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BURAK BEKDİL > Not a matter of foreskin!

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The judge probably did not know that his ruling in June to ban ritual circumcision in the Cologne region of Germany would succeed in doing what world leaders have been futilely trying to do for decades: In Berlin, it brought together a rare but willing union of hundreds of Muslims and Jews, marching for a common cause. In that joint rally, both Muslims and Jews protested against the ban and demanded that freedom of religion be respected.

Of course, freedom of religion should be respected. And probably the lawmakers of the federal German state will draft a bill nullifying the local court ruling that has gone beyond the local, as doctors across Germany have refused to carry out operations in fear of legal consequences. I will leave the criticism of Jewish hypocrisies to Jewish colleagues, but what four million Muslims of Germany cry for is not freedom of religion. It is simply freedom of Islam – not of other religions, including atheism. Don’t be mistaken, the Berlin march that brought together Muslims and Jews was a tactical alliance under the shadow of strategic hostility, necessitated by the perception of a common, albeit temporary, threat.

Muslims in non-Muslim lands demand respect and full rights to practice their faith. Right? Right. No doubt, they deserve these rights as long as these rights do not breach the host country’s laws. It is also a fact that these Muslims chose to live in these non-Muslim lands, knowing they are non-Muslim lands and their laws may not always respect a Muslim slaughtering a sheep in a public park for his beliefs. All the same, I personally do not think circumcision breaches any country’s laws. But the problem about the Muslim outcry for freedom of religion is something else.

I will be direct. Can a Catholic demand to sprinkle the head of his newborn with holy water in Riyadh? Can a non-Muslim woman in Tehran defend her right to walk in public without a headscarf “because this is her faith?” How will the Pakistani authorities respond if a Christian resident insisted that he wants his family members to celebrate the holy communion by eating bread and wine to remember Jesus Christ’s sacrifices?

What about the religious rights of the not-so-Muslim Turks who choose cremation after death but are immediately denied? How will the authorities in Konya respond if Hindus wanted to worship gods (not one God) at a family shrine, which typically includes lighting a lamp and offering food before the images while prayers are recited? Arrest them for practicing satanism? Or, to cite the better legal term for the breach, for “disrespectful behavior against a whole or a part of the society”?

Muslims in Germany walk hand in hand with Jews for the right to have their babies circumcised. But will they take to the streets for the right of other Jewish practices, elsewhere? Will they protest if a Jew’s right not to work on the Sabbath is found illegal by court in Turkey, Egypt, or Algeria?

Forget all those hypothetical questions. Does or does not a Turkish court ask famous pianist Fazıl Say to stand trial because his atheist tweets “may have insulted the religious values of whole or a part of the nation?” Should the Germans hide behind the same shrewd-looking-but-ridiculous pretext? Sorry, but a whole or part of our nation gets offended when you have your babies circumcised.

Watch out gentlemen, when you speak of freedom of religion and rights in Christian countries, someone may remind you that - forget rights! - non-Muslims are not even allowed to set foot in the holy lands of Mecca.

Muslims think it is smart to demand rights in lands in which they are a minority because “that is democracy,” and to rigidly deny the same rights to non-Muslims in Muslim lands because “these are against the culture, religion and traditions of our majority.” Muslims should stop playing the multiculturalist, democracy-thirsty underdogs in non-Muslim lands while defending strict majoritarianism in lands where they are the majority.

I shall always keep on asking the disturbing question: Can a religion at odds with its less devout adherents be at peace with other religions, including agnosticism and atheism?

September/12/2012

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