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Abby W. Schachter
by Abby W. Schachter
Aug 02, 2012 | 5723 views | 7 7 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<i>Abby Wisse Schachter</i>
Abby Wisse Schachter
Want to bring Jews and Muslims closer together? Promote liberty.

This may sound trite, but it is anything but when you consider that Jewish and Muslim religious practice is under assault in Europe after a judge in Cologne, Germany, ruled against a Muslim couple’s right to ritually circumcise their 4-year-old son. The judge ruled that circumcision is a form of mutilation and bodily harm that is not protected by religious rights.

In Austria, the Jews, Muslims and Catholic and Lutheran bishops openly called on Vienna to “issue a clear commitment to religious freedom and to the legality of male circumcision” because state hospitals are moving to ban circumcision following the German ruling. And two hospitals in Switzerland have similarly enacted a male circumcision ban.

Yascha Mounk worries that, while the movement toward a ban on circumcision may not succeed, polls show strong support for it; his concern is that the problem runs deeper.

“While the temporary ban on circumcisions is unlikely to affect Jewish and Muslim religious life in Germany for more than a few months,” writes Mounk, “the outpouring of public support for it suggests that the rights of minorities may soon come under attack in different ways.”

If you think this is just an issue in Europe, remember that a proposed circumcision ban in San Francisco almost came to a vote last year. As Mark Stern, a lawyer for the American Jewish Committee said at the time, “This is the most direct assault on Jewish religious practice in the United States. It is unprecedented in Jewish life.” 

As we know, millions of American males are circumcised not for religious reasons but because the medical profession sees it as a better option. A January 2011 article in the medical journal the Lancet concluded, “male circumcision should now be accepted as an efficacious intervention for reducing the prevalence and incidence of HPV infections in female partners,” wrote UCLA professor Norman Lavin in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. And the benefits of circumcision in the fight against AIDS are well documented by the World Health Organization.

One way to fight the German ruling is to sign a new petition by three German students — one Muslim and two Jewish. “Circumcision was and is a central element of our religions, and a covenant with God, which has been fulfilled for thousands of years without a problem — so why is it being criminalized today?” reads part of a new petition at Change.org.

But the petitioners are also touching on a more broadly important question: Why the reflex to ban our liberties — religious or otherwise?

In Germany, Austria, Switzerland and San Francisco the move is toward banning a practice based on a flawed argument and a limited view of religious liberty.

After the shooting in Aurora, Colo., recently there have been repeated calls to ban guns.

In New York City, hospitals are now banning free packages of formula for new mothers, putting the bottle formula under lock and key (like it is equivalent to morphine) and berating new mothers with lessons on why breastfeeding, and only breastfeeding, is best. Meanwhile, a ban on certain-sized sodas is taking effect.

At the Jersey Shore, cigarette smoking is banned outside on the beach, except in designated smoking areas.

In Chicago and Boston, there are moves to ban certain restaurants from opening because of the traditional views of the president and CEO, simultaneously attacking religious freedom and free speech rights.

Perhaps you don’t see the link between banning guns, smoking, chicken sandwiches, baby formula and brit milahs, but consider that a limit on religious liberty and a limit on the right to bear arms is still a limit on liberty, plain and simple. And limits on what you can do outside and what you can ingest or feed your own child are similarly outrageous. You may support one ban but how will you then be able to argue against bans you don’t like.

This week marks the 100th birthday of Milton Friedman, the Nobel laureate economist and the greatest 20th-century champion of liberty, both at home and abroad. He was a hero to refuseniks in Soviet Russia and to the late, great Czech leader Vaclav Havel. And he is a hero to libertarians and conservatives here in the United States because he was a champion of free markets and individual free choice.  

It should be up to our co-religionists as well as members of other faiths or those who are doing it for health reasons to choose circumcision. And in the process, we can all stand up for the cause of liberty — all kinds of liberty.

(Abby W. Schachter is a Pittsburgh-based columnist and writes the New York Post’s politics blog Capitol Punishment.)  



