Saturday, July 7, 2012

Circumcision and bigotry: A response to Frank Furedi

Frank Furedi writes "The bigotry of the anti-circumcision zealots", an essay based on the idea that "today’s campaigning against circumcision is so dogmatic and intolerant it makes the old religions look enlightened in comparison."

In speaking for circumcision, Mr. Furedi systematically fails to mention the risks of circumcision of infants (including the risk of death), fails to mention that the foreskin is part of the male's genitalia and just waves his stick in all possible directions to see if any of his arguments manages to hush the questions of his readers.

Let's see some of his points:

If "it is unacceptable for Putzke or anyone else to use the legal power of the state to dictate to a long-established religion what customs it may and may not observe", then religions should still free to burn witches, perform honor killings and stone women. Oh, yes, they still perform honor killings and stone women, I guess that's no big deal right? No, religion is not an absolute in modern civilization. There are limits. Religious freedom ends where the other person's life starts.

There are many Jews today who are choosing to not circumcise, replacing the Bris Milah with a Bris Shalom, a non-cutting naming ceremony.

On the other side of the spectrum Orthodox Jews in New York have made a bad reputation for circumcision after repeated deaths of babies who contracted herpes through the "oral suction" by part of the mohel. It didn't happen long ago. It happened this year.

"Typically, circumcision is recast as an act of sordid violence against a child" Circumcision IS an act of violence against a child. Why do you think that the child has to be restrained? Why does the child cries (even if they keep "choking" him with ice or sugar)? Why does he go into neurogenic shock (which adults re-cast as "the baby went to sleep")?

"The semantic strategy of recasting male circumcision as ‘mutilation’ is a see-through attempt to lump it together with female circumcision"... Well, sir, mutilation is the permanent removal of a body part. As such, circumcision IS mutilation.

MGM and FGM are really equivalent. If you listen to the rethoric of Africans who defend FGM, you will hear the same arguments of people who defend circumcision. But that would be relativism. Yet discussing Islam and Judaism together is okay for you.

"There are different forms of female circumcision, but as Nancy McDermott has argued on spiked, they all involve the ‘removal of some or all of a woman’s external genitalia’. The operation often has serious side effects, such as infection, pain, haemorrhaging and infertility. As McDermott says, ‘Comparable surgery in a man would involve the removal of most of the penis and the scrotum’" - here sir you are comparing apples to oranges. The foreskin IS part (some) of a man's external genitalia. Removal of the foreskin IS comparable to the removal of the clitoral hood, and accidents in circumcision where the person performing the procedure cuts the glans of the baby are equivalent and worse than the removal of the clitoris. See this case from a Muslim circumcision, again from this year:

"And the fact that millions of boys are circumcised for non-religious reasons, either at birth or later in life after a health complication, shows that it is not a form of mutilation." - Actually, non religious circumcision is our main concern as a social practice that is kept alive due to ignorance of the parents and lack of ethics of the medical institutions. The fact that circumcision is intertwined in Islam and Judaism actually makes it more inconvenient because every time we discuss non-religious circumcision, somehow people will assume we are attacking religious freedom. No, we are attacking a customary removal of part of the genitalia when there is no reason or consent from the owner of the body.

"How can an operation condemned as ‘sexual mutilation’ in one instance be advocated as an unobjectionable and sound medical procedure used to improve someone’s health in another instance?" Circumcision as practiced on baby does not improve health. Circumcision only improves health in cases where there is a medical need for it -i.e., acquired phimosis, severe phimosis. In all other cases the "perceived" benefit is a supposed prevention of something that the baby may not ever have.

"It seems pretty clear that it is not the physical aspects of circumcision that disgusts the moral crusaders, but rather its cultural meaning for some communities." Wrong, dead wrong. Those of us who oppose circumcision of babies see circumcision as a violation of human rights because it takes away the baby's ability to choose, and exposes the baby to risks that regardless of whether they are frequent or not, are severe enough to justify the banning of the procedure. Since you don't mention those risks, I will mention the most severe risks:

  • Bleeding, which can lead to death;
  • Infections, which can also lead to death or to loss of the penis
  • Mutilation by a botched procedure;
  • Too little skin, which can result in painful sex for the person for their whole life.

Your attempt to make "our crusade" against circumcision look like it is against the culture of some communities is a persistent attempt to deviate the conversation into something that it is not to make people lose sight of what's really being discussed: cutting a healthy body organ off from babies' genitalia.

"Intolerant campaigners also hint that it has links with paedophilia". Actually Jew circumcision is the only chance that an adult man has in the U.S. to legally put his mouth on the penis of an infant. Too bad, but it just looks bad. Add to it that a strong proponent of non-religious circumcision and head of the Gilgal society, Vernon Quaintance, has just been convicted for possession of child porn, and it seems that defenders of circumcision of babies are indeed tainted of paedophilia.

"They promiscuously stigmatise circumcision as a form of child abuse". For a moment think how you would characterize today being restrained on a table, stripped naked and cut in your most private part without your consent and without the ability to even understand conceptually what is happening, to satisfy the beliefs of others. If that is not abuse, then I don't know what abuse is.

