While still small, the movement to ban circumcision seems to be growing in California. A few weeks ago I read that a petition drive had yielded enough signatures to get banning circumcision of newborn males on the ballot in San Francisco. Now a similar petition effort is underway in Santa Monica.
There is little likelihood these or other measures would pass, and even if they did, they wouldn’t hold water in court. But still, it does give one pause, at least if one is Jewish like me, or Moslem, like many of my friends.
I visited wholebabyrevolution.com, run by Jena Troutman, the woman who is leading the ban circumcision movement in California. It repackages its litany against circumcision in several ways, in a “25 reasons” list, an FAQ and several articles. It all comes down to three messages:
- It is medically unnecessary
- It has medical risks
- It has lifelong side effects, the most dramatic of which is decreased erotic sensitivity in that area.
Reasons number two and number three are patently false, disproved by lots of research, and in the case of decreased sensitivity, a whole lot of anecdotal evidence as well. As to the lack of medical necessity: many studies have shown through the years that women with circumcised partners have lower rates of uterine cancer and that circumcised males are far less likely to contract certain bacterial diseases in that area. As a feisty aunt of mine might say, if it doesn’t hurt and it might help, what’s the problem?
Now that I’ve demolished the arguments of the ban circumcision movement, I want to speculate about its origins, to wit, is it a veiled attack on Jews and/or Moslems (since many Moslems also circumcise new-born males)? I saw not a note of anti-Semitic or anti-Moslem ideas on either the website or any of the dozens of medically-themed articles against circumcision you can find at wholebabyrevolution.com. (The impressive list reminds me of the equally impressive lists of articles I used to see on the health benefits of gingko biloba and laetrile.)
Despite the hygienic approach of the materials and the campaign, I assert that based on the given information, any act to ban circumcision is inherently and irrefutably anti-Semitic and anti-Moslem. We may never know, but it’s difficult not to wonder if behind the smiley and earnest dedication of Jena Troutman lurks some money that hates Jews, and may hate Moslems, too.
I think Jews should learn a lesson from the small ban circumcision movement, a lesson that I believe many enlightened Moslems have known for some time: that there are more communalities between the Jewish and Moslem religions and cultures than there are between either of these venerable civilizations and Christianity. Think of ancient language, dietary restrictions, multiple daily prayer times, prayer repetition, professions in Diaspora, musical traditions, methodologies of its great philosophers—the list of points at which Jewish and Moslem culture touch are endless.
American Jews should contemplate these similarities when asked to join forces with the American religious right in the kind of holy war proposed by the likes of Professor Samuel P. Huntington of the “clash of civilizations” theory. And Israelis might remember these similarities when they consider the civil and economic rights of Palestinians and when they contemplate the possibility of negotiating peace in the Middle East.