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Circumcision Wars in Germany and Cyberspace

Anyone skimming through the comments to my posts on the German court ruling outlawing the circumcision of (male) children, and therefore the practice of Judaism as it has been understood by Jewish parents for thousands of years as well as the practice of Islam, can see what passions this subject stirs up.

But Germany is a sensible country and this particular ruling from a Cologne court, with its ruthless contempt for traditional religious practice in the name of “modern” morality, will almost certainly not stand. Antagonizing millions of Muslims who live in Germany and in increasing numbers vote in its election is bad politics to say the least, and Germany’s horrific past makes the country’s leaders eager — and rightly so — to demonstrate its tolerance and respect for Judaism.

The fightback from sane Germans appears to have begun. Guido Westerwelle, the Foreign Minister, has already come out with a clear statement that the protection of religious freedom is an important German value. Others will follow; if the court decision isn’t reversed we should expect the German parliament to create a religious exemption that safeguards the right of people living in Germany to practice this essential and time honored religious right.

As a Christian I am glad to report that prominent Christian leaders in Germany have also gone on record in supporting the religious freedom of Muslims and Jews.  Christians, Muslims and Jews all over the world will be watching how Germany manages this issue, and I am personally confident that Germany will get this right.

But in the meantime, the Jewish Hospital in Berlin has suspended circumcisions until the legal position is clarified. As of this moment in Berlin, it is against German law to live as a Jew.

Andrew Sullivan, who attacked my stand on this serious threat to basic Jewish practice as “self parody” and “bloviation“, will no doubt be interested to learn that the first openly gay Foreign Minister of Germany agrees that this is an important issue of religious freedom, and that it is morally necessary to allow child (male, not female) circumcision in a country that respect basic human freedom.  Sullivan’s original post on the subject led with the overwrought and ugly headline calling the central rite of Jewish identity and the foundation of what Jews see as their covenant with God “infant male genital mutilation.”

Sullivan clearly has no idea what a nasty and hateful thing this is to say about a primary obligation of someone else’s faith and he would react strongly and justifiably against comparable slurs made either against his faith or his sexual orientation. I expect this has to do with ignorance about where circumcision stands in Jewish life as traditionally understood even by non-religious Jews rather than from any genuine contempt for Jewish faith or the Jewish people.

To ban or insult infant circumcision isn’t an attack on a minor feature of Jewish life. In a Catholic context, it is like saying children cannot be baptized or receive Holy Communion until they are adults. To call it child abuse and genital mutilation is to become like the Protestant radicals who attacked the Catholic Mass as idolatry and cannibalism — and on those grounds forbade the Mass to be celebrated and fined those who attended.

Just as there is a German better nature that will soon find a way to make it legally possible for both Muslims and Jews to comply with this important requirement of faith, there is a better nature in Andrew Sullivan that will, I think, ultimately understand how seriously he misjudged this issue.

Tolerance of difference is the value that makes all freedom possible. To fight for the rights of minorities to do unpopular things and to live by their values is not to bloviate or to engage in self parody. It is to stand up for the right of people to have and to express different ideas and different lifestyles.

If the parents of Jewish babies and Muslim boys can’t carry out circumcisions in Germany, the freedoms of all minorities everywhere in the world have become less secure. And if people concerned about freedom and diversity don’t speak up in cases like this, vital human freedoms will slowly disappear.

 

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  • Eurydice

    Andrew Sullivan might find it interesting that the openly gay German Foreign Minister disagrees with him – but he might also find it irrelevant, as not all gay people think alike.

  • Cicero

    Are you seriously trying to engage Andrew Sullivan, WRM? It’s a fool’s errand at this point. You’re going to get called some more names and be on the receiving end of yet more fevered fantasies equating EVERYTHING with religious intolerance. I read you because I think you display uncanny, consistent judgment about important matters. Trying to reason with Sullivan? Bad judgment. BAD.

  • WigWag

    What is so interesting about this debate is how it demonstrates the intolerance that has come to define the secular left. Of course Sullivan would claim that he’s neither secular nor of the left, but he’s lying. His claims to be devoutly Roman Catholic and conservative are belied by his writing.

    It is ironic that Sullivan accuses Mead of self-parody when it is him and his fellow travelers who are guilty of self-parody. It is the secular left that has become so intolerant that it’s intolerance now exceeds anything demonstrated by their opponents on the other side of the ideological fence.

