German state extremism
In dealing with a case where a circumcision performed on a boy of four resulted in medical complications, a county court in Cologne has thrown the baby out with the bath water and ruled that circumcision itself amounts to bodily harm because "the body of the child is permanently and irreparably altered". This alteration, so the court, interferes with the interest of the child to later take his/her own decision about religious belonging. Not that the parents of the Muslim boy actually complained to bring a case. Due to some subsequent bleeding two days after the operation the mother attended the hospital's accident and emergency services. This, the German practice of nosing about and reporting on each other apparently still being alive and kicking, came to the ears of the public prosecutor who jumped to the occasion. The municipal court decided in favour of the parents and the prosecutor appealed. The regional court exonerated the doctor during its appeals hearing but took it upon itself to dictate that in future religiously motivated circumcision could legally only be practiced on adults who had given their consent.
Jumping on the bandwagon, the German Medical Association immediately expanded the regional judgment, which is most likely going to be appealed further, and told physicians nationwide to no longer perform circumcisions on children for religious reasons. Of course, the body supervising the practice of German doctors has no qualms about cosmetic surgery, but it appears that religious practices are a niggling thorn in its side. And obviously, circumcision is hardly as lucrative as cosmetic mutilation of the body. To be fair, the latter is not performed on children.
Yet, circumcision is not just a religious practice. Only a couple of weeks ago more than seventy members of parliament in Zimbabwe got themselves circumcised to kick-start a campaign amongst males in Africa due to the ongoing problems with the AIDS epidemic there and research which shows that circumcision reduces the risk of an AIDS infection by sixty percent. In the Mbala district of Uganda circumcision has been made compulsory. In the United States of America, too, circumcision is the prevalent practice chosen by parents regardless of religion. It is also proven to reduce the likelihood of cervical cancer in women.
Such medical considerations obviously played no part in the Cologne court's rush to judgment and the Medical Association's hurry to comply. The court agreed with an expert opinion stating that notwithstanding those medical benefits, there was "no necessity in Central Europe for preventative circumcision for health reasons". Whilst carefully coached in the legal justification of a child's right to self-determination, the judgment is a thinly veiled expression of religious, especially anti-Muslim, prejudice. Cologne is one of the cities with the highest concentration of Muslims in Germany. The issue is, however, complicated by the fact that circumcision is also a Jewish rite, thus immediately bringing up Germany's history in the debate, and the German National Jewish Council protested the attack on the "self-determination of religious communities" and on the "freedom of religion".
The clever ruse to enforce a monoculture by legally outlawing individual items of religious practice is not new. The German law on the prohibition of religious slaughter, for example, dates from 1933 as one of the earliest laws targetting Jews. Like the Nazis then, today's German authorities know only too well that to fight an "alien" religion, you don't have to attack their beliefs, you just curb their practices. About half of German's Federal states prohibit female teachers from wearing a headscarf, not quite as aggressive a prohibition as in France, but significant, and German courts have supported that decision. In Switzerland a referendum outlawed the building of minarets attached to mosques, so here they are clearly ahead of their German neighbours. Never mind that successive German presidents declared that "Islam is part of Germany" or "Muslims living in Germany belong there" - what they apparently meant was: You may call yourself a Muslim when you live in Germany, provided you practice Christianity or secularism.
Maybe they should take it a step further. With body scanner technology at airports it should be easy to detect whether a boarding passenger is circumcised or not. Those who are should be asked to step aside and be questioned under terrorism legislation; after all, they have taken their religious convictions too far. If such a pilot scheme is successful, it could be rolled out to other locations, too. The security industry would be grateful for the extra cash. And if the number of suspects ends up to be too great to process, they could be detained in special holding centres. Just don't call them concentration camps!