horrors of the innocuous procedure itself and if they are unusually shy about advertising their true objections to the procedure, what are we to make of their motives?

    The irony is that they are far more zealous ideologues than the parents who are choosing to circumcise their sons in the first place. In the absence of convincing medical evidence that circumcision is dangerous or medically consequential and in the absence of evidence that it truly impairs the male orgasm; they still want to ban it. It’s obviously not scientific data that they rely on (although from time to time they cite junk science on the subject); it must be blind faith leading them to the conclusion that circumcision should be banned. They are as motivated by blind faith as they believe the parents who circumcise their sons are. The people who want to outlaw circumcision are more zealous, less reasonable, far more hysterical and even less motivated by the facts than the parents who want to continue the tradition.

    If a parent can’t provide vicarious consent for something as inconsequential to their child’s health as circumcision is, the ability of the state to intervene in the rearing of children is virtually unlimited.

    What unites leftist idiots and rightwing idiots is that they are all ideologues. Whether its leftist paranoia about circumcision or rightwing paranoia about a war on Christmas, society needs to be protected from these nut jobs. In the United States it’s mostly the rightwing crazies we need to worry about; in Germany and much of the rest of Europe it’s the left wing crazies.

    The bottom line is this; If you want to ban circumcision, you are contemptibly ignorant. Fortunately the chance that your wish will ever come true is remarkably small. It’s time to move on to your next ridiculous obsession.

  • WigWag

    By the way, all you German opponents of circumcision should visit us in New York. We’ve declared war on large beverage containers. Trust me; you will feel right at home

  • Aron Matskin

    >there is a movement in many countries to ban the methods of killing animals required to comply with Jewish and Islamic law.

    Actually, already in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland the Jewish ritual slaughter is indirectly banned – by requiring the animal to be stunned before being slaughtered and not providing for an exemptions on religious grounds.

  • Kris

    “The most astonishing link in the judge’s chain of reasoning was his assertion that circumcision, because permanent and irreversible, would limit the child’s own ability to decide what religion to join later on. I do not know of any faiths that bar circumcised converts; maybe in Germany there are some.”

    Well, suppose your parents have circumcised you, and then the Bational Dotialists come to power. Your circumcised state will prevent you from passing as a good Faryan member (sorry) of the First Church of FranzJesus, Gubermensch.

    See, it’s all for the good of the children!

  • Kris

    Aron@15: Those who want to ban ritual slaughter are motivated purely by the welfare of animals. It is unfortunate that this just might have a negative impact on Jews, but whaddaya gonna do? Principles are principles.

    Yes, we will continue permitting hunting. What does that have to do with anything?

    [/sarc]

  • thibaud

    WigWag – didn’t know you were a Big Gulper.

    [extraneous comment deleted]

  • thibaud

    The deleted comment was _not_ extraneous, folks.

    ‘Twas directed at him of the serial man-crushes, the blogger who idolized first Reagan, then Bush, then Obama. Leon Wieseltier has his number.

    http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/correction-and-correction-correction

    http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/washington-diarist-membership?page=1

    Excerpt – here’s Leon Wieseltier:

    “Only he, with no foreskin to lead him to hedonistic madness, may find God. This defense of circumcision is as old as Philo, and was canonically formulated by Maimonides, who is cited by Christopher Hitchens, who may have meant Simonides or Eumenides, in a denunciation of circumcision in God Is Not Great, his thoughtful study of religion.

    “The same point was recently made by the voluptuary Andrew Sullivan, for whom “forcing boys to have most of their sexual pleasure zones destroyed without their express permission is a form of child abuse.” Hitchens idiotically compares it to female genital mutilation, as if circumcision is castration. Sullivan sees the difference, though I was not aware–how could I be?–that the foreskin comprises ‘most of [the] sexual pleasure zones.’

    “Sullivan is once again possessed of another absolute certainty about another Jewish horror for which he has another atrocity photograph. But wait–tap tap tap–link link post post–he has discovered that ‘new studies showing that it can be very effective against the transmission of HIV may well tip the balance of the argument.’ Well, yes. The outrage may have to move on….”

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    I take issue with WRM here:

    “This is very much the way anti-Semitism worked in the medieval past — the majority had one ethical framework, Jews had another, the majority interpreted the differences as “evil” and went to work, making it impossible for Jews to live normal Jewish lives in the name of enforcing “universal” moral values.”

    The way anti-Semitism worked in the Middle Ages is that the king and nobility would become overly indebted to Jewish money lenders to finance their wars and luxurious life-style and then, in an act of repudiation of their debts and against the dictates of the Catholic Church, stir up an ignorant and often thuggish mob with libelous lies, thereby driving the Jews out of their territories. It was secular elites motivated by debt (or in the case of the first Crusade, an oversurplus of armed males) that drove the process. Go learn some more history and stop repeating myths which do no one any good.

