The Virus Called Superstition
Edip Yuksel, 1997
Pain does not pay attention to social, political or legal theories; it does not care about cultures and religions. Pain is pain. It does not favor one nation over another or one culture over another. Human body, with its biological and physiological structure, does not interpret differently the feeling of pain delivered by neurons according to the cultures or theories. Besides, human children do not have religion, culture, or legal dogmas and they do not lie when they feel pain; they scream and cry for help.
Circumcision of both male and female children inflicts pain on innocent children. No parent should have the right to subject their children to pain without medical justification that might outweigh the harm and pain. It is preposterous to confuse the pain inflicted to children by vaccination with the pain inflicted by male and female circumcision. One has substantial evidence for its life saving benefits, while the other, especially female circumcision causes variety of harms and its only benefit is the pleasure or comfort obtained by adults from blindly following hearsay and mythologies. Equating mythologies with science is a ridiculous attempt or mere hypocrisy if it is suggested by educated people. The difference between the two is very clear; clearer than the difference between dark and light.
No religion, culture or mythology should be granted immunity if they are used to make others suffer without their consent. No country or community should be able to get away with racism, oppression, or child abuse in the name of a religion, majority, local laws, classes, or other constructed social norms and cultures.
Why should we respect the autonomy of a state if that state is intentionally and systematically, directly or indirectly disrespecting the integrity and the individual rights of its citizens? Why should we respect a culture that subject helpless children to torture and even death? Why should we respect the culture of parents and ignore the crying of her child who is subjected to a biologically or medically unnecessary torture? Are we so unsure that the child is innocent? Are we so unsure that (s)he is feeling tremendous pain?
The degree of pain and harm in case of female circumcision is so gross that no human being should chose to be a bystander, let alone a promoter of such a practice. The practice of female circumcision, especially the infibulation should stop. But how? By fight or by light? I believe that the best way to eradicate this ignorance is to expose those who practice this tradition to the light of reason and science. Human Rights Organizations and United Nations should educate people of the nations that superstitions and mythologies promoting such a practice have no reality.
One might ask who are we to decide what is mythology and what is reality, what is superstition and what is truth. Why should the western culture be the international judge and interfere other people’s social and religious practice? Aren’t we biased? I will not argue this by falsely labeling certain universal truth as “western” or “eastern.” I am from east and I agree with many so-called western concepts and I disagree with some. Conversely, there are many who live in western countries and subscribe to superstitions and mythologies which are falsely associated with east. How can we discover a universal culture or truth? My answer is simple: in open market of cultures and ideas!
I have no doubt that when there is freedom of expressing and exchanging ideas and there is a market for robust public argument, harmful mythologies, oppressive cultural norms and practices, be eastern or western origin, will evaporate to oblivion. The challenge is to invite nations to open themselves to the international market of ideas and cultures. Those who reject to put open their society and put their culture in the international market should not be able to defend their culture and they should not be able to justify oppression and abuse in the name of such a culture. How can a government expect respect from international community to a culture that fears the light of other cultures? Their national pride—which is often used an excuse to continue human rights violations—should be turned to shame in the international arena.
International pressure or mandates might result in unintended consequences. Governments or nations might negatively react to the external pressure and might fanatically stick with the harmful traditions and cultural dogmas. Governments might exploit the “national pride” and use them as opium of masses. Iraq and Iran are good examples of such exploitation and negative reaction to the imposition of “foreign” or “western” values.
Human rights institutions, instead of forcing governments or people on particular issues, should demand and mandate totalitarian governments to open their societies and guarantee freedom of speech for individuals and organizations. Free societies will ultimately establish a culture that is fair and just for all. They might differ in details of what constitutes human rights, but surely they will establish a system that is sensitive to oppression, discrimination and suppression.
United Nations and other public and private human rights organizations should communicate with intellectuals and support them in their mission for enlightening their people. Supplying batteries for domestic flash-lights held by local advocates is the most effective method of fighting against human rights violations. We should not forget that the light of reason and scientific inquiry is the most effective antibiotic against the virus called superstition.
As a devote muslim who promotes reformation in Islam by following the Quran ALONE, I invite Muslims to abandon hadith and sunna, that is fabricated sayings and practices falsely attributed to prophet Muhammad, and sectarian teachings made up by clergymen throughout 14 centuries.
P.S.: I do not condone male circumcision. I find it an unnecessary, occasionally harmful surgery and an ignorant attempt to correct God’s normal creation in the name of God! It is a topic of another paper.