This article belongs to the debate » Die Beschneidungs-Debatte
18 August 2012

Naked Law, Lost Traditions. A Comment on Reut Paz and Legal Pluralism

Some days ago, Reut Yael Paz published a critical comment on the Cologne Court’s circumcision decision on this blog. Reut rigthly criticized the ignorant stance the Court took towards the challenges of legal pluralism and the conflict of diverging normative orders at the core of the concrete case – and she rightly criticized the widespread silence on these matters that shaped the debate so far.

However, her own distinction between the Public and the Private remains unclear and therefore problematic. Does religion exclusively belong to the private sphere? The Cologne courts did not explicitely problematize that differentiation, and Reut Paz leaves in the dark how precisely the public / private distinction  comes into play in conflicts of normative orders.  Furthermore: Is, from the perspective of a state court,  the relation between the constitution and orders of religious law not necessarily an asymmetrical one? (What, as goes without saying, does not imply that non-state legal orders could simply be ignored.)

Alas, these questions have meanwhile been discussed by various commentators. What prompts my intervention, though, despite other pressing issues of the day both public and private, is a statement made by the author that I find utterly unjustified. Reut Paz opens her blog posting with a flamboyant postcolonial overture that sets the tone for a subsequent paragraph where she adresses what – to her – is obviously one of the central questions of the issue: “Does this judgement reflect remnants of the European colonial/civilizing project in its full glory because it is linked to racial discrimination and a strong Christian (strike out the Judeo-) religious bias?”

The questions is answered in the affirmative: “Although this situation is a classic example of the need to resolve conflicts between normative orders that need to coexist in the same social field (…) the court – without the necessary reflections in the court but also beyond – exclusively based its reasoning (on) the German legal system, a system which in this case also coincides with the Christian understanding of the physical body.”

At this point and regarding that question (which is obviously fairly relevant to the author), Reut Paz is to be criticized  for a non-differentiated, vague and hence somewhat superficial analysis of the Cologne decision. This is deplorable, and even more so as she offers in her contribution an excellent explanation and interpretation of the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision on the Brith Milah and its context in religious law. Yet, here she is simply wrong. The Cologne judges argued with a remarkable “religious blindness“, with the same historical and socio-cultural forgetfulness that is to be found among the leading criminal law protagonists of the debate. They did not base their decision on a (sublime) “Christian understanding oft he physical body“, but expressed in their judgement the same “anti-religious Zeitgeist” that Patrick Bahners has observed throughout the recent “circumcision debate“, in particular on the internet.

Yet, why can the  Cologne judges’ take, anti-religious and laicist at first glance, not be classified as Christian bias, as subservient assimiliation to a Christian “Leitkultur”? Is there not something clandestine-Christian to be read in between the lines? Are we not living in a  “still“ deeply Christian society? Is not such a biased society the social context of the Cologne judges, in the traditionally Catholic Rhineland?

To respond adequately to such questions, cultural, historical and theological knowledge is required. A Knowledge that in our debates involving constitutional law and religion figures, at least since the Karlsruhe’s Kruzifix decision, only as a lacuna, a void. The representatives of the Christian churches translate edgy theological arguments into rather general  civil society talk and position themselves (as Christoph Möllers has just rightly deplored) with mixed qualities as constitutional law scholars – or delegate issues that could potentially prompt socio-political conflict straight away to experts of church/state law.

That is very much to the catholic’s disappointment, shameful and regrettable. But for the lawyer and citizen of the civitas terrena, it is a catastrophy. To cope adequately with the challenges and problems of legal pluralism requires preconditions that the law and legal scholarship can neither provide nor guarantee. “Legal pluralism is the great challenge to the unity of public law, here lie the future challenges and tasks for legal science – problems that can only be resolved through contextualization, and that hence are linked to the fundamentals of the law“, states Dieter Grimm, pointing to the core of the dilemma. Where the competitive, at the same time complementary co-existence of a variety of legal systems and normative orders has become part of social reality, contextual knowledge is needed – and can only be translated from outside into the sphere of the law. Such contextual knowledge is translated from the adjacent disciplines into legal scholarship by legal sub-fields such as legal history, legal sociology, legal anthropology etc., but also brought into the spheres of the law by protagonists and representatives of religious and non-religious normative orders. Today’s societies are in need, Charles Taylor and Jocelyn Maclure have recently emphasized, of the development of ethical and political knowledge facilitating tolerance and solidarity.