    When the Supreme Court in Lawrence v Texas found anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional few Americans became as apoplectic as Sullivan has about male circumcision. Gay Americans cheered the decision, constitutional originalists lamented that the decision was based on a nonexistent right to privacy and a tiny percentage of right wing kooks concluded that America had transgressed God’s will and would suffer for it. Most Americans on the left and the right were tolerant enough to conclude that went on behind closed doors between consenting adults was none of the government’s business.

    The irony is almost too great to contemplate; the tolerance for homosexual practices that Sullivan and his fellow travelers once demanded of others, they are unprepared to grant to Jews and Muslims.

    Of course Sullivan would argue that he’s plenty tolerant; he just wants to preclude the ability of parents to make this decision on behalf of their children; the argument is specious and Sullivan is probably smart enough to know it. The ability of parents to provide vicarious consent on behalf of their children is ancient; especially when the thing they are consenting to is harmless as circumcision is. Should courts be involved in reviewing what vitamins parents give their kids? Should the diet parents feed their kids be reviewable? What if parents feed their kids lots of ice cream and French fries but not enough (in Andrew’s view or the view of the German Courts) green vegetables? The consequences of a less than optimum diet for the child are almost certainly more important for his long term health than whether he is circumcised. Does Andrew support court intervention in this circumstance?

    Andrew’s brain is certainly in his head; my question is simple. Which one?

  • Jules

    But Germany is a sensible country

    Then why did you include so many disgusting Third Reich references? Maybe every time the US does something questionable we should bring up slavery, Trail of Tears, the US role in the ethnic cleansing of serbs in Krajina and Kosovo, Vietnam, and Abu Ghraib. Disagree with Obama and Eric Holder? Let’s talk about slavery and Jim Crow then. It wouldn’t be fair, and it would generate more heat than light, but since American conservatives constantly want to talk about Germans in particular and Europeans in general this way we might as well reciprocate.

  • John Balog

    Jules: if you don’t see the parallels in German courts banning the practice of Judaism and the openning acts of the Third Reich I rather question your judgement.

  • Rhodium Heart

    Andrew Sullivan is [not, in view of this commenter, in his right mind]. Diagnostically. It’s a cruel culture that lets him publicly befoul himself for entertainment value.

    But not as cruel of culture as one that forbids a major religion from practicing one or more of its major tenets.

  • Walter Sobchak

    Cicero is correct. Arguing with Sullivan is bad idea. It is like mud wrestling with a pig. If you win, you are a filthy mess, and the pig has enjoyed it.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Not all the comments to the previous posts show “what passions this subject stirs up.” My comment did not, for instance: that’s because this issue does not stir any passions in me. (Unlike in Dr. Mead.)

    But while I did not take sides in my previous comment, I have now made up my mind: I still think that the religious-freedom argument, by itself, is irrelevant. However there is a Burkean argument: German Jews have been circumcising their children in Germany for centuries, and that creates a precedent that should not be reversed without a blatantly strong reason, and I do not see any such reason.
    (I do see reasons to ban FGM, even in countries where it has been practiced for centuries.)

  • John

    #John Balog

    I do not see it, and even if it was there, it would be absolutely irrelevant. Whatever little intellectual respect for WRM I had before, I have lost it since he engaged in sophism, meaningless chatter and irrelevant allusions.

  • jacob arnon

    I agree that Andrew Sullivan is not worth arguing with.

    Professor Mead: “Just as there is a German better nature that will soon find a way to make it legally possible for both Muslims and Jews to comply with this important requirement of faith, there is a better nature in Andrew Sullivan that will, I think, ultimately understand how seriously he misjudged this issue.”

    I believe that you are right about there being a “better German human nature” I am not sure though about there being a better human nature in Sullivan.

    With Sullivan, what you see is what you get which isn’t much. He has always shot from the hip and has missed the target more often than not.

    I don’t expect this to change.

  • jacob arnon

    John Balog, I agree.

  • jacob arnon

    “(I do see reasons to ban FGM, even in countries where it has been practiced for centuries.)”

    I agree, Snorri, but FGM is not the same as male circumcision where the foreskin has not real function either as a reproductive agent or a vehicle for pleasure.

    I have experienced more [too much information excised -ed]than I know how to describe.