In fact, many Jew women don't want to circumcise their babies. They do it because they feel that they have to, in order to satisfy their peers. Simply put, they continue the practice of circumcision out of peer pressure and bullying.

There is a differece between forcing a kid to go to church, and cutting a part of the body of the kid to accept him into such church.

"Yet today’s paternalistic bigots only see dogma when it comes stamped with a religious symbol – they never see it in their own intolerant campaigning." This is where you fail to see. We don't attack your religion or anyone's religion. We attack a single practice that violates the rights of the child and exposes the child to risks and pain. If a child grows to wish to be circumcised as an adult, we support 100% his decision. We just don't condone the practice of cutting babies unnecessarily, whether it is for religion or social convention (as in the U.S.).

"They claim to be speaking up for the rights of the child and protecting infants from their parents". Yes, we are speaking for the rights of the child. The rights of the parents can't override the rights of the child. Parents can't decide to kill a child or cut his hand. Equally they should not be able to decide cutting part of his genitalia. You dismiss talking of the foreskin as part of the genitalia; you talk of it as something else, something that is there to cut and discard. The foreskin is a part of the genitalia.

"When parents can no longer make decisions unless a child has first given his consent, then the very existence of private life and family life is called into question." ... Okay sir, so family life is threatened by the almight foreskin? You are laughable. Can parents decide to kill their children? Can they freely decide to cut his fingers or his toes? So who gives them the right to cut his genitalia?

"And who decides what is informed consent?" Informed consent is what the doctor has to tell you before he operates you, about the risks and benefits of an operation, so that you can weight them and decide what is best for you. Babies run risks during circumcision, risks that can end their life or severly incapacitate it for its duration. If they are not afforded the right to decide whether they want or not to run that risks, and things go wrong, then their rights have been severely violated. That is also why this decision should be postponed, as babies and children don't have the mental maturity to understand the risks. Just like you don't let an infant drive a car.

"They are uncomfortable with rituals and practices that are deemed ‘traditional’ and which are based on values antithetical to the secularist worldview" - No, we are just uncomfortable with cutting people against their will. You are again trying to steer the conversation out of the issue of cutting babies, which is the practice that you keep defending.

"Individuals and groups who dislike Jews and Muslims have naturally gravitated towards this campaign, seeking to make it their own.". We don't dislike Jews and Muslims. We care about babies, helpless babies, which is why we see religious circumcision with the same eyes as non-religious circumcision of babies in the U.S. Our motivation is not religious based. We are parents who don't want to hurt our children, we were children who were hurt by circumcision, we are people who have questioned traditions when those traditions are irrational and cruel.

"What makes the anti-circumcision campaign insidious is not simply its intolerance of the religious freedom of others, but also its arrogant assumption that it has the right to tell other people how they should lead their lives". You sir keep trying to change the subject to make it look like we are against culture, as if we are against parents, as if we are against self-determination, as if we are about moral relativism, or as if we dislike Jews and Muslims... By waving your stick here and there you try to keep distance from what we are really discussing: the act of cutting helpless babies genitalia, Male Genital Mutilation.

Let me tell you for the last time that we are not fighting against religions. The fact that circumcision is embedded in Jews and Muslims is actually inconvenient: it would be easier to discuss just the non-religious routine circumcision of infants in the United States if religion wasn't somehow in the mix, but it is, and the problem is that affording protection to one group while denying it to another is discriminatory and unfair.

We have nothing against self-determination. What you fail to see is that circumcision takes away the right to self-determination of the baby, the future adult. We are trying to get you to see the world for one second from inside the skin of the individual at the center of the circumcision of infants (regardless of the reason):

You are peacefully sleeping. Suddenly you are restrained and someone starts touching your most private part. The touching starts hurting, but every time that you want to scream someone puts ice or sugar in  your mouth, and you can't even form words to cry for help, you can only cry without words. You can't move your arms, and you don't know how to walk yet, not that it would help since they are restraining your legs too. And the pain grows; it's actually the worse pain you have felt in your short life, but nobody comes to help you, nobody comes to rescue you. Your mind retreats into shock, convinced as you are that this is the end.

When you come back, you are still in pain - not as intense, but nevertheless severe, lasting a couple of weeks while your penis forms a scar where a healthy tissue used to be.

And this is the best case scenario, where you didn't get infected, where you didn't bleed to death, where you didn't lose your penis.

If that is not abuse, then please tell me what is abuse.

Don't tell me that this is moral relativism, because the act that I just described, unless it had been performed to save the baby's life (which it wasn't), is simply absolute cruelty imposed upon the most helpless and vulnerable of the creatures.

1 comment:

  1. The fact that some misinformed parents who are not Jews or Muslims also cut boys genitalia, shows only that children are considered of little value except as extensions of their parents. Genital cutting in childhood is immoral, regardless of the wishes of their parents, and anybody who cannot see the truth in that is less than human.