Faith groups unite on circumcision

2012-07-28 16:34

Vienna - A row over religious circumcision in Austria that has spread from Germany made more waves on Saturday after an unprecedented joint call by Jews, Muslims and Christians for unequivocal government support.

The Jewish Community (IKG), the Islamic Community of Austria (IGGiOe) and Catholic and Lutheran bishops called on Friday on Vienna to "issue a clear commitment to religious freedom and to the legality of male circumcision".

"All sides welcome that the health and justice ministries see no need to change (the legal situation) but what is missing is a clear commitment from the highest level, in other words from government leaders," the statement said.

The call came after the premier of Vorarlberg issued a provisional recommendation to hospitals in the state not to perform circumcision operations, even when it is on religious grounds, prompting considerable media coverage.

The centre-right Markus Wallner issued the call following a highly contentious June ruling by a court in the German city of Cologne that circumcision of young boys was tantamount to grievous bodily harm, a criminal act.


Unsure of its legal standing, Germany's chief medical association advised doctors who routinely perform circumcisions on baby boys on behalf of parents citing religious grounds to refrain.

The Cologne verdict provoked uproar from religious and political leaders in Israel as well as Muslim countries, with Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly saying it risked making Germany a "laughing stock".

This month German MPs adopted a cross-party motion calling on the government to protect the practice. Diplomats said the court ruling was "disastrous" to Germany's international image, particularly in light of its Nazi past.

"I see no need to act," Austrian Justice Minister Beatrix Karl said on Friday. "In Austria circumcision is not an illegal act. There also exists the fundamental right to religious freedom."

In Graz, capital of the south-eastern Austrian state of Styria, the children's hospital has also decided not to carry out any more circumcisions that have not already been scheduled.

Two Swiss hospitals have also called a provisional halt.

Both Muslims and Jews practise circumcision, although the Qur'an does not impose it, unlike the Torah which says the procedure must be done before the eighth day of a child's life.

The Austrian IKG's honorary president Ariel Muzicant reportedly even went as far as to say that a ban "would be an attempt at another Shoah [Holocaust]... just this time with intellectual means". The comment drew widespread criticism.

  • sadrick.lottering - 2012-07-28 19:03

    What uniteds all men? Dingdong! Jews, Muslims and Christians a united front? the smell of a global religion...

      Sean Wasserman - 2012-07-28 19:48

      If only we would stand united all of the time. It would be the end of war and the beginning of global peace.

      sadrick.lottering - 2012-07-29 20:26

      The critic on Germany and using its history is utterly appaling, opportunistic and clearly exhibits the extend religiosity would go to defend much of what is left of it.\r\n\r\nI'm afraid the ruling on circumcision paints a picture that religiosity is a choice and most importantly that the state is immune from religiosity. \r\n\r\nThis unfortunately, realy has nothing much to do with the rights of citizens or infants for that matter in the eyes of religious leaders but the state displaying it's superiority over believe systems, not to mention the suggestion that the major top three religions are no different from any other believe system in relation to rights and by so doing \humiliating\ the ego's which our believe systems accompanies. \r\n\r\nThe uproar caused by Jews, Muslims and Christrians stems from a single red-light, that being if the ban on male circumcision or the ban on a religious sense of identity goes through, the state could be building foundation to regulate religiosity like it does alcohol and other substances, this could go as far as forcing religious body's to co-opt minors after a certain age, which then could also mean minors can only engage in religious activities when they hold greater knowledge of the believe system their adopting. Which will categorise and cement the notion that religion is pathology. \r\n\r\nBut this all, can only happen if religiosity lost it's grip on the state/government and the illusion/idea of church and state separation is geniunely realise. But that won't happen anytime soon, secularist are stil in for a loooong wait. \r\n\r\nAs for the religious example of forgiveness or reconciliation now on publicly display, it is said to hear a country cannot defend without favour the interest of a citizen when a certain religion's practices is of matter and the practice infringes the right of that citizen, all because of the past. Germany Today Enslaved.

  • crracker.crackerr - 2012-07-28 19:49

    The religious seem quite united in their approval of baby abuse. Take it a step further: It translates into them having to support for example female circumcision and other horrible bloodthirsty and painful inflictions in solidarity with each other’s religion and faith in future. They are not thinking it through. Support lashes and beheadings for example? Religiously inspired? Cutting off ears and noses like we saw reported? David Lewis-Williams: “For believers in divine creation (whether by miracle or evolution), circumcision poses a problem. We sometimes hear that God gave the Israelites circumcision not as an identification mark as the Bible says (it is, after all, seldom displayed) but for (spurious) ‘reasons of health’. This, we are told, is why present-day fundamentalist Christians and non-believers alike still practise the custom. If we adopt this view, we must allow that, for utterly inexplicable reasons, God lied to the Israelites. If foreskins are indeed a health hazard, we must grant that they were a glitch in Intelligent Design. Or did God create foreskins simply so they could be cut off?” How about this one, also p 204: “David ‘slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king’s son in law. And Saul gave him Micahal his daughter to wife’ (1 Samuel 18:27). It is all human created and inflicted, NOT from some god or divine being.

      zaatheist - 2012-07-29 04:31

      “We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least instills morality. On every side, there is conclusive evidence that the contrary is the case and that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid.” - ? Christopher Hitchens

  • Eli Lewenstein - 2012-07-28 23:18

    since when do the germans know anything about grievous bodily harm.......they created a holocaust and thats not grievous bodily harm,mass murder,anhilation,genocide???

      zaatheist - 2012-07-29 04:30

      How dumb are you or how dumb do you think we are. Is that your defence for this disgraceful disregard for human rights. They did something dreadful so me being dreadful is ok? All you achieve with silly comments like this is to confirm that religion is a mental illness.

