Recently, the whole topic of infant circumcision has revived in Europe with a great deal of very strong feeling.
It amazes me that while the infant is not protected by law from mothers who have weird ideas about how to give birth, so that they put their infants at serious risk of birth injury or death, a German court has decided to be the infant's advocate to protect his foreskin. [The legal argument, of course, is that a fetus has no legal standing as a human being until born, and therefore no legal rights as an individual]
Other countries, such as Norway, are now allegedly considering a law which will make circumcision, for any reason, a crime before age 15. That is absurd, for several reasons, which I'll get to.
Of course, Christians deliberately stopped circumcising their sons when they broke from Judaism and began sucking up to the Romans, who, like the Greeks, did not circumcise. The Gentiles couldn't see the point of it, and the Christians were anxious to abrogate as much Mosaic Law as they could in order to be distinct from the Jews.
Islam always required circumcision, and the practice in North Africa undoubtedly predated Mohammad, who co-opted it as being "normal". The ancient Egyptians circumcised, and not a few soldiers from both the German and Allied armies discovered that the fine sand, continually present everywhere, got under the foreskin and caused sores, and therefore the custom might have had something to do with making for a more comfortable life. There not being any deserts like the Sahara in northern Europe, no one thought of either this problem or the obvious solution to it.
Educated Victorians, who had a number of obsessions about sex and sexuality as well as hygiene, adopted the practice. Queen Victoria had all her sons circumcised as infants, in fact the circumciser was a mohel recommended by the Chief Rabbi [and the Windsor family has continued the practice: Prince Charles was circumcised in the same way]. Circumcision has been alleged to not only be cleaner, but to prevent a number of female gynecological problems such as yeast infections and cancer of the cervix, as well as being helpful to prolonging the act of intercourse by the supposed slight "desensitation" of the head of the penis. It was also supposed to keep boys from masturbating as much.
These claims are unproved, and largely unproveable. But there are two indisputable medical reasons for male circumcision, phimosis and the transmission of HIV.
Phimosis affects about 6% of males, usually either around age 6 or at puberty. The foreskin simply cannot stretch and becomes a tight band, causing pain and can impede blood flow to the point of penile gangrene if ignored. It becomes evident at these ages because of the boy's growth spurt when he's about 6, and when he first begins to have erections that aren't accidental. Lest one think this is no big deal, in two cases phimosis caused major historical events. Louis XV [or XVI, I forget] could not consummate his marriage to Marie Antoinette for a number of years, during which time she diverted herself with diamond necklaces and a lover and which made her distinctly unloved by the French, and Catherine the Great had to resort to a lover to become pregnant and provide an heir to the Russian throne. In both cases, neither man could have intercourse until he'd been circumcised.
The other medical benefit of circumcision, which is now proved beyond doubt, is that HIV transmission is reduced by up to 65% in men who have been circumcised. Some African tribes historically have used circumcision as a "rite of passage" ritual, but many have not, and there is now a massive campaign in Black Africa to provide free circumcision to men [even giving them a small cash grant, or something like a radio to increase the incentive]. So much for a doctor, Norwegian or German, I forget which, who claims there is no medical rationale for the practice.
Jews circumcise on the 8th day for a couple of very good reasons. One is that Vitamin K levels in the infant's blood have returned to normal levels by then, after dropping at birth. Vitamin K is involved in blood coagulation. Another is that the operation is a very minor one; the infant isn't even aware, and given a dose of paracetamol before, often doesn't even cry. [We were taught in nursing school that the nerve pathways are immature, and what the baby resents is being restrained] Certainly, a child of 6 will be much more traumatized, psychologically if not physically, and I shudder to think what an adolescent boy would experience. [In point of fact, I have been involved in assisting with a number of adult circumcisions: when the large Russian aliyah took place, entire families, sometimes 3 generations, requested circumcision as it had not been available for 70 years in the USSR. The Israeli government made arrangements with a number of hospitals to do it for free. It is not anywhere as simple or painless as infant circumcision, and there is a greater chance of a number of complications such as hemorrhage or infection] Muslims, btw, have traditionally had big celebrations when a circumcision took place, anywhere between 7 and 12 years of age, and it has been postulated that the sequestration of women may have a component of sexual anxiety in the Arab male. Who knows? But the concept of forcing a boy to wait until adulthood is tantamount to saying "we will make the whole business so frightening and unpleasant that you will forego it".
What the anti-circumcision Europeans don't know, and/or don't want to admit, is that they know full well that they are attacking a practice which is one of the fundamentals of both Judaism and Islam. Neither Jews nor Muslims will stop circumcising their sons because a Christian government tells them to. Both Jews and Muslims don't care that it is medically beneficial; it simply is a direct commandment from God that they must obey. This is, make no mistake about it, an overt manifestation of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia masking itself in some very dubious, indeed, erroneous, scientific claims and spurious concern about "human rights".
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