    I also know a man (African American) whose girl friend wouldn’t marry him unless he gto himself circumcised. (She was a SEven day Adventist– a Christian sect that circumcises
    its male children.)

    This man told me that he couldn’t distinguish any difference in sexual pleasure after he was circumcised.

  • jacob arnon

    This is my question to the judge and to those who are for banning male circumcision:

    Show me what harm it has done to the individual or the community that can be directly traced to circumcision.

  • Swearjar

    Getting into arguments with Andrew Sullivan is nothing but a race to the bottom. That said, the ripost here was deftly handled. But I’d strongly suggest not going any further. I used to have a lot of respect for Sullivan – now he seems petty, thin-skinned and always spoiling for a fight.

  • http://www.circumstitons.com Hugh7

    @jacob Ask Angelo Ofori-Mintah’s mother, of Queen’s Park, London. He died two days after his circumcision. Ask any of these men: http://www.circumstitions.com/Resent.html#other

    “the foreskin has not real function either as a reproductive agent or a vehicle for pleasure.”
    Spoken by someone who can’t remember having his, obviously.

    @WigWag: there is no parental decision quite like the one to cut part of the genitals off. There is no other normal, healthy, functional, non-renewable part of the body it’s even legal to cut off without pressing medical need. The most nearly corresponding part of a girl (the clitoral prepuce) has special legal protection. It would of course be illegal to circumcise a non-consenting man. It’s illegal to tattoo a child or pierce a child’s genitals. The infant male foreskin alone is fair game, purely because of historical accident, while the tide has gone out on other (admittedly worse but all equally strongly defended by tradition and antiquity before they were abandoned) human rights abuses like slavery, child labour, child marriage, castration and footbinding, leaving it alone like a log on the beach.

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

    “Just as there is a German better nature that will soon find a way to make it legally possible for both Muslims and Jews to comply with this important requirement of faith, there is a better nature in Andrew Sullivan that will, I think, ultimately understand how seriously he misjudged this issue.”

    Professor Mead, your charity is commendable – and for once I say that without the slightest hint of a smirk on my face. Personally I see nothing wrong, and much to admire, about appealing to both Andrew Sullivan’s and Germany’s better nature. And all the more so, I believe, in a Germany that may be in serious danger of reprising an ugly phase at least of theological anti-Judaism, if not of racial anti-Semitism. But then isn’t that one of the more attractive aspects of us human creatures – that the most valuable things about us are seldom the things WE consider most valuable (e.g., the “positions” we stake out and hold?)?

    But if I may expand on a brief but valuable discussion I had with Kris the other day (and so risk veering, I’m afraid, rather sharply off-topic):
    Thank God we are none of us JUST the sum total, without remainder, of what we think – yes, even “definitively” think – at any point in our lives. Not even the IDEOLOGICAL sum total . (Which means, in effect, that we humans remain so much more than anything we’ve ever made, or ever could make, of ourselves; we remain also what God has made – and has yet to make – of us).

    In other words, every one of us DOES have a better nature, however poorly we use or badly we neglect it. Indeed – and sadly enough for all our go-getting – I suspect its development depends far more on our quietly attending to every presence and hint and shade (or nuance?) of God, than on any loud, flashy “getting on” with our lives. In fact I often wonder if this residual better nature – this God-needing, God-sensitive core of us that is actually (IMAGINE it!) love-able – is not ALL that keeps us from being downright repulsive. And so makes both our neighbors’ and our own attempts at real charity sometimes easier, and occasionally even more pleasant, than the teeth-gritting, nose-holding experiences we’ve all come to know and dread.

    Now the following isn’t my view. But I’ll grant you, it may be that God created us all as just so many anonymous, identityless clumps of clay. Gobs that He then threw against the wall and proceeded to watch and wait, to see what we would “make of” ourselves (evolutionarily or otherwise). In which case I can easily imagine those who believe they’d “made the most” of themselves feeling more than entitled to do as they liked with the rest. Even within our own species – as with British plantation slavery in the New World c. 1720 (we humans being such superb, if not inerrant, judges in these matters).

    And that may be one valid path of progress, according to one set of moral criteria. And one which, it seems to me, we’ve largely – albeit subtly – been re-pursuing these past 40 years (whether one colors it Blue or Red). In our Modern Deism, God more or less gets everything going, but it’s up to us to determine not only where it goes and how far (“What are you TALKING about, man? Progress NEVER ends!”), but the objectives, the agendas, the rates of speed, and the standards by which participants are rewarded and punished. Or maybe neither rewarded nor punished, but simply deleted from the equation.