In the current circumcision debate, such contextual knowledge is only scarcely offered. While one could read about the smallest medical details of the act, theological and historical comments were rarely provided, both from Christian perspectives or else. One would have wished for some remarks by an expert of Jewish history and culture reminding of 19th century debates on the use and practice of Jewish Law in Germany. With her reference to Israeli jurisprudence and the Israeli Supreme Court’s take on arguments of religious law, Reut Paz fills another significant void that has not received sufficient attention in the preceding debate.

But why is she wrong with her presumption of a “strong Christian (…) religious bias”?

Reut Paz is wrong because also the Christian understanding of the human body and its physical integrity is shaped by traditions that must be unbearable, unreasonable demands to the laicist humanist. The human body is not understood as perfect, as complete and therefore untouchable from the moment of birth. The conditioning of the body through asceticism, the imitatio Christi through abstinence and physical exercise is, historically, a central aspect of Christianity – and we find strong ascetic traditions in most religions. In the history of Christianity, the variety of practices leading to a “completion” of the body ranges from moderate fasting to bloody interventions in the body’s physical integrity that seem to us  children of modernity rather strange – I think of  the stigmatized body of Saint Francis or of the medieval mystic Henry Suso (Heinrich Seuse). Suso pierced into the skin over his heart the monogram of the name of Jesus (IHS), as a symbol for the eternal bond between God and man (a “precedent of the modern tattoo”, as researchers at Heidelberg University have recently characterized  that passionate and bloody practice.

The Minnezeichen (sign of passionate love) on Suso’s skin ist, as the Cologne theologian Alex Stock’s rich theological, historical and cultural interpretations imply, as a name sign subtly intertwined with the Feast of The Circumcision of Christ, a feast still celebrated by the church in the extraordinary form or its rite als as a celebration of the name (and naming) of Jesus. One is reminded of the “circumcision of the heart” that has been emphasized by Moses, Jeremiah and Paul. Obviously, Christianity’s story with circumcision does not end with Paul (even though one could think so, after having read  the exclusively biblical account provided by the protestant bavarian “Sonntagsblatt”), and later strands of tradition  are not to be limited to a story of anti-semitic ressentiment. To the contrary: For Christians, there are sound theological reasons to support and protect a practice of religious circumcision that is not imposed upon themselves by their own religious norms.

At this point, I leave it to theologians, historians, athropologists and experts from the cultural studies field to go into further detail. And, even better, to historically and culturally informed theologians. Currently, at least in Catholicism, deep explorations and interest in Christian religious traditions are often paralleled by anti-modernism and anti-intellectual ressentiment. This is much to my regret. For a lawyer interested in contexts of normative orders while dealing with the challenges of legal pluralism, that situation does not prompt much optimism. But I continue to hope for more rational voices exploring new sources of (sometimes old) knowledge, illuminating the Christian heritage that coined our society and its normative orders.

And yet: The challenges of legal pluralism can only be dealt with adequately on the basis of solid knowledge about religious and cultural traditions. If these traditions are simply discarded as outfashioned, if we forget about history and culture and place our hope only on the naked law – then a clash of cultures is not to be avoided. With light-handed presumptions of religious or cultural bias, we are indeed at risk to be faced with a scenario that is already deplored as a reality by some commentators: a true Kulturkampf.

 

The original German version of these comments has been published on 12 August here on Verfassungsblog. Translation by the author.

Our picture shows a sculpture of Heinrich Seuse in the former Dominican church (Predigerkirche) Rottweil.

Foto: Andreas Praefcke, Creative Commons Licence (CC BY 3.0)

Some days ago, Reut Yael Paz published a critical comment on the Cologne Court’s circumcision decision on this blog. Reut rigthly criticized the ignorant stance the Court took towards the challenges of legal pluralism and the conflict of diverging normative orders at the core of the concrete case – and she rightly criticized the widespread silence on these matters that shaped the debate so far.