Comments-icon Post a Comment
August 08, 2012
lol the liberty of strapping kids down and cut off part of their genitals. What about choosing how much of your penis you want to keep, is that too much liberty to ask for?

It's pretty much only in USA that SOME doctors may recommend "routine" circumcision, it's about USA defending a cultural practice, not about everybody else refusing to see the "medical benefits" of circumcision.
truth seeker
August 04, 2012
The combination of Milton Friedman, Circumcision, sandwiches, gun control and cigarettes make you wonder if Abby still writes her own columns or are they generated by a Rush Limbaugh simulating software. Allowing crazy people to hoard assault weapons has nothing to do with circumcision or with liberty, but everything to do with a negligent and criminal disregard to human life. Tighter Gun control would not have affected liberty in the US a single bit, but it would have saved the life on many people.
Jonathon Conte
August 04, 2012

So you want to wave the religious freedom flag? How hypocritical it is of you that you think it is perfectly acceptable to deny children their own right religious freedom--to be protected from having their bodies permanently branded with a mark of the religion of their parents. Instead, you think it is perfectly acceptable to assault children in the name of someone else's religion. Shameful.

Perhaps if you had been restrained as a child so that part of your vulva could be cut off without medical necessity then you would have a different perspective.
August 04, 2012
Finally a judge with guts enough to stand up to this horrible practice.

I consider myself fortunate to have been born in Scandinavia where this horrible practice of genital mutilation is very uncommon. I hope that more judges and law makers will follow suit to finally hopefully put an end to this. This is a clear violation of basic human rights, the right of any child to be protected and not have his/her perfectly healthy body violated by any "whacky" beliefs of his/her parents. Should we allow any religious sect out there amputate parts of their babies' bodies as they see fit? Should we allow this simply because it has been performed for thousands of years? So was the ritual of sacrificing children to the gods.

Bible literalists are not known for rational thinking so I guess they are not able to grasp the concept that if “God” created man in his image, as they believe, and equipped him with a foreskin then, perhaps God intended it to be there.

Of course the actual explanation why every male mammal has a foreskin is that it serves an important purpose in nature as it protects the pubic gland from injury and being desensitized over time. If it was not important or a negative trait it would have evolved away long ago.

It is sad that so many men can not enjoy sexual pleasure to the same degree as I can due to a choice their parents made that they had no say in. It is no question that the lack of a foreskin causes desensitization. If I pull back my foreskin and walk around with the pubic gland rubbing against my clothing I cannot function. It is very uncomfortable.

Unfortunately we cannot count on the hospitals to help stop the practice of circumcision as it generates big revenues for them.

Patrick Smyth
August 04, 2012
The writer certainly made an understatement when she used the word trite. I note that she does not disclose her own experience but feel it reasonable to conclude that she has not had her genitalia forcibly modified. It is then indeed a hypocrisy that she can advocate the continued forced circumcision of infant males without any compunction. This is a practice which is profoundly discriminatory in nature and openly flouts several human rights conventions. Although I am not Jewish or Muslim I was circumcised as an infant and am distinctly aware of how much my sex life has been affected, and by extension the rest of my life.

There may be many Jews/Muslims who do not complain that it was a violation of their human rights to be circumcised without their consent, but that does not mean it is OK to do it carte blanche to all. Many men born into Jewish/Muslim families do not subsequently decide to practice the religion of their parents. However, they are left with a permanent physical deformity to remind them that they were born the son of Jews/Muslims. There are laws which protect females from such modification of their genitalia by their parents for whatever reason. In a so-called civilised society such as ours it is high time that these laws were extended to provide the same protection to males.
August 03, 2012
Well, and.... You give a nice set up, but then dribble off. Lets have the debate. This debate is not about circumcision. It is about the rights of the child as a minor vs. the extent of rights of the parents. I have yet to read a pro-circumcision piece that even begins to discusses this core issue, the only issue. No one is against circumcision. The debate is about circumcision of MINORS. Do you not understand? Why are all the circumcision proponents afraid to discuss this?
August 02, 2012
I wonder if Abby has ever watched


How about treating people with respect and dignity and condemning all evil.