    And yet, more and more these days (call me a perennial malcontent), it occurs to me that we God-fearing Yanks need to start taking seriously a certain other notion. The notion that, yes, there is indeed a God. But also that He is not only the ongoing Author of our human Story (and not, as per our modern deism, one who’s largely put His pen down), but that He expressly intends EVERY one of the characters with whom He crosses our paths. Indeed at least as expressly, and as lovingly, as Shakespeare intended not only Hamlet but every other character – right down to the most “insignificant” – in that inimitable work. And that if we continue to regard our fellow-characters as so much manipulable, expendable clay, EXCEPT so far as they prove themselves worthy in our august sights (and don’t we humans generally prove much more ruthless gods than the original one?) – well, then I don’t see how we’re going to find much rational, compelling reason to build up, and give hope to, and encourage these same characters. Certainly not in that curious manner which both Hebrew and Greek scriptures speak of as love. As opposed to our beating them down, or putting them down, or otherwise co-diminishing (AKA competing with) them. All for our own sur-VIYUV-al, of course. Funny, too, how we modern connoiseurs of Darwinian survival methods should so seldom look to the Jews for lessons in the art. I mean, haven’t they been around for, what, something like 4000 years? And can we be sure charity within their ranks has been no factor in that success? Perhaps occasionally even a greater factor than internecine competitiveness?

    And so back to topic (more or less): It seems to me that even a country is a kind of community, albeit ideally a very minimalist and lightly-demanding one (unlike, e.g., companies, churches, sects, clubs, cults, etc). Any DECENT country, then, measures its worth by its ability not to be a monolith, but rather to accept and to embrace within itself – without crushing them – other communities that mean it no harm. Which naturally excludes al-Qaeda and the like. But otherwise, I see no reason why it should be any harder to be German and Orthodox Jewish than it is to be English and orthodox Christian. Not that latter, mind you, has always been easy in every Age. Indeed the crucial question for our present Age may be, Are both starting to get harder?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Jacob:
    “Show me what harm it has done to the individual or the community that can be directly traced to circumcision.”

    I take it that you did not read the Yahoo article that WRM linked to.

  • jacob arnon

    Hugh7 says: “@jacob Ask Angelo Ofori-Mintah’s mother, of Queen’s Park, London. He died two days after his circumcision.”

    There in individual mishaps in every human activity. How many people die in traffic accidents. Go ahead and offer a comparison. You are obviously aginst circumcision, fine. Don’t have one. Don’t circumcise your male children. But don’t forbid Jews who want to do so.

  • jacob arnon

    Hugh, “Spoken by someone who can’t remember having his, obviously.”

    I mentioned a friend who underwent circumcision as an adult and didn’t feel much difference when having sexual intercourse.

    As for me, I have as much pleasure as I can stand without the foreskin. I never think about being circumcised except when arguing against anti-Jewish fanatics like Hugh.

  • jacob arnon

    Snorri, I have read many articles about circumcision both pro and con.

    Those arguing against it either use faulty data or argue from individual incidents of bad outcomes against the practice.

    That’s like arguing from a few car accidents that we should stop driving.

    In the thousands of years Jews have been circumcising their children the Jewish people have certainly not been harmed by it.

    More harm comes to Jews from anti-Jewish bigots who are afraid of circumcision than from the practice itself.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @jacob arnon: Interesting point. Poor Albert Einstein. If he hadn’t been so cruelly circumcised as a child, he might really have accomplished something!

  • jacob arnon

    Indeed, Professor Mead, not to mention the former swimming champion Mark Spitz and baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax how many more Olympic gold medals the swimmer might have won or how many more perfect games the pitcher might played had they still had their foreskin.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Jacob: then I was correct in my assumption: you did not read THAT article.

  • jacob arnon

    Snorri, if you are talking about the original article in his previous post,

    http://news.yahoo.com/german-court-outlaws-religious-circumcision-172728400.html

    I did read it.

    What is your point?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Jacob: my point is that the article answers your challenge:
    “Show me what harm it has done to the individual or the community that can be directly traced to circumcision.”

    You are now trying to walk away from that challenge, but you cannot expect me to take you seriously. Especially when you _know_ that I am against banning circumcision in Germany.