  • Sean Wasserman - 2012-07-29 10:14

    You are all carrying on about human rights, but you then argue that government must intervene to impose on me your beliefs. What about my freedom of religion and religious belief. There is no scientific proof that male circumcision is harmful when it is done in sterile conditions.

      Bob.Cee123 - 2012-07-29 13:09

      Hygeine is not the issue, Sean. It's the fact that it's a baby's body which is being violated, on however small a scale, without it's express permission. We are not talking parental consent for lifesaving surgery here, which is a different issue entirely, but we are talking about a religious rite with no proven, documented value to the child, but rather for ceremonial purposes for the parents own beliefs. The procedure should only be available to adults who can consciously decide to have their own foreskins removed. That is not an imposition of beliefs upon the religious by the secular, it is far more simple than that. It is the prevention of an unnecessary, archaic procedure being carried out on somebody who cannot speak for themselves, however skilled the surgeon and however sterile the conditions may be. Would you support female circumcision if carried out in a hospital under sterile conditions?

      Sean Wasserman - 2012-07-29 14:43

      @Bob, people opposed to male circumcision have no right to impose their opinion on others. Stopping Jewish circumcision by legislation is tantamount to denying Jews their religion.

      Bob.Cee123 - 2012-07-29 15:43

      @ Sean - I'm afraid that's a fallacy. Nobody is saying that circumcision should be banned outright, nor religion, but rather that any rituals which involve the removal of body parts and the drawing of blood / infliction of pain, in secular countries must be reserved for those who choose to have it done themselves, as an adult. Those who wish to practice this on their babies should move to a theocratic country which promotes such practices. This does not mean I condone the practice in theocracies but those who wish to live in a country where religion takes precedence over human rights, should not live in countries where this is not the case. The defence of the innocent children who cannot speak for, nor defend themselves takes precedence over the dogmatic adherences of the religious leaders and parents who wish to impose their religious rituals upon their children. Who's to say the child even wishes to be Jewish when he grows up? Religion's dominion over the innocent and defenseless needs to come to an abrupt end. Now the victim card is being pulled out and shoved in the faces of those who wish to simply protect innocent babies. And please answer my question above. Would you approve of female genital mutilation / circumcision for cultural reasons, if it was practiced in hospitals and carried out by surgeons?

      sean.wasserman.3 - 2012-07-29 19:25

      Bob, The topic is male circumcision, but to answer you regarding female circumcision, I do not have an opinion. Regarding theologic societies, I believe that there should be separation of church/religion and state. A jewish child has a sense of identity from the day that it is born. If circumcision were to be banned until a legal age is reached, it is more than likely that the jewish child will opt to be circumcised when it reaches the legal age.

      Bob.Cee123 - 2012-07-29 20:31

      @ Sean - Any identity a baby has is mostly, if not entirely, projected upon them in the minds of adults. While a child's sense of identity forms later on and will be molded and influenced by the rich culture inherent in Jewish families and societies, a baby of 8 days or less has no such sense of identity. I don't deny circumcision as part of that Jewish identity and as a valuable rite of passage for Jewish people. I simply feel it should not be imposed upon babies or even children, but rather left to be an adult decision. Everything is quite a bit larger then and surgery is less error prone. I view male circumcision in a similar light to the less severe forms of female genital mutilation of which there are varying degrees. No disrespect intended.

  • gail.hayesbean - 2012-07-29 15:38

    My father suffered from balanitis- possibly more common in hot climates where water is at a premium and had to be circumcised at age six. He never forgot that agony and asked all his children not to risk it with their sons. My husband wasn't circumcised and the obsterician who delivered my first son refused to circumcise him and HE developed balanitis and had to have his foreskin stretched in order for the head to be cleaned properly. It wasn't for lack of trying that this happened nor for lack of hygiene. He suffered agony at age 3 by which time I had a 2nd son of 18 months old with whom we were experiencing the same problem. We did not wait for him to develop balanitis but had the foreskin stretched before it could happen. In my opinion this has nothing to do with religion or fashion or sensation and everything to do with health and procreation. When the holy books were written they were based on nenvironmental conditions prevailing at the time in the desert type regions of North Africa and the Middle East. Jewish Torah and Muslim followed it as part of the Abrahmic Covenant so that sacrifices of animals no longer had to be made.Christianity which rose from that did away with it all together because Jesus became God's blood sacrifice shed for redemption. Personally I do not believe it is necessary unless there is a medical reason for it as in my family. It's rubbish to say don't do it because the father is/n't. Other boys fathers may be and we need to respect differences.

  • gail.hayesbean - 2012-07-29 15:44

    I just wish to add that in hot clmates infections can develop in the sheathed penis at a very young age as I have said so waiting until the boy is 18 or old enough to choose might just be waiting too long. Medically it has been demonstrated that an unsheathed penis is less likely to contract and transmit the HIV as well as preventing cervical cancer in women. How do we know that men who aren't circumcised are not carriers of HIV or if not HIV then possibly something else which causes cervical cancer? This may well be the origin of circumcision in the Holy Books as well.

      Bob.Cee123 - 2012-07-29 16:06

      @ gail - Those studies concerning circumcision/HIV transmission appear to have been quite severely flawed - see links above. Personal hygiene and safe sex is way more effective than circumcision will ever be. I totally agree with the practice as a surgical intervention, as you described it, but when it is imposed on a child against their will simply to adhere to religious dogma, it is no better than child abuse. I am quite in favour of adults deciding to do it for religious reasons, once they have reached an age where they can make such decision, but to impose it on a baby who no doubt experiences some pain and trauma, is a violation of their human rights.

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