However, her own distinction between the Public and the Private remains unclear and therefore problematic. Does religion exclusively belong to the private sphere? The Cologne courts did not explicitely problematize that differentiation, and Reut Paz leaves in the dark how precisely the public / private distinction  comes into play in conflicts of normative orders.  Furthermore: Is, from the perspective of a state court,  the relation between the constitution and orders of religious law not necessarily an asymmetrical one? (What, as goes without saying, does not imply that non-state legal orders could simply be ignored.)

Alas, these questions have meanwhile been discussed by various commentators. What prompts my intervention, though, despite other pressing issues of the day both public and private, is a statement made by the author that I find utterly unjustified. Reut Paz opens her blog posting with a flamboyant postcolonial overture that sets the tone for a subsequent paragraph where she adresses what – to her – is obviously one of the central questions of the issue: “Does this judgement reflect remnants of the European colonial/civilizing project in its full glory because it is linked to racial discrimination and a strong Christian (strike out the Judeo-) religious bias?”

The questions is answered in the affirmative: “Although this situation is a classic example of the need to resolve conflicts between normative orders that need to coexist in the same social field (…) the court – without the necessary reflections in the court but also beyond – exclusively based its reasoning (on) the German legal system, a system which in this case also coincides with the Christian understanding of the physical body.”

At this point and regarding that question (which is obviously fairly relevant to the author), Reut Paz is to be criticized  for a non-differentiated, vague and hence somewhat superficial analysis of the Cologne decision. This is deplorable, and even more so as she offers in her contribution an excellent explanation and interpretation of the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision on the Brith Milah and its context in religious law. Yet, here she is simply wrong. The Cologne judges argued with a remarkable “religious blindness“, with the same historical and socio-cultural forgetfulness that is to be found among the leading criminal law protagonists of the debate. They did not base their decision on a (sublime) “Christian understanding oft he physical body“, but expressed in their judgement the same “anti-religious Zeitgeist” that Patrick Bahners has observed throughout the recent “circumcision debate“, in particular on the internet.

Yet, why can the  Cologne judges’ take, anti-religious and laicist at first glance, not be classified as Christian bias, as subservient assimiliation to a Christian “Leitkultur”? Is there not something clandestine-Christian to be read in between the lines? Are we not living in a  “still“ deeply Christian society? Is not such a biased society the social context of the Cologne judges, in the traditionally Catholic Rhineland?

To respond adequately to such questions, cultural, historical and theological knowledge is required. A Knowledge that in our debates involving constitutional law and religion figures, at least since the Karlsruhe’s Kruzifix decision, only as a lacuna, a void. The representatives of the Christian churches translate edgy theological arguments into rather general  civil society talk and position themselves (as Christoph Möllers has just rightly deplored) with mixed qualities as constitutional law scholars – or delegate issues that could potentially prompt socio-political conflict straight away to experts of church/state law.

That is very much to the catholic’s disappointment, shameful and regrettable. But for the lawyer and citizen of the civitas terrena, it is a catastrophy. To cope adequately with the challenges and problems of legal pluralism requires preconditions that the law and legal scholarship can neither provide nor guarantee. “Legal pluralism is the great challenge to the unity of public law, here lie the future challenges and tasks for legal science – problems that can only be resolved through contextualization, and that hence are linked to the fundamentals of the law“, states Dieter Grimm, pointing to the core of the dilemma. Where the competitive, at the same time complementary co-existence of a variety of legal systems and normative orders has become part of social reality, contextual knowledge is needed – and can only be translated from outside into the sphere of the law. Such contextual knowledge is translated from the adjacent disciplines into legal scholarship by legal sub-fields such as legal history, legal sociology, legal anthropology etc., but also brought into the spheres of the law by protagonists and representatives of religious and non-religious normative orders. Today’s societies are in need, Charles Taylor and Jocelyn Maclure have recently emphasized, of the development of ethical and political knowledge facilitating tolerance and solidarity.

In the current circumcision debate, such contextual knowledge is only scarcely offered. While one could read about the smallest medical details of the act, theological and historical comments were rarely provided, both from Christian perspectives or else. One would have wished for some remarks by an expert of Jewish history and culture reminding of 19th century debates on the use and practice of Jewish Law in Germany. With her reference to Israeli jurisprudence and the Israeli Supreme Court’s take on arguments of religious law, Reut Paz fills another significant void that has not received sufficient attention in the preceding debate.

But why is she wrong with her presumption of a “strong Christian (…) religious bias”?