  • jacob arnon

    The article was about a single case of circumcision to a four year old child.

    Medical malpractice is not exactly limited to circumcision.

    My point is that circumcision is a harmless practice. Of course there are mishaps just as people fall and hurt themselves when taking a shower. (not to mention getting into an accident while in a car) That doesn’t mean that sower taking is dangerous.

    This one case was no reason to ban circumcision.

  • Mike

    “this essential and time honored religious right.”

    Essential right to cut off a piece of someones penis before they are old enough to object. [Insult removed].

    PS, I’m both Jewish and circumcised. Which doesn’t make the case against it any less compelling.

  • jacob arnon

    “PS, I’m both Jewish and circumcised. Which doesn’t make the case against it any less compelling.”

    Nor does it make it any more compelling, Mike.

  • MRL

    How much physical abuse should parents be able to subject their children to in the name of religious tradition? More than in the absence of religious tradition?

    I’m afraid that this debate is not easily resolved at least in part because the anti-circumcision crowd (of which I’m a part) has an argument which (potentially? hopefully?) creates a slippery slope towards an argument that it is not only wrong to circumcise prior to the age of consent, but also wrong to religiously indoctrinate prior to the age of consent.

  • Raider Duck

    I can’t believe there are people who think hacking a body part off a helpless infant (and [unsupported reference to alleged vampiric tendencies of religious leaders deleted — ed]) is in any way a good thing. If someone wants to be circumcised when he’s old enough to give informed consent, then whatever, but shouldn’t we protect children who can’t protect themselves?

  • jacob arnon

    “I’m afraid that this debate is not easily resolved at least in part because the anti-circumcision crowd (of which I’m a part) has an argument which (potentially? hopefully?) creates a slippery slope towards an argument that it is not only wrong to circumcise prior to the age of consent, but also wrong to religiously indoctrinate prior to the age of consent.”

    This is only part of the problem, MRL.

    What right do parents have in imposing their language on their children. Why not give teach some form of Esperanto or universal language?

  • jacob arnon

    Raider Duck, it doesn’t matter what you (0r I) believe or don’t believe.

    Infant circumcision is a fact and it will remain a fact as long as there are Jews.

    It is those people who oppose circumcision and who have in the past used extreme violence to stop it that are the ghouls.

  • Kris

    Raider@30: “I can’t believe there are people who think hacking a body part off a helpless infant … is in any way a good thing.”

    I’ll repeat this for emphasis: you simply cannot believe people hold a different position on this matter.

    I am reminded of something I read very recently:
    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.

    Good thing I have some moral imagination and can understand the case of the prohibitionists, or I might write, d’apres Raider, something like “I can’t believe there are people out there who are so obsessed with a piece of skin.” I wonder if such a statement might be seen as insulting and unhelpful.

  • theo d

    People like Water Russell Mead, who are absolutists about equating Jewishness & early-life circumcision, are simply proving that their POV is really about power, in that they want the circumcision to happen early in the boy’s life to make an indelible tribal mark on the wailing fellow. In effect : “The mighty have spoken, and your penis is maimed because of it. Guess who is in charge; not you.”

    They are fundamentally afraid to give an older Jewish boy a choice in this matter because those in charge don’t want to reduce their power. They don’t want to surrender any for the sake of individual autonomy. That’s not how tribes do things. This practice was always barbaric. It still is. Babies can die from it. Look up the statistics. If it’s such a grand & holy idea, let an adult male elect it. Though in the US, no insurance company will pay for it.

  • acoolerclimate

    http://www.cirp.org/library/sex_function/
    http://www.cirp.org/library/complications/
    http://www.coloradonocirc.org/reasons.php
    http://www.noharmm.org/IDcirc.htm

    I could go on and on. There are many complications to circumcision. No one should alter anyone else’s body without their consent. How dare you decide how much sexual pleasure anyone should have, or what that person’s body should look like.

  • jacob arnon

    theo d says: “They are fundamentally afraid to give an older Jewish boy a choice in this matter because those in charge don’t want to reduce their power.”

    What nonsense, Theo.

    I have a cousin who was circumcised when he was in his teens because he was born with a disease which made it impossible for him to become circumcised when he was eight days old.

    Yes, he chose to do so even though the operation is more painful for older people than for babes.

    You know nothing about what you are talking about Theo.

