Court Protects Boy From Circumcision

The Guardian, London, 26 November 1999.

Muslim father loses court battle

A Muslim father yesterday lost his legal battle to have his son, five, ritually circumcised against his mother's wishes.

The court of appeal ruled that, although under islamic law the boy was born a Muslim, "a newborn child does not share the conceptions of the parents", and the appeal was dismissed.

The father, 27, a Muslim of Turkish origin and the English mother have been battling over the child's future since 1996. Both live in the Manchester area.

Lindsey Kushner QC, for the father, had told the court that as a Muslim the father had a duty to ensure his son was circumcised.

Lord Justice Thorpe said the boy lived in his mother's household, and his only real contact with Islam was when he visited his father, who did not attend mosque or mix in Muslim circles.

The judge said it was not in the best interests of the child to be circumcised, with its risk of pain and psychological damage which the boy would find hard to understand.

He said the boy might be traumatised by the operation. "The operation and the period leading up to it was also likely to be highly stressful to the mother."

The father had appealed against a high court ruling in April, the first time a court had decided wether a child should be circumcised when on parent was opposed to it.

Mr Justice Wall who turned down the father's application, said the mother, 29, met the father in on holiday in Turkey in 1992 and married him a few months later.

Lord Justice Thorpe said the father claimed that the mother had given assurances that any male child would be circumcised. But he said a court should not agree to the operation when one parent disagreed, unless the boy's welfare would benefit.

This is the appeal court's ruling on the case reported 6 months earlier by The Guardian:

The Guardian, 7 May 1999

Ruling stops boy, 5, being circumcised

A high court judge ruled yesterday that a boy aged five should not be circumcised against his mother's wishes.

Mr Justice Wall said in London that the welfare of the child, identified only as J, was the paramount consideration. when parents disagreed over the procedure.

Rejecting an application by the child's father for the operation to go ahead, he said ritual circumcision, for religious or social reasons, was lawful. Only when the parents disagreed was it for the court to decide the matter. He said the father, 27, who is of Turkish origin, was not a practising Muslim, and the mother, 29, the primary carer, was a non- practising Christian. They separated in 1986 and were divorced, with the father granted reasonable contact.

The judge said it was plain the mother had neither knowledge of Islam nor any interest in acquiring it. J's only real contact with Islam would be through his father, who lives in England and does not mix in Muslim circles.

He ruled that, as there was no medical indication that J required circumcision, on balance it was not in his interests to be circumcised against his mother's wishes. In his judgment, the disadvantages of this effectively irreversible surgical intervention. In J's case outweighed the benefits.

He made an order preventing the father arranging for the child to be circumcised without the permission of the high court. He granted the father leave to appeal.

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