Religious circumcision needs child consent, charity says

Jewish and Muslim parents should wait until sons are old enough to agree to ritual circumcision, Norm-UK to tell conference. Parents should not circumcise a son on the grounds of faith without the child’s consent, a conference will hear today. Norm-UK, a charity opposed to male circumcision, said the practice was harmful and subjected children to surgery that was non-consensual, irreversible and unnecessary. It meets today at a Keele University conference addressing the issues of male and female circumcision, in addition to examining the physical and psychological impact of these practices. Laura MacDonald, a trustee of Norm-UK, said: “We are not calling for a ban on Jewish or Muslim parents circumcising their sons, but we’re asking them to reconsider and wait until the child is old enough to give his consent. “If it is a religious requirement then it has more value if carried out when someone has chosen to do it. It is unlawful for anyone under the age of 18 to be given a tattoo even if they want it. There’s an anomaly here.” In Judaism, the Brit Mila – ritual circumcision – is one of the cornerstones of the faith and is held on the eighth day after the child is born. Circumcision is seen as a religious obligation, not a medical operation, and is carried out by a mohel, someone who has been trained in the procedure and understands the significance of the rite. The Initiation Society, formed in 1745, trains men to perform this ritual and more than 2,000 circumcisions are done every year. Riazat Butt reports.

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Stop pandering to Muslims says ‘silent majority’

The government’s attempts to placate Muslims will cause long-term damage to communities, a charity said yesterday. The warning came from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, chair and co-founder of the British Muslims for Secular Democracy, a new organisation claiming to represent the “silent majority who feel no conflict between their faith and democracy”. Speaking before the launch, attended by Baroness Kishwer Faulkner and former Islamist Ed Husain, the journalist said the government was pandering to Muslims by granting too many concessions, fuelling their separation from the rest of society. “The government has found a way of placating Muslims in a way that will only damage us in the long term, Muslims wanting separate schools or different measures. There must be one law for all. “This differential accommodation leads to us being pushed to the edges. How is it that the Sikhs and Hindus can live in democracy but not Muslims?” Riazat Butt reports.

Ex-Islamists start moderate Think Tank

Two former Islamists are to launch a Muslim thinktank aimed at improving relations with the west by challenging extremist ideologies. The Quilliam Foundation believes Muslims should shake off the “cultural baggage of the Indian subcontinent” and the “political burdens of the Arab world”. Its director is Maajid Nawaz, 30, who was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International after being jailed in Egypt for membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Since returning to London he has written pamphlets criticising the party. His deputy is Ed Husain, 32, the author of The Islamist, which details his youth in east London moving through radical groups including Hizb ut-Tahrir. The policy institute, to be launched next month, is named after Shaikh William Henry Abdullah Quilliam, an English solicitor and convert, who founded the UK’s first mosque in Liverpool at the end of the 19th century. Nawaz insists the foundation is independent. “[The money has come] mainly from Middle Eastern businessmen and Muslims who are concerned about how Islam is being abused.” Owen Bowcott and Riazat Butt reports.

Muslim leaders back Livingstone as mayor

Prominent Muslim organisations and individuals have pledged to back Ken Livingstone as mayor of London, saying it is in the “best interest” of Muslims to vote for him in this year’s elections on May 1. A statement, published today in full on the Guardian’s website, praises Livingstone for his continued support of a multicultural society and for protecting Muslim communities against racism and Islamophobia. Riazat Butt reports.

Faith meets reality TV in contest to find the best mosque in Britain

There are no nasty judges, booing crowds, tearful auditions or backstabbing. But the competition is just as tough. Eight mosques are vying to become Britain’s Model Mosque 2007 in a televised competition which marries halal principles with the knock-out rules of reality TV. The series, shown tonight on the Islam Channel, is not a beauty pageant, as aesthetics are not important. Instead, mosques are assessed on their interfaith work, women’s facilities, youth services and their transparency on finances, policies and management. Riazat Butt reports.