Reut Paz is wrong because also the Christian understanding of the human body and its physical integrity is shaped by traditions that must be unbearable, unreasonable demands to the laicist humanist. The human body is not understood as perfect, as complete and therefore untouchable from the moment of birth. The conditioning of the body through asceticism, the imitatio Christi through abstinence and physical exercise is, historically, a central aspect of Christianity – and we find strong ascetic traditions in most religions. In the history of Christianity, the variety of practices leading to a “completion” of the body ranges from moderate fasting to bloody interventions in the body’s physical integrity that seem to us  children of modernity rather strange – I think of  the stigmatized body of Saint Francis or of the medieval mystic Henry Suso (Heinrich Seuse). Suso pierced into the skin over his heart the monogram of the name of Jesus (IHS), as a symbol for the eternal bond between God and man (a “precedent of the modern tattoo”, as researchers at Heidelberg University have recently characterized  that passionate and bloody practice.

The Minnezeichen (sign of passionate love) on Suso’s skin ist, as the Cologne theologian Alex Stock’s rich theological, historical and cultural interpretations imply, as a name sign subtly intertwined with the Feast of The Circumcision of Christ, a feast still celebrated by the church in the extraordinary form or its rite als as a celebration of the name (and naming) of Jesus. One is reminded of the “circumcision of the heart” that has been emphasized by Moses, Jeremiah and Paul. Obviously, Christianity’s story with circumcision does not end with Paul (even though one could think so, after having read  the exclusively biblical account provided by the protestant bavarian “Sonntagsblatt”), and later strands of tradition  are not to be limited to a story of anti-semitic ressentiment. To the contrary: For Christians, there are sound theological reasons to support and protect a practice of religious circumcision that is not imposed upon themselves by their own religious norms.

At this point, I leave it to theologians, historians, athropologists and experts from the cultural studies field to go into further detail. And, even better, to historically and culturally informed theologians. Currently, at least in Catholicism, deep explorations and interest in Christian religious traditions are often paralleled by anti-modernism and anti-intellectual ressentiment. This is much to my regret. For a lawyer interested in contexts of normative orders while dealing with the challenges of legal pluralism, that situation does not prompt much optimism. But I continue to hope for more rational voices exploring new sources of (sometimes old) knowledge, illuminating the Christian heritage that coined our society and its normative orders.

And yet: The challenges of legal pluralism can only be dealt with adequately on the basis of solid knowledge about religious and cultural traditions. If these traditions are simply discarded as outfashioned, if we forget about history and culture and place our hope only on the naked law – then a clash of cultures is not to be avoided. With light-handed presumptions of religious or cultural bias, we are indeed at risk to be faced with a scenario that is already deplored as a reality by some commentators: a true Kulturkampf.

 

The original German version of these comments has been published on 12 August here on Verfassungsblog. Translation by the author.

Our picture shows a sculpture of Heinrich Seuse in the former Dominican church (Predigerkirche) Rottweil.

Foto: Andreas Praefcke, Creative Commons Licence (CC BY 3.0)


SUGGESTED CITATION  Kemmerer, Alexandra: Naked Law, Lost Traditions. A Comment on Reut Paz and Legal Pluralism, VerfBlog, 2012/8/18, https://verfassungsblog.de/naked-law-lost-traditions-comment-reut-paz-legal-pluralism/, DOI: 10.17176/20171111-182447.

17 Comments

  1. Hugh7 So 19 Aug 2012 at 04:50 - Reply

    Maybe I’d understand this better in German (if I could read German) and even better if I was German, but the English version looks like the worst kind of post-modernist obfusccation, possibly computer-generated.

    Where in any of this discussion is the fact that part of a baby’s genitals are being cut off? Nobody else is directly affected but HIM. Nobody’s else’s rights are directly affected but HIS. The fact that he is now a baby and in the care of his parents is overshadowed by the fact that he will spend most of his life as a man, with his own religious views, his own body, and his own wishes about what parts of his own body he may want to keep or have removed, whether for religious or other reasons or none.

    The Internet is now loud with the voices of men who are angry that they were deprived of this normal, healthy, functional, non-renewable part of their own bodies before they could have any say in the matter. That others don’t mind it is neither here nor there. In all probability, they would not have minded if they still had all their bodies, either. In fact informal polls suggest intact men are much more likely to be happy about it than circumcised men.

