A piece penned by Kaya Burgess and published in The Times today (below) has attracted 250+ comments so far, almost all critical of MGM. All the most highly upvoted comments are critical. Yet the paper has chosen to make its “Featured Comment” one from a Jewish man claiming health benefits. We’ve posted quite a number of comments which have received support. If you’re a subscriber you’ll be able to read the article and comments here. The article:
Anti-circumcision groups buoyed by proposals to ban the religious ritual for boys in Iceland are planning protests to put pressure on medical bodies to condemn the practice in Britain.
Senior rabbis and imams have said that any such move would contravene religious freedoms and are gearing up for a battle.
The British Medical Association (BMA) is undertaking a periodic review of its guidelines on “non-therapeutic” or “ritual” circumcision, routinely carried out on newborn and young boys at the request of Jewish and Muslim parents. It will be completed later this year.
According to the most recent estimates, from 2000, about 4 per cent of boys born in the UK are circumcised by the age of 15. The World Health Organisation said studies showed that there were complications in 1.2 per cent of cases. The Royal College of GPs said that its members were put in a “difficult situation”, noting: “There is very little guidance for GPs and other medical professionals on how to manage requests for circumcision.”
The BMA outlines best practice for safe circumcision but does not take a position on whether the non-medical practice is ethical. The General Medical Council states that doctors are “not obliged” to perform them if they do not believe it is in the child’s interests, but says “cultural, religious or other beliefs” must be taken into account.
In Jewish practice circumcision is performed at eight days. In Islamic practice it must take place before puberty.
A bill introduced in Iceland’s parliament seeks to make it a criminal offence to remove any part of a child’s sexual organs for non-medical reasons. Campaigners now hope to see an age of consent introduced in the UK, either at 18 or in line with the NHS age of medical consent at 16. NHS guidelines add that under-16s can consent “if they are believed to have enough intelligence, competence and understanding to fully appreciate what’s involved”.
Richard Duncker, of the Men Do Complain group, said the practice was “without doubt an infringement” of a child’s rights. “There is no disease being cured, so it is a complete breach of medical ethics.”
He said he often heard from men who felt traumatised by having been circumcised at an early age, but felt a cultural pressure to stay silent. The group will lobby the BMA.
Mr Duncker said the group would hold a “polite” demonstration at the BMA’s meeting in Brighton in June. “I think an enormous amount of doctors are sympathetic to our cause but are shouted down with a religious freedom argument,” he added.
The National Secular Society has called on the UK to follow Iceland’s lead in banning the practice. A YouGov poll last week suggested that 62 per cent of Britons would support such a law, with 13 per cent opposing.
Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said he was working with senior rabbis and imams on the European Muslim- Jewish Leadership Council to create “a political campaign to explain to different countries the ramifications of such laws”. He added: “Over the past 3,500 years it has been an essential part of Jewish identity so every lawmaker looking to sign such proposals should know they are saying, ‘[We] don’t want an organised Jewish community in our country.’ ”
Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said children had “a right to be brought up in their family’s religious or cultural background”. He said the Bible commanded Jews to carry out circumcision; it was not stated whether this was for health reasons but there was no evidence that circumcision had adverse health effects. He said the procedure was more painful after puberty.
Qari Asim, a senior imam in Leeds, said there could be certain health benefits to circumcision. “It’s unfortunate that these campaigns resurface, because we’ve gone over this so many times and it goes against one of our fundamental principles, which is religious freedom.”
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