    As for this court ruling, it was your headline most commenters here objected to. Whether circumcision should be protected religious practice is a debatable issue. (I have no idea where I stand on it) But accusing those disfavor it bigots is wrong. Stop throwing around inflammatory rhetoric.

  • silia

    How about kosher/halal killing?

  • Ed Snyder

    Then what about wife-beating in Islam–a practice that is supported by the Koran, the Hadiths, and subsequent fatwas? Why should any court of law have any say in these?

    I think I see a possible answer in the conclusion of Mr. Mead’s post. “…the misguided decision by the German court criminalizes the practice of Judaism in Germany and, we add, is a profound insult to Islam.”

    Why does it not also criminalize Islam? Or why does it not merely insult both? The answer, of course, is that it criminalizes both. But then, why frame the matter as in the quote above?

    The fact of the matter, as I presently understand it, is that the values on which our legal system was founded was once explicitly Christian. If true, the naturally male circumcision should not be judged adversely, since it was a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17:9-27), including Ishmael.

    But such a system of values presupposes an assumption–mostly left unspoken–that the Christian Bible is a historically trustworthy document. That such an assumption still exercises influence on many of us children of the West seems to me the best explanation for the otherwise strangely incoherent statement from Mr. Mead’s post that I cited above. Living Judaism would be included in such a world view, and although there is nothing in the Bible that supports Islam, the inclusion of Ishmael in the Abrahamic covenant would make the accommodation of that practice an easy call.

    However, that belief, as it applies to the workings of our courts, has been all but completely abandoned in favor of a supposedly neutral secularism which is revealing itself more and more to be actively hostile towards both the values that once guided our legal system and religious expression in general.

  • Michael

    @WRM: “This is the real thing, and it matters. More and more often around the world, you see a real effort to criminalize religious observance in the name of what claims to be a higher morality of the enlightened secular conscience.”

    I agree. In the past, I have often been critical of your propensity to see a Julius Streicher or Alfred Rosenberg under every bed. However, in this case, I think you are absolutely right, for reasons which have nothing to do with Jew-hatred.

    This court decision is in line with the EU court in Strasbourg ruling that Italian schoolrooms could not have crucifixes on their walls.

    A Russian Orthodox priest in England, Fr. Andrew Phillips, has predicted for years that Christian Baptism will someday be outlawed in Western Europe, either on “health grounds” or “child abuse” grounds. In fact, a local council in the UK actually did outlaw Baptism by immersion two years ago:

    http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/divide.htm (see last footnote)

    So, no I do not think you are being paranoid about this at all. In fact, I wonder if you are being paranoid enough. It is quite clear, that the EU elites in Brussells, the plutocracy in America and the Davoisie in general, regard themselves as (literally) a separate species from the rest of us, and look upon ordinary humans as livestock to be managed (and, where necessary, culled).

    In other words, this rabbit hole goes a lot deeper than you may realize. How deep? To get a good measure, I recommend that you read “Snakes in Suits” by Robert Hare and Paul Babiak, and “Political Ponerology” by the late Dr. Andrew Lobaczewski. These books describe how clinical psychopaths take over and reshape corporations and political institutions, respectively, to suit their own purposes. If you wonder why large institutions in the West no longer serve the interests of society as a whole, it is because they are no longer meant to. They have all been taken over psychopaths, who most often rule behind the scenes as “grey eminences.”

    Court decisions such as these above, can be partially explained by the fact that psychopaths, although often highly intelligent, do not have empathy. They cannot understand things like religious tradition, because they have no capacity for reverence or fidelity. In other words, they have “missing strings on the instrument” in that department. This renders them malignantly incompetent in any line of work which requires human understanding.

    Identifying and removing psychopaths from positions of influence and authority is essential if we, as a species, are to meet the challenges you talk about in your blog. Doing so will not solve the problems of our time. However, it will render many current problems solvable for the first time.

  • thibaud

    VM interns / Mr Mead: Why are you refusing to publish the quote I pasted by Leon Wieseltier in:tnr.com about Hitchens’ weird comments and Andrew Sullivan’s even weirder, schizoid obsession with circumcision?

    Does Sullivan owe you money?

  • Thomas Zadro

    Thanks a lot for this clear and fair stated point of view. I might disagree in terms of your conclusion. However you make your point without calling the court or – as I also read in some comments on other sites – the German population Nazis. First time that I had the chance to see and understand a bit more of the “pro circumsision” side and not just felt blamed and shouted.

