View Full Version : Is mutilation of children a defensible religious custom?
02-10-2006, 12:56 PM
I would like someone to tell me how the mutilation of children during the celebration of the Muslim holiday of Ashoura is justifiable.
I am talking about an Associated Press picture which was published with the following caption:A Shiite Muslim man comforts his crying baby, stained by his own blood, after he was slashed on the head during Ashoura day in the southern market town of Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006. Ashoura day is the remembrance of the 680 A.D. battle in which their saint and grandson of Islam's prophet Muhammad, Hussein, was killed by rivals cementing the split in Islam between Shiites and Sunnis. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari) To view the photo, click here (http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_3492884), and open the photo gallery labeled, " Muslims mourn martyr Imam Hussein", and click on slide #11.
I understand that there is a vast cultural difference between Islam and the West, and there are probably some things they find revolting in our society. But is there anything that can justify the mutilation of child in the name of religion?
02-10-2006, 01:13 PM
Unlike the other photo captions, this one does NOT say the wound was intentionally inflicted. Assuming from Dad's proud smile that it was, I'll merely point out that I, like many others, am circumsized, which has caused a more drastic change in my appearance than a cut on the scalp is going to cause that child.
I opened this thinking it would be about circumcision.
02-10-2006, 02:48 PM
I'll merely point out that I, like many others, am circumsizedI opened this thinking it would be about circumcision.I am circumcised. I have also had a cancerous testicle removed. Both procedures were done in a hospital, by a doctor, for health reasons. Neither was done in the street, by a family member, with a sword, to commemorate a religious figure who died 1300 years ago. I see a difference.
02-10-2006, 02:59 PM
Well, I've only been to one bris, but it was in my friend's backyard.
I am circumcised. I have also had a cancerous testicle removed. Both procedures were done in a hospital, by a doctor, for health reasons. Neither was done in the street, by a family member, with a sword, to commemorate a religious figure who died 1300 years ago. I see a difference.Most people's circumcisions aren't done for health reasons. Plenty are done because their religion commands it.
I'd rather be cut on the skin of my forehead than the head of my foreskin.
02-10-2006, 03:04 PM
I don't think that this is mutilation... it seems unlikely to me to cause any kind of irreperable damage to the child.
As others have said, this doesn't strike me as being significantly worse than circumcision.
02-10-2006, 03:12 PM
There's no particular harm involved, and of course, it marks members of a soecific society from the rest of the world.
02-10-2006, 03:30 PM
There's no particular harm involved...The child doesn't look too happy about it. Is inflicting pain and anxiety on children acceptable if it is for a pious reason?
02-10-2006, 03:32 PM
It might almost be said that mutilation of children is a universal religious custom. There are tons of examples that come to mind -- circumcision, scarification, tattooing, teeth filing, head-flattening... it's a long list.
The child doesn't look too happy about it. Is inflicting pain and anxiety on children acceptable if it is for a pious reason?Well, now that we get down to it, no, not IMO. I can't believe God created us in His image and then wants us to disfigure it. Nor that God gets jollies from inflicting pain on kids.
However, if you want to be on this side of the debate, I think you need to acknowledge that we in the West do something that is arguably worse (since the change is permanent).
02-10-2006, 03:37 PM
Well I think circumcision is barbaric no matter how you dress it up. This looks equally as backward and pointless.
02-10-2006, 03:40 PM
However, if you want to be on this side of the debate, I think you need to acknowledge that we in the West do something that is arguably worse (since the change is permanent).Arguable, perhaps. But, please, not in this thread.
Arguable, perhaps. But, please, not in this thread.Um...
But is there anything that can justify the mutilation of child in the name of religion?I don't know what would be more appropriate to argue about in this thread. If we're only allowed to talk about the forehead slashing, and then decide whether anything can justify mutilation in the name of religion, are we just supposed to say 'No' and cluck sanctimoniously?
People mutilate their babies for much less compelling reasons than religion, anyway.