    It’s you who is on a power trip, Theo, and doesn’t want to allow a small group of people (Jews are a minority everywhere) to practice their religion without your interference.

  • Steeevyo

    You believe there is a better German nature? Oh how very kind of you dear sir.

    You sir showed a contempt towards Germany in your previous post that now your opinion on Germany became entirely irrelevant. Why would we care about a prejudiced hater who shows open contempt for our legal system?

  • Steeevyo

    And by the way. Why are you so obsessed with mutilating baby boys? It’s sickening.

  • Margaux

    The religious position:

    It has always been like that.
    If you are crcumcised as a baby and happen to not like it once you become an adult tough luck.
    If you are against circumcision on human beings that can’t decide for themselves, you are an antisemite muslim bashing nazi.

    The secular position:

    Let the kid make the choice once its old enough to decide.
    This wont affect practising your faith in the slightest. Of course only if your faith has a bit more depth than focusing on a little piece of skin (that god made by the way…)

  • Margaux

    By the way, there are Muslims out there who claim that stoning and chopping off limbs is essential to their faith.

    I think this should be respected.

  • jacob arnon

    Margaux, circumcision is not mutilation. As for transforming the child’s body contemporary science can and probably will be implanting identity chips in babes for identification reasons.

    http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2008-02-12/human-id-chips-get-under-my-skinbusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

    I’ll bet Europe will be the first place to do so.

    The human body in modern science is not the virginal some people that it is.

    This discussion is besides the point.

  • Kris

    Does anyone think that Steeevyo recognizes the tension between his two comments?

    Margaux@39: So according to you, the secular position is that religious people can practice their faith only insofar as it meets with the approval of secular people. And secular people will withhold their approval for something as insignificant as a “little piece of skin”.

    I find this caricature of secular people to be offensive.

  • Margaux

    @42Kris:

    Actually that is not what it means. It is pretty obvious that I consider myself a secular person of course otherwise I would not be ironic and also would not ridicule the expected hyperbole thrown from supporters of circumcision against the critics of such practise.
    But to be more precise I am in no way a supporter of the idea that laws in this case will prevent religious people from hurting their babies.

    I strongly object though to the tone that WRM set in his initial posting as well as in this one which shows a huge lack of understanding of the country that he is attacking.

    First post: German on the way back to Nazism!!! How dare this court in a foreign land rule in a case that is entirely unrelated to Jews (not even mentioned in the post) not consider the Jewish position!!!

    Second post (after everyone that matters in Germany criticised the regional courts ruling): Oh well so there are a few good people left in Germany then. Better at least than that Jew hater Andrew Sullivan.

    It is offensive and shortsighted to use the same Nazi tactics over and over again and I also belief that it is disrespectful to the victims of those horrendous crimes during the Nazi Regime if you equate a regional court ruling to what happened 70 years ago.
    also Germany is a country that is well aware of its history and has made tremendous amends over the decades and continues to do so. I dont wnat to quate but I want to give an example in comparison to Germany’s biggest ally. In the U.S. people can run for President on a platform that states: “I will never ever apologize for anything that the US did ever!” Somebody running on such a platform would never get a single digit result in Germany ever. Good to know that the US is apologizing in reality for their attocities at least slowly and gradually but Germany really need no lecture by anyone from the US how to critically deal with their own past and how to use these experiences in the present.

    But to get back on topic and to be very honest the question about circumcision is and should be very low on anyone’s priority list, but it would be very nice from the religious folk to refrain from accusing those that are in favour of leaving a decision of male circumcision to a male human being that is conscious enough to make that decision for himself, to refrain from calling them Nazis or oppressors of freedom.
    It would be nice if the religious folks could acknowledge that it is not completely out of the blue to raise moral issues regarding the ritual of removing a baby’s foreskin.

    In turn I want to happily acknowledge something: Even while I don’t with people who believe that rituals from thousands of years ago are essential to living a spiritual life and that they are irreplaceable and absolutely essential (how many practises have been replaced over the centuries in every single religion on the planet?), even while I don’t share this belief I strongly believe that this matter should be resolved and changed by the religious folks themselves and not solved via court ruling.

    The German story shows exactly that this is happening.

    Circumcision is from my point of view just on the edge of something that the state should regulate to protect its citizens.
    But as with abortion: too much regulation /restriction will just lead to more suffering (for women aborting and circumcisions performed illegally and underground) and not less circumcisions/abortions.