    Or we can return to the basis of the Basic Law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
    „Bodily integrity“ is not some new-fangled notion but is at the basis of our human rights, dating back to 1765 and Sir William Blackstone: „Besides those limbs and members that may be necessary to man … the rest of his person or body is also entitled by the same natural right to security from the corporal insults of menaces, assaults, beating, and wounding; though such insults amount not to destruction of life or member….“ – Commentaries on the Laws of England.

  2. noram So 19 Aug 2012 at 10:23 - Reply

    Having seen the quality of the „evidence“ marshaled by „intactivists“ like Hugh7 above, I find it difficult to take seriously anything they say. I view them as inhabiting an echo chamber in which a small minority of extremely vocal people constantly reinforce each other, much like birthers, truthers, or alien abduction believers. By sheer coincidence, they have been gifted a historical moment — at least in Germany — in which they are able to ride the wave of atheist militancy, but on their own they would not have amounted to much.

    Getting back to the point raised by Dr. Paz, that of legal pluralism. As thoughtful as her article was, the mention of „normative orders that need to coexist in the same social field (i.e. the German Basic Law and Civil/Criminal Codes, the Jewish Law, Muslim Sharia Law and/or specific legal traditions)“ stuck in my craw, I must admit.

    Should sharia law really be mentioned on an equal footing with the others? Keep in mind that most of Germany’s Muslims have their roots in Turkey, a country in which sharia law has not reigned supreme for at least a century, and I don’t see them agitating for sharia to be introduced to Germany. Thus sharia would serve the much less numerous Arab and Pakistani communities, and here we find a problem. According to a survey done by U.S. polling company Pew, large numbers of people in Arab countries and Pakistan (but not in Turkey!) favor draconian punishments for transgressions: 82 percents of respondents in Egypt of Pakistan support stoning for adulterers, 84 percent (Egypt) and 76 percent (Pakistan) favor the death penalty for people leaving the Muslim faith, and so on. Not surveyed were responses to laws making blasphemy a capital crime, but recent events in Pakistan have shown us how much popular enthusiasm there is for that law (already on the books there). This is sharia! Do we really want to include it on an equal footing with Germany’s Grundgesetz?

    As to Jewish customs and Jewish religious law. There have been two Jewish reformations, the first coming after the destruction of the Second Temple when rabbinical Judaism was invented; by some accounts the death penalty had been abolished even earlier. And second, the „Jewish Reformation“ that came on the heels of emancipation early in the 19th century.

    I now come to my point, which is that sharia does not deserve to be on an equal footing with Jewish law and customs. The oldest Jewish settlement north of the Alps is documented for the 4th century C.E. in Cologne (ironically). There has been unbroken Jewish settlement in Germany ever since. Over the course of these many centuries, Jews have influenced German customs and laws, in turn Judaism adapted to German society.

    Bottom line: If politicians‘ speeches about „Judeo-Christian roots“ to European civilization mean anything at all, Jewish customs and laws, after having undergone the centuries-long crucible of adaptation to society and defense of bedrock, non-negotiable elements, surely deserve a privileged position vis-à-vis „normative orders“ imported by recent immigrant communities that are of questionable compatibility with European civilization.

  3. Hans Adler So 19 Aug 2012 at 10:25 - Reply

    As a native speaker of German I can assure you that the German version is not significantly better. I agree with your assessment of the style as post-modernist obfuscation, though it could just be a case of the standard obfuscation techniques common for humanities texts in German.

  4. noram So 19 Aug 2012 at 15:26 - Reply

    Have a look at Hugh7’s comment under Dr. Paz’s article. Evidently the poor fellow is serious… LOL, „intactivists“ are just nuts!

  5. zirp So 19 Aug 2012 at 17:38 - Reply

    @noram: Now, at least intactivists usually *do address* the points made by their opponents. By contrast, those who sanction infant circumcision are usually totally ignorant of some of their opponents‘ arguments.

    Sure, Europe’s culture *has* a Judeo-Christian history. And in particular Christianity brought more bad than good things. Nowadays, Europe is supposed to be neutral with regard to people’s worldviews. And that is so for good reasons.