  • chong

    Thats the law!What is with the Voodoo Religion?Should germany has to allow them their practics?
    Also in Islam(not in the Koran)cirumcision of woman is ok.Mohammed sayed only a little bit…

    So should they have the right to do it in germany?

    In germany its also forbidden to beat children even in the lowest way-but cutting is ok?

  • http://Facingthehardtruths.com Stephen M. St. Onge

    This is a straight-out religious war.

    As a convert to the Church of the Holy Orgasm, Andrew Sullivan’s faith requires him to encourage everyone to have more and better sex, to the limit of what is humanly possible. Since circumcision (allegedly) decreases sexual pleasure among males, it is badbadevilbadwickednaughtwrongwrongWRONG, and must be suppressed by all decent human beings.

    In short, freedom of religion for Sullivan means ‘freedom to practice his religion’.

  • Fahrkartenkontrolle

    While the uproar againt the court ruling is understandible, most critics miss an important detail: the ruling in this case is clearly against the Muslim practice of male circumcision. The damage it does to jewish life in Germany is purely collateral.

    It’s meant as a declaration of war against Islam in Germany because Germans are fed up with Muslims. It’s not directed against jews – it is understood that they will take care of themselves and most of them are sitting on packed suitcases anyway.

  • penny lane

    Many of those who were at the forefront when it came to bashing Muslims and their religious paractice now suddenly discover their indignation when Jewish religious “rights” are critizised. Now we are heading to a situation where a grow Muslim woman is to be banned from wearing a traditional burkah, but at the same time is to be allowed to perform traditional mutilation on the sexual organs of her sons.

    The bottom line here is – If only Muslims followed this “tradition”, it would have long been banned in Western society, the same as the mutilation of girls sexual organ rightly is. the is no freedom to mutilate and torture.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @penny lane: At Via Meadia we favor full religious freedom for Muslims on equal terms as for all faiths. I’ve written more about the Jewish side of this present controversy because of the unique history of German-Jewish relations and because of the deep historical connections with past examples of intolerance. But I entirely agree that the law also discriminates against Muslims and oppose European legislation on, for example, how women are permitted to dress in public. Within the very broad limits of public safety and public decency, individuals in a free society should be free to dress as they wish.

  • penny lane

    @Walter Russel Meade

    Certainly. State legislation should have better things to do than to dictate dress code. But when it comes to grevious bodily harm, state legislation has an constitutional obligation to protect and avert.

    The Koln ruling will almost certainly be upheld by the German constitutional court in Karlsruhe. It is unfeasable that the supreme judges will sacrifice the constitutionally guauanteed right to bodily integrity on a religious freedom ticket.

    Doing so would be opening the floodgates for all nature of religious practice, including female circuscision, sharia, polygamie etc.

    Perhaps it is now finally time Jews stop throwing up an “freedom of religion” and an “anti-Semetic” smokescreen every time this theme cops up, and start tackling the basic problem, – The mutilation of childrens sexual organs based on bronze age traditions is not compatible with a 2012 civilised society.

  • Kris

    Penny@31: Are you familiar with Emil Fackenheim’s three stages of Jew hatred?

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Kris: Some people don’t realize just how familiar they are with these. Sometimes we allow comments to illustrate just how much unexamined hate is out there in the world.

  • penny lane

    Perhaps it is time for some folks to decide if they prefer to live in a secular constitutional state where every individual, regardless of sex, age or faith, enjoys basic undeniable rights and protection under the constitution, or if they favour a legal system based on theocratic law.

    You cant have it both ways.

  • Kris

    penny@34: “Perhaps it is time for some folks to decide if they prefer to live in a secular constitutional state where every individual, regardless of sex, age or faith, enjoys basic undeniable rights”

    Human rights? What a capital idea, especially “undeniable” ones! Why do I get the feeling that “undeniable” rights are precisely the ones that you yourself support, no more no less? Instruct me, Oh Wise One: Am I allowed to harm my child’s health by allowing her to overeat? Am I allowed to deny my child food when she claims she’s hungry? How much say am I allowed in deciding how much exercise my child should get? Can I control what “entertainment” my child is exposed to? Inquiring minds await your instruction.

  • Ed Snyder

    @penny lane 34: With all due respect, that strikes me as a false dilemma. Speaking as a Christian myself, had Jesus intended for men to rule themselves by theocracy in this age of the world, He would not have commanded His followers to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. My own untested hypothesis is that Modernism is basically Christianity without the Christianity. If that is more or less correct, then Modernism may also be one of the fruits of that commandment.