    I call it pragmatism. Any pragmatists around?

  • jacob arnon

    Margaux: says: “First post: German on the way back to Nazism!!! How dare this court in a foreign land rule in a case that is entirely unrelated to Jews (not even mentioned in the post) not consider the Jewish position!!!”

    The ruling was related to Jews, probably more than to Muslims.

    You are misinterpreting what WRM said.
    No one here has argued that Germany is on the road back to “Nazism.”

    What was said was that the court’s ruling delegitimized the religion of those
    (including Jews) who practiced circumcision.

    It also stigmatized individuals who had been circumcised.

    This is reminiscent of the way Germany stigmatized Judaism under the Nazis. Making such a comparison is legitimate and it doesn’t mean that Germany is on the road back to Nazism.

    What makes the situation so different is on part that people can object openly and in court to such a ruling and can also discuss it in public.

    It is the open discussions that Margaux objects to which makes contemporary Germany so different.

    I can’t imagine people having such discussions in the 1930’s. Can you?

    “Second post (after everyone that matters in Germany criticised the regional courts ruling): Oh well so there are a few good people left in Germany then. Better at least than that Jew hater Andrew Sullivan.”

    You are being [ad hominem characterization of discussant omitted].

    Andrew Sullivan is not a serious person. He has flip-flopped on so many issues that it’s hard to take him seriously.

    He and others who argue against circumcision assume that it is harmful when no such evidence has been produced. He also assumes that an “intact’ body is sacrosanct. This is a myth and a prejudice.

    Circumcision when done right does no harm (which is the in 99.9 percent of such circumcisions) especially when done to eight year old babies.

  • Margaux

    The arguments will stand as they are and I can only state again that this issue will always cause emotions despite its relative irrelevance in real life.

    Also I am not really in a position to defend Andrew Sullivan but I’ll bite anyway: the reason for his tremendous success lies in the fact that he changes his position when he feels the position needs changing. I mean the guy was ardent Bush supporter and for the war in Iraq. You can blame him for changing his position on that? Then you can blame everyone except for the most stubborn hardcore neocons.

    Calling it flip flopping is a legitimate rhetorical trick. But in reality the visitors statistics show that a broad range of middle of the road people prefer Sullivans approach to those who also change their mind on issues but carefully try to paint it as if they didn’t.
    So calling Sullivan irrelevant, is a bit like calling WRM an uneducated hack. Everyone knows it isn’t true but if it helps to avoid engaging in discussion why not?

  • jacob arnon

    Margaux, yes I agree that calling Sullivan irrelevant is irrelevant because he is so irrelevant that it would be a waste of time.

    Also comparing Walter Russel Mead a professor at Bard college and a recognized authority on foreign affairs. He was a fellow at the Council on Foreign relations, etc.

    Andrew Sullivan is just a blogger. He was at one time an editor of a magazine and is no authority on any subject except perhaps AIDS which unfortunately he suffered from.

    I don’t know how popular Sullivan is but I do know that the views of a member of the council n foreign relations are to be taken more seriously (agree or disagree) than those of a mere blogger.

    Now, you Margaux didn’t answer my objections to your post. For example you said,

    “First post: German on the way back to Nazism!!! How dare this court in a foreign land rule in a case that is entirely unrelated to Jews (not even mentioned in the post) not consider the Jewish position!!!”

    Professor Mead never said that Germany is “on the way back to Nazism.”

    Also the ruling on circumcision as was shown here and on his previous post is very relevant to Jews.

    You can avoid discussing real issues and engage instead in heated rhetoric but that won’t change the facts.

  • Margaux

    Of course he did not say it like that but he used questionable and inciting language and references and continues to stand by them.
    There are major flaws in the initial reading of the regional courts verdict and what it actually means and a lot of ranting and references to Nazism. This has mildly been corrcted in the follow up but far from admitting the initial errors that the rant was based on.
    Yellow Star? Seriously?
    I mean if these are the analogies that are acceptable in a serius discourse then that would make Guantanamo a concentration camp, and the Iraq war would be the invasion of Poland. Still waiting for that Nuremberg trial … etc.

    But anyway fair enough. Me as a German i take issue with this distortion of my fellow Germans and Germany in general.

  • jacob arnon

    Margaux, it’s you who is wrong. WRM never said or implied what you attribute to him.

    Your last post didn’t make any sense at all.

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