    I am not hostile towards religion, btw. Spiritual believes can be really intriguing. My point is that you have to grant equal rights to *all* kinds of religion and belief, whether or not they fit your personal ideas, or the „tradition“ you personally feel connected to.

  6. zirp So 19 Aug 2012 at 17:53 - Reply

    Btw: „standard obfuscation techniques common for humanities texts in German.“ At least during my law studies, we were taught to write in a clear and succinct way. The reason of writing a text is for the reader to *understand* it, to get your point. To ease getting your point, you need to write as clearly as possible.

    It is true that many people do not do that. But judging by my impression, that is not common to *humanities* texts—it is common to *bad* humanities texts. People tend to write in a wooly way if they don’t actually understand even their own points. If you thought your own ideas through, and really understand them, you can present them in a clear, well-structured and easy-to-grasp way.

  7. emelei Mo 20 Aug 2012 at 01:29 - Reply

    „Non-negotiable“ is the word that explains why those who sanction infant circumcision are unable to reply to arguments against circumcision. I find it a rather strange discussion if one side just needs to should „non-negotiable“ to make a point. Well at least this is less awful than when some explain that newborns feel no pain and how it is no problem to cut off skin from them.

  8. noram Mo 20 Aug 2012 at 05:06 - Reply

    @emelei

    „one side just needs to should “non-negotiable” to make a point“ Did you mean „shout“ instead of should? (A reminder, this article was originally written in German; people who have trouble expressing themselves in English should go there to comment.)

    I’m afraid you haven’t understood anything. The reason I no longer take „intactivists“ seriously is that again and again they demonstrate their nuttiness and lack of education; the comment by Hugh7 to which I linked is just more proof of that.

    Further, you have some bizarre notion of German history and German constitutional law. In your mind, apparently, the Jews immigrated from some desert just yesterday and now must conform to the laws of the land, coerced by criminal law if need be. (This is certainly the position of the neo-Nazi NPD party, which laughingly told Jews last month to „have a good trip home.“)

    The reality is, Jews have been here for nearly 1700 years and they as well as the laws of the land have evolved together, not always in harmony and not always smoothly, but there are solid historical and constitutional reasons why the status quo that was in force until a single judge plus two lay judges called it into question in May 2012 had remained in force for so long.

    Personally I would prefer if the mess made by that judge and the militant atheist intellectuals in the legal literature that he drew upon had been cleaned up within the judicial system, but that was impossible as the decision could not be appealed by the defendant.

    Pace Andrea Kemmerer, but I still believe that a resolution via the judicial system (by a test case) would be preferable. I doubt that a new law, or a new section introduced into an existing law, will pacify this ugly debate. Apparently, though, there will come a lex circumcisionis, which will end up in Karlsruhe anyway.

  9. noram Mo 20 Aug 2012 at 05:29 - Reply

    For one Jewish perspective, see this recent article by David Goldman published in the online edition of Tablet Magazine.

    (Note that Goldman is neither a rabbi nor a theologian, but he does cite good sources and his argument is quite accessible.)

  10. emelei Mo 20 Aug 2012 at 11:43 - Reply

    @ noram

    Apologies for my typographical error and thank you for pointing it out to the readers.

    I think that your post is a prime example of the irrational responses from the proponents of circumcision. In my post, I simply pointed out that I cannot accept the term „non-negotiable“ in such an important discussion. This is not a personal offense to anybody.

    You reply that I have trouble expressing myself in English. Then you go on to say that I have not understood anything. Thank you very much. You say I have a bizarre notion of German history although I wrote nothing on that. You say that in my mind the Jews immigrated from some desert, although I have not written anything about Jewish history.

    Now to your points. I liked the comment from Hugh7. Of course his comment on religious habits in India cannot be taken too seriously, but this is exactly what political satire does: it uses jokes to make you rethink old and possibly outdated notions.

    It is unfortunate that the NPD is given the opportunity to apply their awful antisemitic views in the circumcision debate.

    I am not sure whether it plays any role for the debate how long the Jews have lived in Europe. In any case, the laws should be the same for everybody. If the Jewish culture is among those that have shaped Europe, it means they have contributed to our notion of basic human rights, which is the basis of the Cologne court decision.

    I agree that a test case would be preferable. In this case, I am optimistic that any higher court will protect human rights of children against violations motivated by religious reasons.

