The Guardian’s Giles Fraser recently defended the custom of male circumcision, in the context of a German court’s recent decision to in effect outlaw the practice (This German circumcision ban is an affront to Jewish and Muslim identity, June 17th).
The court ruled that the religious practice amounted to “bodily harm”, that “neither parental consent nor religious freedom justified the procedure”, and that “doctors who carried out circumcisions should be punished.”
Fraser – who noted that he is half Jewish, but married a non-Jewish woman and later became a Christian priest – defended the practice, writing:
“One of the most familiar modern mistakes about faith is that it is something that goes on in your head. This is rubbish. Faith is about being a part of something wider than oneself. We are not born as mini rational agents in waiting, not fully formed as moral beings until we have the ability to think and choose for ourselves. We are born into a network of relationships that provide us with a cultural background against which things come to make sense. “We” comes before “I”. We constitutes our horizon of significance. Which is why many Jews who consider themselves to be atheists would still consider themselves to be Jewish. And circumcision is the way Jewish and Muslim men are marked out as being involved in a reality greater than themselves.”
On July 19th the Guardian published a series of letters in response to Fraser’s column – most of which furiously attacked the practice of circumcision as morally indefensible, if not barbaric.
Here are excerpts from three separate letters:
- “I am a victim of circumcision as discussed by Giles Fraser and have resented this mutilation all my life.”
- “Circumcision is an irreversible mutilation.”
- “…we should not impose ritual mutilation on those too young to give consent.”
Though such characterizations were typical of most of the letters published, the first letter in the group engaged in an astonishing moral leap which rendered the others exercises in nuance and rhetorical restraint.
The common conceit of most of the letter writers seems to be a belief in their superior secular rationality in contrast to the superstition – and fealty to illogical moral norms – which guides those who support such an irrational religious practice as circumcision.
Yet the sophisticated Brit who wrote this letter, evidently suggesting moral parity between a sadistic Jihadist terror group and the democratic Jewish state, demonstrates that the political doctrines of some within the secular left are sometimes more delusional and unmoored from reason than the faith traditions they so self-righteously demonize.