The following piece in yesterday’s Times is typical of mainstream media coverage of the potential banning of MGM in Iceland. It starts off with a scandalous claim underneath the caption:
Times caption: Medical experts argue health benefits favour continuing the practice of circumcision
Male circumcision could be outlawed in Europe for the first time under a draft law in Iceland that has pitted children’s rights campaigners against religious leaders.
Circumcising a boy for non-medical reasons would be punishable by up to six years in prison under the bill tabled by Silja Dogg Gunnarsdottir, an MP from the centre-right Progressive Party. She proposed the legislation, which has broad support in parliament and among the public, to ensure that boys are protected in the same way as girls after a ban on female genital mutilation in 2005.
“I see it as a child protection matter,” she said. “In Iceland we acknowledge the right to believe but we also acknowledge the right and freedom of everyone to choose and have their opinions.”
The bill says that circumcision “involves permanent interventions in a child’s body that can cause severe pain”. Referring to religious opposition to the legislation, the MP said: “Children should have their own rights for their own beliefs when they are adults.”
Christian leaders on the island and on the Continent are supporting Jewish and Muslim clerics who are fighting the measure on the grounds that it discriminates against people of non-Christian faiths and is an attack on religious freedom.
There are fewer than 2,000 Jews and Muslims in Iceland but the dominant Christian church in the country also opposes the bill. Agnes Sigurdardottir, the bishop of Iceland, said that it could turn Jews and Muslims into criminals.
“The danger that arises if this bill becomes law is that Judaism and Islam will become criminalised religions,” the Lutheran bishop said. Children must be given the right to grow up in their family’s religious and cultural practices, she added.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the Catholic Church in the European Union, called the proposed law a dangerous attack on religious freedom. “The criminalisation of circumcision is a very grave measure that raises deep concern.”
One in three men in the world is circumcised, according to the World Health Organisation. The circumcision rate in the United States has declined from 83 per cent in the 1960s to about 75 per cent.
Medical experts argue that health benefits favour continuing the practice [J4MB: Absolute nonsense. Not one doctors’ representative body in the world calls for routine male infant circumcision.] but European states are increasingly treating circumcision as a question of children’s rights. A 2012 law in Germany permits only trained professionals to perform the operation. The measure was taken after a court ruling that circumcision “permanently and irreparably changed” a child’s body and took away their right to decide their own religious affiliation.
In 2013 the Council of Europe passed a resolution calling on its 47 member states to regulate practices concerning ritual circumcision.
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All the mainstream media coverage we’ve seen of the Iceland story has included far too much commentary from religious people, and far too little commentary (if any) from opponents to the procedure. If potential health consequences are touched on, it’s invariably to suggest that the MGM can bring physical benefits, never that it always results in physical harm, and sometimes psychological harm.
Last night we had an email from a young man asking for sources of material debunking the claimed medical benefits of MGM. We pointed him to William Collins’s blog, specifically four pieces: