A German district court ruled on June 26th that parents have no right to circumcise their children without medical justification, and surprise surprise, this has kicked up a bit of a storm. People are wrongly concluding that this was an anti-Jewish ruling, but in fact it was centred on life-threatening bleeding when a four year old child of muslim parents was circumcised in 2010.
Here we see several of the issues. First, as Richard Dawkins says, the child is not yet a muslim, but a child of muslim parents. Second, the child could easily have joined the dozens of others who - every year in the 'western world' - either die of blood loss or contract STDs during the ritualised removal of a perfectly good bit of his body.
The decision to take this risk was not his own, at an age where he could have given consent. It was taken for him, by his parents while he was still helpless.
Doesn't a child - boy or girl - have a right to be protected from being mutilated in this way? In my view the answer is an emphatic YES!
Britain's Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, complained to the German ambassador in London about "this appalling decision".
"Did the court know that circumcision is the most ancient ritual in the history of Judaism, dating back almost 4,000 years to the days of Abraham?" he wrote in the Jerusalem Post. [I wonder why he didn't write it in a German paper, or a British one, or indeed mention that the case was not about Juduaism?]
"Do judges in Cologne today really not know what happened the last time Germany went down that road?" [This very sentence shows that his argument is a weak one and has to be backed up by ridiculous rhetoric.]
He said the court was, in effect, telling Jews: "If you don't like it, leave." [Or maybe the court was telling everyone to abandon dangerous, life-threatening, pointless bronze-age rituals and join the rest of us in the new millennium.]
So now you see that Lord Sacks has immediately and wrongly assumed that it is a case of persecution of the Jews. He has also used a ridiculous argument from Old Testament times to support the continued abuse of these children, when surely he should recognise their right to be protected from activities like this.
Germany's formidable Chancellor, Angela Merkel has now weighed-in on the argument, and quite clearly on this occasion she is firmly in the wrong. She is trying to smooth the waters simply to be politically correct and offer positive discrimination for semitic cultures. I thought she was above that sort of thing. I wonder what would happen if this became a referendum issue in Germany. I don't think it is overwhelmingly probable that she would win it.
Why can't everyone see the justice in the court's ruling? All children must have rights, whatever the circumstances of their birth. One item of hope remains, whatever new law Merkel would like to introduce. She will find it very difficult to find the words to allow the genital mutilation of boys without allowing the same for girls. Even if she succeeds, that same law should be open to a challenge on the basis of gender equality.
I'm sure the story will continue, and that it will be reported in the National Secular Society's newsletter. Here's a link to the latest edition, and one to the subscription page.
At least there is hope of progress . . . in the right direction!