Infant circumcisions deemed “bodily harm” in Germany
This recent development is quite significant because it means that something that is quite essential in the community identity of Jews and Muslims (most notably the former) has now been suppressed by a state. The law states that a circumcision is a “bodily harm” and should only be performed on consenting adults.
The event that precipitated this ruling is a Muslim boy who became extremely sick after the procedure. There are a number of issues here. One is that it is a bold move for a German court to outlaw a Jewish religious custom given the history of persecution there. Second, this Catholic blogger has pointed out that some are saying that this ruling reflects a post-Enlightenment, Protestant societal view – that religion is a personal affair and that it should be voluntarily chosen by adults. This view grew up in direct, intentional opposition to older ways of believing represented by Catholics and Jews in Europe, that puts community unity above the needs of the individual.
As Westerners I think we take the individualistic way for granted and we don’t realize that this is just a cultural value. Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox, Middle-Easterners, and East Asians (the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans) are some of the cultures in the world that don’t view individual rights above the community. This difference in cultural values – between Westerners and Asians, between Calvinists and seculars in some areas of Europe, and between Catholics and seculars in other areas of Europe – result in significant differences in cognition that can be detected in a laboratory.
This adds an interesting twist to this ruling – it means that Germany is legislating a certain cultural mindset on its citizens. Not the first time this has happened in history, but it’s significant given the current climate between the religious and secular; and Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and Catholics in Europe.