    The article by Goldman is going on about religion and the holocaust. It does not even attempt to reply to any points made by the opponents of circumcision.

    I have the impression that you are misusing the current debate for a fight between cultures. Using terms as „non-negotiable“ you can never reach a serious compromise and you are responsible for irrationalising the discussion.

    I am still waiting for a serious response from your side to:
    – infant death from circumcision (see the cause for the debate in Norway);
    – serious complications from circumcision
    (see the two-year old boy in Munich who is still in coma one year after circumcision, see the case of Cologne);
    – pain suffered by seven-day old babies in operations without anaesthesia;
    – reports of parents about pressure from relatives towards circumcising their boys;
    – problems with Mammalverkehr.
    (I apologize for not knowing the correct English translation of this word because I have trouble expressing myself in English. I stop here.)

  11. noram Mo 20 Aug 2012 at 12:50 - Reply

    Dr. Aseem Shukla, a pediatric urologist in the U.S., weighs the pros and cons of infant circumcision.

    A few quotes:

    A circumcision in childhood is a rapid outpatient procedure; a circumcision after adulthood can be traumatic, painful, and substantially more expensive. A procedure costing $250 in the newborn period would cost $5000 in adulthood due to the need for anesthesia and perioperative care. Any type of blanket ban on a circumcision until the age of consent so ignores the real medical necessities of circumcision in some cases, that the concept is beyond contemplation; it is medically irresponsible and dangerous.

    The industry dedicated to cirumcision’s end, seems more a misdirected passion, based on a medically dubious altruism at best, and anti-Semitism at its worst. And these voices will, undoubtedly, alienate reasoned, thoughtful voices that could begin an enlightened dialogue.

    Now compare the sanity and good sense found in Dr. Shukla’s remarks to the irresponsible fearmongering by Prof. Maximilian Stehr, the leading medical practitioner in Germany’s anti-circumcision movement. Stehr lists only the risks of circumcision (without noting how infrequent they are and that they are usually mild) but is silent on the risks of not circumcising. He also implicitly threatens Germany’s Jewish and Muslim communities:

    Das kann auch nicht im Sinne derer sein, die jetzt ihre vermeintlichen Rechte einfordern. Das Pochen auf ein besonderes Recht kann sich für die Betroffenen schnell als Bumerang erweisen.

    This [an exemption for religiously motivated infant circumcision] cannot be in the interest of those who are now demanding that their putative rights be upheld. Insisting on a special privilege can quickly turn into a boomerang for those people. [My translation, noram]

    How did a freak like Prof. Stehr rise to such an elevated station in life?

  12. noram Mo 20 Aug 2012 at 12:52 - Reply
  13. noram Mo 20 Aug 2012 at 14:05 - Reply

    @Emelei

    There’s a lovely old phrase in German that is impossible to translate succinctly into English:

    nicht satisfaktionsfähig

    In the 18th and 19th centuries, when duels were still considered the „manly thing to do“ (even if officially illegal), a gentleman who had been challenged to a duel could reject the challenger with those two words. In essence, the challenger was told that he lacked standing in society to even ask for a duel.

    Every anti-circumcision activist that I have encountered on the innertubes and in the media (fortunately none of my friends and acquaintances have been gripped by the delusion) falls into one or several of the following categories:

    (1) Militant atheists. Frequently heard to say that, „Yes, baptisms violate a child’s rights, too“ (but it is so much easier going after the „atavistic“, „bronze age“, „stone age“, „archaic“ etc. religions Judaism and Islam first!). They see no problems with allowing abortions, euthanasia, for-profit „assisted suicide“. For more on the problems inherent in an atheistic worldview, read Goldman’s article about 30 more times, eventually you may get it.

    (2) People with an obsessive craving to prove the criminality of Jews and/or Muslims. Only some of them readily admit to being anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim haters, most will angrily deny it. But that’s exactly who they are.

    (3) Idiots and lunatics who crave „victim status“ and hope that being circumcised affords them such status. Instead of getting professional help for their sexual dysfunction (real or imagined) they inhabit echo chambers where other idiots and lunatics reinforce their delusions and supply them with ammunition in the form of (usually) laughably wrong (or misleadingly referenced) „studies“. See also: Birthers, truthers, alien abductees.

