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Political Life of William Flew

William Flew of Auckland talks about politics and politicians. Government and the governed can be matters of statecraft or they can be corrupt processes in the proverbial "smoke-filled room." Matters of state and foreign affairs are all part of the political arena, and William Flew is there with a report. Bureaucracy and bureaucrats, presidents and senators, parliamentarians and representatives are elected to serve the public. William Flew is chosen to tell you what they do.

Jan 27

William Flew says "If my main purpose were to excite the maximum number of emails and letters I would write about nothing else, such is the public obsession with it. So it was hardly surprising last week that when a German court in Cologne ruled that involuntary religious circumcision should be made illegal there was a public outcry — especially as this was in Germany. The Central Council of Jews in Germany called the ruling an “unprecedented and dramatic intrusion” into the right to religious freedom and “an outrageous and insensitive act”. Likewise, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany called it “a blatant and inadmissible interference” in the rights of parents. Other Muslims and Jews across the world, and those who express sympathy with them, have risen up in outrage. Germany’s foreign minister quickly added his voice by saying that “religious traditions must be permitted in a tolerant society”. Heiner Bielefeldt, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on religious freedom, told German radio that the court’s reasoning was “nonsense”. It wasn’t. No reasonable person could think it was nonsense or wrong. The court ruled that this type of circumcision should be made illegal — it did not itself have the power to do so — because it could inflict serious bodily harm on people — babies or children — who had not consented to it. However, the court said boys who were able to give informed consent for circumcision should be able to have it done: this would mean that the religious tradition of circumcision would not be lost among those who value it. But in the case of babies, according to the ruling, “the fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighs the fundamental rights of parents”. How can any reasonable person call that nonsense? It seems self-evident to me that cutting off the foreskin of a baby boy is a primitive, tribal form of child abuse. Quite apart from the question of consent, the procedure is painful and there are some risks attached to any surgery; the case in Germany arose because a four-year-old Muslim boy who had been circumcised started bleeding profusely two days later and was taken to the University Hospital of Cologne, where officials called the police. It seems self-evident to me that cutting off the foreskin of a baby boy is a primitive, tribal form of child abuse The idea of taking a knife to an unsuspecting infant and cutting something off one of the most sensitive parts of his body, permanently changing its appearance and, perhaps, its sensations, has always seemed to me shocking. It is, objectively, a form of genital mutilation.