Letter: Why circumcise?
Thursday 01 October 1998
From the fact that it is practised by the aboriginal Australians, it must either have originated tens of thousands of years ago, before they were isolated from other peoples, or be the spontaneous response to similar conditions in widely separate places.
When nomads settled and became farmers, they found religious reasons for continuing what had become a useless custom. It is easy to see how the operation came to be invested with meaning, given its emotionally charged object. The Jewish variety was for many centuries just the symbolic cutting of the tip; removal of the whole foreskin was introduced only when too many Jews started passing themselves off as uncircumcised in the Greek world.
Female "circumcision" presumably originated by analogy with the male variety, since it does not occur without it. Al-Shafi'i, the only doctor of Islamic law who taught that it was obligatory to circumcise girls, explicitly based his doctrine on this analogy.
P J STEWART
St Anne's College, Oxford
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Student jailed for hacking University of Birmingham computers to improve his grades
- 2 Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 The most powerful passports in the world
MasterChef 2015: Simon Wood named winner
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins
Sherlock series 4: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have to be 'persuaded' to return, says Steven Moffat
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Oldest footage of London landmarks released
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election