02-10-2006, 04:06 PM
The child doesn't look too happy about it. Is inflicting pain and anxiety on children acceptable if it is for a pious reason?
Inflicting pain and anxiety in your child is pretty much an unavoidable side-effect of having a kid. Sending a kid to his first day of school causes quite a bit of anxiety, for example. And tetnus shots hurt like a sonuvabitch. Of course, being educated and not getting lockjaw are objectively good things, whereas a religious ceremony is of debatable value. It's certainly not something I'd subject my kid too, what with me being an atheist and all, but the fact that this father did it to his kid does not mean that he's a cruel or abusive parent. He sees value in the ceremony, and odds are, he's going to pass that value on to the kid, so when he's older, he'll probably see the same value in it, as opposed to viewing it as a traumatizing event. I don't see any long term harm in it, so it's probably not worth getting too torqued up about.
02-10-2006, 04:25 PM
I don't know what would be more appropriate to argue about in this thread.I can understand that, but if we fling the doors open to the circumcision: good or bad debate, the context of other religious mutilations will be hopelessly lost. I might as well say Macintosh's suck...
02-10-2006, 06:52 PM
After a quick glance, my first thought was "geez, why is dental treatment considered mutilation?"
02-10-2006, 07:38 PM
People mutilate their babies for much less compelling reasons than religion, anyway.
Try going on a parenting board and asking for opinions about piercing babies' ears...
02-10-2006, 07:52 PM
But is there anything that can justify the mutilation of child in the name of religion?
Mutilation? Don't you think thats a tad bit extreme? The child recieved a small cut on his head. Thats certainly no crueler than dunking a kid in water making him think he is drowning.
02-10-2006, 08:04 PM
Ha, so everybody thought this was going to about our own big child mutilation tradition (including me). Turns out this is a textbook one those mote/plank situations that Jesus talked about.
02-10-2006, 08:16 PM
Just for a bit of background, it should be pointed out that the Shi'a religious hiearchy has been trying to stamp this sort of thing out for ages. I'm fairly certain it is now in fact illegal in Iran.
It seems to have started out as cultural accretion from Turkic tribesmen that merged ritual tribal machismo with Ashura passion plays, spreading to Iraq on a large scale in the 19th century ( I believe, have to doublecheck my sources when I get home ). Even the common Arab practice ( similarily culturally rooted ) of face-slapping as an expression of grief during Ashura has been condemned by clerics at times.
As noted this sort of ritual mutilation is actually pretty widespread throughout history and the world, from the Sun Dance once practiced by some Plains Amerindian tribes to the self-flagellation of Christian penitents.
02-10-2006, 08:34 PM
... I might as well say Macintosh's suck...Hey dems fightin words!
Seriously, one must give religious practices a wide berth. Change, if and when it comes, can only come out of the communities themselves. External forces will be resisted; legislations against it will only force it underground. Experience with female genital mutilation has shown the value of the softer sell. (http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0405/p06s01-woaf.html?s=hns) The sea-change in Senegal is being credited to a slow but steady program of human rights education that allows villagers to make up their own minds about whether to abandon female circumcision. Spearheaded by a local rights agency called Tostan, the program's success is proving so eye-catching that the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is endorsing it as a model.
"The Tostan approach is working because it's a holistic approach, and it works with communities," says Lalla Toure, UNICEF's regional adviser for women's health. "The starting point is not female genital mutilation; it's about rights, it's about health, it's about development. We think that's the best approach."
02-10-2006, 08:49 PM
I'd also point out that in the U.S. circumcision (especially back when I was born) was done more as a secular thing than a religious thing. Obviously circumcision has a religious background, but my parents were not particularly religious nor were either of them of the religious opinion that circumcision was a big deal. In fact one guy my age in my church didn't get circumcised until he was 18 and it was never a big deal within the church. And he did it for what he said were aesthetic reasons.
And many of my friends grew up in completely non-religious households and they were all circumcised.
There seems to have been a fairly misguided notion among parents and even doctors in the U.S. that circumcision was just better for the child because of hygiene reasons.
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