    The problem of securing the rights to which you refer in a secular constitutional state, as I see it, comes down to the origin of those rights. I cannot see how a purely secular state can acknowledge that such rights have an origin that not only is outside of the State, but is also superior to it.

    It is the recognition that those rights do, indeed, have such a source that made the United States of America, at its very founding, the modern state par excellence. On the other hand, those examples of purely secular states (Revolutionary France, Fascist Italy, and the Soviet Union and her satellites) did not fare so well when it came to human rights.

  • http://knownofold.blogspot.com J R Yankovic

    Michael @23:

    In my view, extremely absorbing and insightful post. And I hope it’s not too late in the game to say I think you’re definitely on to something. But now suppose there is indeed a pattern in our modern culture by which people void of or deficient in human empathy are being promoted to the highest levels of power (and I’ve little reason to doubt it). If so, then one thing is clear to me: These individuals didn’t get where they are merely in defiance of prevailing norms, but with some degree of their assistance and approval. So, assuming there is a de facto “Cult of the Psychopath,” by which anti-social but aggressively self-promoting and ingratiating individuals are culled for highly social positions of leadership, who are the non-psychopaths who are enabling their advancement? By what values and priorities (conscious or unacknowledged) do they acquiesce or assist in the psychopath’s climb to power? And if this is a fairly recent phenomenon – i.e., if in recent years upward mobility has been becoming MORE skewed or biased in favor of the psychopathic personality – what do you suppose might be fueling the upswing?

  • Michael

    @37 J R Yankovic:

    You asked: “if in recent years upward mobility has been becoming MORE skewed or biased in favor of the psychopathic personality – what do you suppose might be fueling the upswing?”

    To answer your final question, get Lobaczewski’s book. Here is an excerpt from a chapter in Political Ponerology entitled “The Hysteroidal Cycle”:

    http://www.friedgreentomatoes.org/articles/macrosocial_psychopathy.php

    “During good times, people progressively lose sight of the need for profound reflection, introspection, knowledge of others, and an understanding of life’s complicated laws. Is it worth pondering the properties of human nature and man’s flawed personality, whether one’s own or someone else’s? Can we understand the creative meaning of suffering we have not undergone ourselves, instead of taking the easy way out and blaming the victim? Any excess mental effort seems like pointless labor if life’s joys appear to be available for the taking. A clever, liberal, and merry individual is a good sport; a more farsighted person predicting dire results becomes a wet-blanket killjoy. …. This leads to an impoverishment of psychological knowledge, the capacity of differentiating the properties of human nature and personality, and the ability to mold minds creatively. ….

    “During ‘good’ times, the search for truth becomes uncomfortable because it reveals inconvenient factors. It is better to think about easier and more pleasant things. Unconscious elimination of data which are or appear to be inexpedient gradually turns to habit, then becomes a custom accepted by society at large. Any thought process based on such truncated information cannot possibly give rise to correct conclusions; it further leads to subconscious substitution of inconvenient premises by more convenient ones, thereby approaching the boundaries of phenomena which should be viewed as psychopathological.

    “Such contented periods, which are often rooted in some injustice to other people or nations, start to strangle the capacity for individual and societal consciousness; subconscious factors take over a decisive role in life. Such a society considers any perception of uncomfortable truth to be a sign of “ill-breeding”. … Catastrophe waits in the wings. In such times, the capacity for logical and disciplined thought, born of necessity during difficult times, begins to fade. When communities lose the capacity for psychological reason and moral criticism, the processes of the generation of evil are intensified at every social scale, whether individual or macrosocial, until they revert to ‘bad’ times. …

    “We already know that every society contains a certain percentage of people carrying psychological deviations caused by various inherited or acquired factors which produce anomalies in perception, thought, and character. Many such people attempt to impart meaning to their deviant lives by means of social hyperactivity. They create their own myths and ideologies of overcompensation and have the tendency to egotistically insinuate to others their own deviant perceptions and the resulting goals and ideas.

    “When a few generations’ worth of ‘good-time’ insouciance results in societal deficit regarding psychological skill and moral criticism, this paves the way for pathological plotters, snake-charmers, and even more primitive impostors to act and merge into the processes of the origination of evil. They are essential factors in its synthesis. I shall attempt to persuade my readers that the participation of pathological factors, so underrated by the social sciences, is a common phenomenon in the processes of the origin of evil.

    “Those times which many people later recall as the “good old days” thus provide fertile soil for future tragedy because of the progressive devolution of moral, intellectual, and personality values which give rise to Rasputin-like eras.

    As I said, get the book, and do read the whole thing. I do not see how anyone can properly understand what is happening today, without grasping these concepts.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2014 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service