Reform Jews are making cause with Haredim! Muslims are embracing the concerns of rabbis! What’s going on here? Did the messiah come?
No. They’re all up in arms because a German court has ruled against religious circumcision. Nothing like ritual genital mutilation to unite the faiths.
So that I can avoid the pitchforks and torches, let me be clear that I’m generally opposed to anti-circumcision laws. With a custom as old as male circumcision, no ordinance or ruling will bring about its end. For that we need to employ reason and persuasion. We must also be willing to practice some patience. People have to be allowed to come to their own conclusions about it. Statutory prohibitions are actually counter-productive, blocking reasoned discourse and providing a sympathetic platform for religious leaders to rouse emotions.
One element blocking such discourse is that this decision came from a German court. Accusations of antisemitism were inevitable. It will also not stand. The Bundestag will undoubtedly clarify that the procedure is permitted for religious reasons and the hubbub will die down.
But let’s remember that this decision was based upon a case involving a four year-old Muslim boy. Performing the procedure on a four year-old is even more incomprehensible to me than doing it to an infant. It seems to me that when we’re talking about four year-olds we are already well into a kind of child abuse that we can all agree upon.
So here’s a modest suggestion. If legislators or judges seek to minimize suffering, they should perhaps turn their attention to placing some reasonable restrictions on the practice such as imposing age limits. Clearly, the pain and suffering associated with this unnecessary surgery increases with age.
And far be it from me to bust up the great spirit of interfaith cooperation that the court has engendered, but since Jews favor infant circumcision, maybe they could be convinced to get on board with such age restrictions. Muslims, whose customs range from infant to puberty-aged circumcisions, should at least be compelled to practice the somewhat less complicated custom of infant circumcision.
Of course, even this modest reform would do little to address the core issue that is the madness of 21st century people engaging in barbaric Bronze Age genital mutilation. But given that this injudicious practice is widespread and deeply rooted in tradition, only education and awareness can lead to its eventual – and much hoped for – demise.