Germany borrows an ugly chapter from its history

Published : 18 July 2012, 01:44 PM
Updated : 18 July 2012, 01:44 PM

Where to start? How many topics can a body cover in a single week? My nation has been afflicted with the worst droughts in my lifetime, even though here in New Jersey the rain is falling in sheets. I could write about that. It is time to decide whether to celebrate another Ramadan like I did last year. I could also write about that. I could comment further on the Padma Bridge situation —

Well, let's just say there's ample material to write about.

But all that can wait. What I'm writing about, the subject I am returning to after perhaps a year of letting it slip, has to do with a relatively painful subject.

Quite literally painful.

I'm going to talk about a German court decision that circumcision, "for the purpose of religious upbringing constitutes a violation of physical integrity".

I understand the need for courts in any nation to quote precedent when making informed decisions. But in the case of Germany, when it's the Third Reich they seem to be deriving precedent from, it tends to make me shudder.

Seems to me like bad old times are ahead for our Ramadan-celebrating crowd in Western Europe. Sure, the vitriol is a little less obvious, and the target is slightly different. I am sure the German courts aren't attempting to exterminate Muslims the way the Nazis attempted to exterminate the Jews, but religious tolerance in Europe is suffering drought-like conditions that haven't been seen for the last 50 years or more, and even the casual tourist can tell that the old school Europeans are not loving the recent arrivals from Islamic corners of the world.

So, let's do a quick review… Facial coverings banned in France, Belgium and Italy. Minarets banned by Constitutional amendment in Switzerland.

Switzerland, the country that brought us Calvinism, useful knives, and useless Vatican bodyguards, that fencer of war booty extraordinaire, "Hey, it's not stealing if we're just holding it/reselling it for someone else", yes, that Switzerland, (along with the very white, very racist Scandinavia) banned halal and kosher methods of slaughter.

Why? Well, "animals shouldn't suffer", they say.

Hmmm… no, animals shouldn't suffer, but neither should the bank accounts of any drug dealer, neo-Nazi, or Somalian Pirate on the face of the planet. The Swiss are indeed a humane lot.

But hold onto your Taqiyah, Europeans, it's about to get a whole lot worse… From the nation that brought you Octoberfest, Technopunk and both world wars, comes the latest triumph of human decency. Those considerate, humane Germans have decided, through their court systems to ban the barbaric practice of circumcision! Oh… unless you happen to be African, then by all means, snip away! Circumcision is Africa's best weapon against AIDS. Germans support African circumcision, and hope that by the target date of January 2015, 15 million Southern Africans will have been circumcised.

"But we are not Africans. We are Germans, Aryans, after all, and every pale square centimetre of our skin is sacrosanct, and by virtue of you Muslims and Jews living in Germany, you must feel exactly the same. After all, who ever heard of a European getting AIDS?"

Europeans have gotten wise since World War II. They know how to couch their prejudices in larger questions of human rights.

The tasteless cartoons in the Danish papers? "No, they weren't meant to offend Muslims, they were meant to express the right of free speech."

Ban of halal and kosher slaughter practices? We don't mean that as a way to make Muslims feel uncomfortable in our country, we want to protect the rights of animals."

Ban of Burqa and even head scarves…

"We want to protect the rights of women, who suffer under male dominated religions. OK, so it's true that Islamic nations have had more veil-wearing heads of state than France has had unveiled female heads of state-"

And may I also point out that in terms of decent conduct towards women, the recent leaders of Christian European nations (specifically Italy and Russia) aren't winning any prizes in terms of their own personal treatment of women, or their regard for woman's rights.

But that's beside the point. The ban on "barbaric religious practices" has absolutely nothing to do with marginalising Muslims in Europe. It's all about how humanistic practices in Europe demand a certain level of treatment towards animals, women and children, and this level trumps religious freedom. That's what Europe would have us believe. Unfortunately, some states in the US have attempted to follow suit, and attempted the same arguments, despite stronger Constitutional protection here. In America, hatred does not need to be served with a side of hypocrisy — the haters hate pretty openly, not electing to hide behind legality or humanism to drive our immigrants away. As a result, we can adjust our own attitudes more quickly. We tweak our civil rights laws, and within a generation, everyone is homogenised, we get a few new places of worship, a new cuisine or two, and new words creep into the American vernacular, and grandchildren have an ever broadening base of hyphenated origins: Muslim-Irish-Jewish African American, for instance.
Meanwhile, 500 years after it began, Europe is still finding new ways to perpetuate a secular version of The Inquisition, and nobody's having any babies, hyphenated or otherwise, but the immigrants.

So what will Muslims and Jews in Germany do? The German Medical Association has warned surgeons not to perform circumcisions until the law can be clarified, but at the same time it fears that children will be put at risk by taking the procedure out of the hands of doctors. The ruling will effect four million Muslims and 100,000 Jews living in Germany. The ramifications are uncertain, but the message it sends is clear — If you are a Muslim, get out of Germany.

Three days ago, by virtue of the international outcry, and the accusations of anti-Semitism levelled at Germany, chancellor Merkel stated, "we want to have Jewish and Muslim religious life in Germany", and that "in the Jewish religion early circumcision carries great meaning, so it is a matter of urgency that this right be restored." Very interesting that her comments were directed more towards the 100,000 Jews than the four million Muslims.

Problem solved? Perhaps. I just know, as this Christian heads towards his second observation of Ramadan, he can't help but wonder what the most famous Christian would have thought of European prejudice. I speak, of course of Jesus Christ who, by the way, was circumcised. In fact, his circumcision is a holiday celebrated by the Catholic Church. Ironically, if his parents had been Germans, they might not have been able to perform the ritual without being fined or jailed.

Turns out Christ himself was jailed and executed for his religious beliefs by the Romans who happened to be… Europeans! His apostles were first-generation immigrants to Europe, who faced legal blocks and persecution at every turn, but in the end, practicing a great deal of patience and tolerance towards their accusers, eventually transformed prejudice to acceptance.

In that spirit, I wish you all, Ramadan Mubarak!

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Frank Domenico Cipriani writes a weekly column in the Riverside Signal called "You Think What You Think And I'll Think What I Know." He is also the founder and CEO of The Gatherer Institute — a not-for-profit public charity dedicated to promoting respect for the environment and empowering individuals to become self-taught and self-sufficient. His most recent book, "Learning Little Hawk's Way of Storytelling", teaches the native art of oral tradition storytelling.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher