Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Muslim-Jewish Cooperation?

Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian:

This German circumcision ban is an affront to Jewish and Muslim identity

...Last month, after a lengthy legal battle, a judge in Cologne outlawed male circumcision as being against the best interests of the child. Muslim and Jewish groups have been understandably outraged...

Yet the circumcision of babies cuts against one of the basic assumptions of the liberal mindset. Informed consent lies at the heart of choice and choice lies at the heart of the liberal society. Without informed consent, circumcision is regarded as a form of violence and a violation of the fundamental rights of the child. Which is why I regard the liberal mindset as a diminished form of the moral imagination. There is more to right and wrong than mere choice...

...I still find it difficult that my son is not circumcised. The philosopher Emil Fackenheim, himself a survivor of Sachsenhausen concentration camp, famously added to the 613th commandments of the Hebrew scriptures with a new 614th commandment: thou must not grant Hitler posthumous victories. This new mitzvah insisted that to abandon one's Jewish identity was to do Hitler's work for him. Jews are commanded to survive as Jews by the martyrs of the Holocaust...And I have always found this extremely difficult to deal with. On some level, I feel like a betrayer...circumcision is the way Jewish and Muslim men are marked out as being involved in a reality greater than themselves. This, however, is a complete anathema to much modern liberal thought that narrows religious and ethical language down to the absolute priority of personal autonomy and individual choice. Liberalism constitutes the view from nowhere. Liberalism has no sense of history. And it is because the Cologne court had so little sense of history that it made such a ridiculous and offensive decision.


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