Thursday, July 12, 2012

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!

Friday, July 06, 2012

With friends like that who needs enemies

Today, 6 July, Paris is hosting a third meeting of the so-called "Friends of Syria" group, another coalition of the willing and coerced, as part of the ongoing propaganda war to aid the reshaping of the Middle East in the interest of American imperialism - a project begun with 9/11 and the conquest of Iraq and Afghanistan. The group of "friends" is essentially made up of two constituents: those who want to profit from the pillage and those who want to avoid or at least delay being pillaged themselves. Most of the attending Arab countries fit in the latter category, painfully aware that the "Arab Spring", the subterfuge for catapulting American-friendly Muslim Brotherhood governments (for details of that cozy relationship see my book "Surrendering Islam") into power through engineered popular unrest, could also engulf them any time they step out of line.

The situation of Syria is constantly being presented as a civil unrest having turned into a civil war with international humanitarian intervention required in order to counter government oppression. It is a re-run of the same model of regime change having been accomplished in Libya, except that this time Russia and China are no longer standing by altogether naively.

There is a lot which doesn't add up with this story broadcast throughout the loyal media outlets. How does civil unrest turn into civil war without the outside supply of arms? We do not expect oppressed people suffering under the yoke of cruel dictatorship to have acquired machine guns and heavy artillery from their local grocery store. So Western governments are arming the Syrian opposition, which makes the moralising of Hilary Clinton about Russia supporting the Syrian government and thereby prolonging the suffering sound rather hollow.

I do not for a moment deny that there are grievances the Syrian people have. But by turning dissatisfaction into an armed rebellion the West is guilty of destabilising the country. Of course, that is exactly, what they wanted to do, but it is not justifiable by international standards. I do not know of any country where there are no grievances. If Russia and China armed dissidents in the US or had armed last year's rioters in Britain, would that have given them the right to demand that Obama or Cameron must go and hand over to the protesters in the interest of world peace?

Will the people of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya be grateful for having been allowed to exchange American-groomed dictators who have outlived their usefulness with American-groomed collaborators brought into power through engineered social unrest followed by the farce of allegedly "democratic" elections held under ex-constitutional arrangements for which the people never voted? Only time will tell, but history does not hold out much promise for the people of those countries. Nobody, of course, wants us to relativate emotionally charged propaganda slogans by looking at history.

What is difficult to understand is, however, why the Russian bear and the world's leading economy of China are so subdued and quiet on the matter. They're not attending the "Friends of Syria" conference, but they're not challenging it either. In Libya they allowed themselves to be tricked by blindly believing the West would gentlemen-like honour assurances and international agreements and would not violate the sanctity of nation states by open military intervention to depose the existing government without at least the pretence of a threat to their own security. In the case of Syria, they no longer nod through an elastically worded UN security council resolution which can be used to give them the green light to send in the bombers. But they are nonetheless allowing themselves to lose the propaganda war.

Unless those two countries - the only ones capable of counter-balancing the American-Israeli hold on world affairs - stop being defensive and launch their own propaganda offensive, they will continue to be seen as the villains stubbornly standing in the way of a just world peace. What is it that stops them pointing the finger at Western nations arming the militias set up to overthrow the Syrian government? What is is that stops them naming names and exposing the supply routes? What is it that stops them challenging the American vision of world hegemony directly? Is it that because they are not part of the English-speaking world that they underestimate or misjudge the potency of Western propaganda? Is it that they do not understand sufficiently that for Western democracies those lies are essential in order to keep their own populations on side without having to reign them in through oppressive emergency laws and increased police powers readily available through anti-terrorism legislation? And having to do that would divert resources from meddling elsewhere. Or do they still trust the West more than they should?

America has been at war throughout her history, and except for the war of independence, all those wars were fought on other people's soil. The American empire has now finally reached the stage of decline and impending collapse, but it won't go quietly. As if to hold on for dear life, her leaders have gone on another rapid and rampant expansion drive and have begun to reshape Asia and Africa politically and militarily, and maybe the weakening of Europe through its financial crisis is also part of the plan. By entering into an alliance with Russia as well as challenging the supremacy of the dollar through a number of direct currency deals, China has finally upped the game. For years, China and Russia have sat back to led the West bleed itself out through overstretch. Confucian or Taoist as that may be, today, that strategy is no longer enough to prevent serious damage. Whilst it is sensible to tire out an opponent, sometimes you have to block or even strike so as not to get hurt yourself. What China and Russia need to understand is that winning the propaganda war can sometimes prevent having to fight the shooting war or, at least, it will provide an advantage in it. And the language of propaganda is English.

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