What is the difference among Kenya and the Jews?

In Kenya, FGM (female circumcision) is an extremely important part of one’s group identity (MGM – male circumcision – as well):

In the wake of the German male circumcision ban, the question is asked, why must Jews consider male circumcision (the ritual practiced since the Hashmonite era, rather than the milder ritual practiced before then) to be such an important part of national identity, that attempts to ban it are regarded as antisemitism, rather than as progress to an enlightened world, in which no baby or child gets mutilated due to religious reasons and is free to choose whether to get mutilated once he or she reaches age of 18.

For me, the frightening thing is that Jews use very similar arguments to justify male circumcision, as Kenyans use to justify FGM. Without assuming that one culture or religion is The True One while the others are false ones, both Kenyans and Jews are equally guilty of cruelty to babies and children.

Kenyan cultural change – search for alternatives to FGM as part of group identity: http://www.womenaid.org/press/info/fgm/fgm-kenya.htm.  When will Jews start looking for a way to disassociate national identity from practices which irreversibly harm babies or children?

Author: Omer Zak

I am deaf since birth. I played with big computers which eat punched cards and spew out printouts since age 12. Ever since they became available, I work and play with desktop size computers which eat keyboard keypresses and spew out display pixels. Among other things, I developed software which helped the deaf in Israel use the telephone network, by means of home computers equipped with modems. Several years later, I developed Hebrew localizations for some cellular phones, which helped the deaf in Israel utilize the cellular phone networks. I am interested in entrepreneurship, Science Fiction and making the world more accessible to people with disabilities.

4 thoughts on “What is the difference among Kenya and the Jews?”

  1. According to evidence, it is not quite true that male circumcision is no big deal for its subjects. Leaving aside, for the moment, the issue of cutting off an organ with several nerve ends (and the complementary step of פריעה in the Jewish ritual, which seems to be designed to damage the most sensitive area in the human penis), consider that a botched circumcision is a very big deal for its victim.

    The incidence of botched circumcisions is not publicized, and it is quite possible that this statistic is being kept secret so that parents won’t have a really strong argument against circumcising their sons.

    From what I read about Kenyan tribes’ culture, female circumcision is not, at least for some of those tribes, a means for oppressing girls but to affirm their identity as members of their tribe (exactly the same reason Jewish boys are circumcised – to affirm their Jewish identity).

  2. Interesting question. I can think of two differences, offhand:

    1. Male circumcision is no big deal for its subjects. I doubt that any adult circumcised male ever considered his state to be a cause for regret; after all, a sizable fraction of Christian males in the English speaking world have been circumcised as a matter of routine during the 20th century. By contrast, FGM causes – by design – severe and lifelong damage to the quality of life of its victims.

    2. In the relevant religions, male child circumcision is motivated by an intent to uplift and benefit the child (make him virtuous and closer to God, etc). Of course one may disagree with this interpretation, but the subjective belief of the parents is that they do it for the child’s good. FGM is motivated in large part, as I understand, by the intent to make the girl chaste and subservient to her future husband, by removing her sexual pleasure, which is a chauvinistic and misogynistic notion.

    There may be a lot more to it, and I claim no expertise, but I think the statement that the practices are “equally guilty of cruelty” is thus exaggerated.

  3. My personal anti-religious agenda is due to the following:
    1. The Jewish religion eventually leads to marginalization of the deaf (הדרת חרשים) by banning usage of cellphones wtih SMS capability by people who want to be very strict with their religious life.
    2. The marginalization of all people by disabilities, by the recently-passed exemption which exempts synagogues and other religious buildings from the legal requirement of being accessible to people with disabilities.

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