    (4) Cynical carpetbaggers who hope to profit from groups (1) through (3), e.g., by offering legal services to people hoping to sue their circumcisers for millions. Also journalists and publishers hoping to ride the wave.

    (5) Genuinely confused people who think they are doing the right thing but have a hard time comprehending when someone explains to them that they are not. As soon as you start getting through to them in a debate, someone from (1) through (4) will step in to drag them back onto the path of the „righteous“. Often the people in this group turn out to be not so innocent, either: they happily jumped on the bandwagon because it enabled them to get the daily „outrage fix“ that they so crave, regardless of the underlying issue.

    I used to try and debate with all of them on the facts, citing genuine credible medical sources and noting the laughably poor quality of the „intactivists'“ own „sources“ until I turned blue in the face. I would have had more success talking to a stone! This I did until about three weeks ago (donkey’s years on the Internet). Now I’m done with that. Instead, I simply reply:

    nicht satisfaktionsfähig

  14. emelei Mo 20 Aug 2012 at 17:55 - Reply

    @ noram

    So you are implying you are of social rank higher than your opponents and that I need 30 reading attempts to understand Goldman’s article properly. You are also making extensive use of offensive language such as „idiots“, „lunatics“ etc. It is easy to understand that you have not convinced many people in this way.

    Shukla’s cost argument is one of the weirdest that I have seen: a newborn cannot formulate his pain, so there is no need for anaesthesia and this makes circumcision much cheaper than an adult’s circumcision. That’s right. And when the baby dies, we can blame it on sudden infant death, so no worries about post-operative expenses.

  15. noram Di 21 Aug 2012 at 08:02 - Reply

    @Freak Show Emily

    „Social rank?“ You misunderstand the analogy. I know nothing about the socio-economic bracket you inhabit, but your cognitive shortcomings and your nasty character are all too evident.

    Here is that comment from your buddy Hugh7 again:

    Hugh7 wrote:

    “nor does a circumcision restrain you from giving up your faith and becoming a (circumcised) atheist.”

    On the BBC Knowledge channel is a programme “Paul Merton in India”. In it, he visits naked sadhus, one of whom shows his devotion to Shiva by rolling his foreskin around a bamboo staff, holding it behind him, and getting another sadhu to stand on on the staff (without letting go of the staff, I hasten to add).

    Infant circumcision would have restrained him from doing this, and thereby deprived him of his freedom of religion.

    Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 05:01 | Permalink

    That is not „political satire“ as you laughably think, it’s (involuntary) self-parody.

    Like the pathetic little creep you are, you have latched onto this crusade because it holds the promise of giving you power over minority groups. Facts be damned. Circumcision is not zero-risk (no surgical procedure is) but it is extremely low-risk. The statistics are clear on this point. However, you don’t like the stats showing circumcision to be safe. So you make up lies about „sudden infant death“ diagnoses being used to cover up the death rate from circumcision. The tactic of a slimeball.

    Not only are you an idiot, you are an asshole idiot. It does no good to pretend that you and I are discussing as equals. You and your fellow „intactivists“ are hard-core nutballs and haters. Ridicule and contempt are all you deserve. You are nicht satisfaktionsfähig.

  16. Alexandra Kemmerer Di 21 Aug 2012 at 08:20 - Reply

    I think we should cut this debate off here and cool down a bit, no?

    Here at Verfassungsblog, we have deliberately decided to let discussants comment openly, without the requirement of previous approval from the editors before comments are published. We do firmly believe in the power of discourse. After all, this is a BLOG, not a „block“ (a format also to be found in the dark virtual underworlds of German legal academia), and we see it as more than just a showcase for the regular authors‘ views, judgements and observations.

    However, we need you – the readers and commentators – to stick to our commitment and to keep and cultivate Verfassungsblog as a space for stimulating and fruitful exchange and debate.

    Therefore, to make it plain and authoritarian: STOP INSULTING EACH OTHER.

  17. CB Di 21 Aug 2012 at 14:19 - Reply

    Markus Beckedahl hat sich gestern auch gefragt, ob man nicht „einfach mal die Kommentare schließen“ (https://netzpolitik.org/2012/einfach-mal-die-kommentare-schliesen/#more-35699) sollte. Sehr lesenswert.

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