BBC circumcision doc gets mixed reaction, praised for ‘engaging’ with community

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BBC circumcision doc gets mixed reaction, praised for ‘engaging’ with community

Jewish leaders say the title of 'A Cut Too Far' was 'unhelpful', but thanked producers for featuring interviews with Jewish families

Presenter Adnan Sarwar attends a circumcision clinic.  - (C) Matchlight/ Black Pepper Media - Photographer: Ali May
Presenter Adnan Sarwar attends a circumcision clinic. - (C) Matchlight/ Black Pepper Media - Photographer: Ali May

Jewish representatives in the UK have thanked the BBC for its engagement during the making of a BBC documentary on male circumcision, broadcast on Thursday.

Milah UK, which defends the right of the Jewish community to carry out religious circumcisions, applauded the Beeb’s inclusion of Jewish views but criticised the title of the BBC One programme, called ‘A Cut Too Far,’ which it said was “unhelpful”.

A spokesman said: “Milah UK appreciates that the producers engaged with us before this documentary was produced and broadcast.

“We plainly disagree with many of those featured on the programme. However, we further appreciate the interviews with Jewish families for whom brit milah (male infant circumcision) is clearly an important rite of passage. The programme reflects this and shows how the community engages in celebrating the event.”

He added: “Since medical issues are raised in the programme, it is worth restating that thousands of Jewish men who have undergone circumcision report no harm. They adhere to the concept that brit milah is a gift from their parents, and can perceive it as their first recognition of their right to their religious inheritance.”

Male circumcision is one of the oldest known surgical procedures and is traditionally undertaken as a mark of cultural identity or religious importance, or for perceived health benefits such as improved hygiene or reduced risk of infection.

It is almost universally practised among Muslims and Jews, the religious justification for Jews coming from Genesis 17, which states that circumcision is a covenant with God and that all boys should be circumcised on their eighth day.

However pressure is growing on the ancient practice and several countries are now considering banning male infant circumcision for non-medical reasons. Lawyers say any interference on a person’s body without their consent is “assault”.

Dr Antony Lempert, chair of Secular Medical Forum in the UK, said: “Autonomy, the right to decide for oneself what happens to one’s own body, is the primary medical ethic and is not being adequately considered when children’s healthy genitals are cut for no medical reason.”

Among those interviewed for the programme was Reform Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead Synagogue, who last year called for a national authority to be set up to regulate the practice of male infant circumcision.

He said: “Ultimately circumcision is a medical procedure and so whether done for religious or health reasons, it should be monitored and safeguarded like any other medical procedure.”

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