July 7, 2011
Anti Semitism is not bio degradable wrote Howard Jacobson in The Finkler Question meaning that however deep it is buried it will eventually rise back up.
There have been two attacks on our fundamental religious rights relating to Shechita, religious slaughter, and circumcision.
Today the European Parliament in Strasbourg, meeting in Plenary session, rejected the food labelling amendment to the new EU food information rules, calling for shechita, to be singled out for specific labeling as “meat from slaughter without stunning,” the amendment, originally voted by a committee of the EU Parliament, was rejected after a compromise was reached with the EU member states and the EU Commission.
The compromise, backed by 606 MEPs in favour and 46 against, is a commitment that a study on the opportunity to provide consumers with the relevant information on the stunning of animals should be considered in the context of future Union strategy for the protection and welfare of animals.
So the battle has been won, but the war continues. Shechita UK, the British response lead by Henry Grunwald QC employed the services of PR consultant Shimon Cohen and an army of amateur lobbyists including me. Although I confess that I played a small part due to work restrictions, some of my colleagues devoted an immense amount of time and energy.
The Board of Deputies continues to play a huge role and the Manchester Jewish Representative Council, representing the second largest British Jewish community were a veritable power house of activity.
Now the hopefully lesser battle relating to Brit Milah, Circumcision is underway. According to Jewish religious law a boy should be circumcised 8 days after his birth if he is considered healthy enough to undergo the procedure.
The training of the Mohel, the practitioner who performs the act, is intense and the greatest care is taken for the wellbeing of the child. So cleanliness and the skill employed in what doctors consider a very minor procedure are respected and strictly adhered to.
Accidents are extremely rare and the family, especially the mother, never put their sons at risk.
The NHS in Manchester are considering publishing an advisory leaflet to be on display in doctors surgeries and hospitals explaining to parents the risks of having an untrained person perform this procedure.
The Manchester Jewish Representative Council and the Board of Deputies specialists in Brit Milah have advised the NHS and hopefully their recommendations will be taken on board.
Some people would suggest that both Shechita and Brit Milah issues emanate from anti Semitism but I do not believe that to be the basis of the campaigns.
My opinion is that they have both emanated from parties against the Muslim population of Europe and this country.
In Germany a lucrative cottage industry started, I understand, by Turkish immigrants when animals were slaughtered in unlicensed premises and the meat sold into the general market place. Unlike Shechita the religious supervisor is not required to be present under Halal rules and can be a distance away, even overseas but must be in contact by phone or other modern methods.
This practice was flagged up by Renata Somer a German MEP which led to her requesting the labelling rule. She was unaware of the backlash into Jewish law.
Likewise Muslim boys also should be circumcised but I have learned that the stringent rules that Jewish boys enjoy are not always in force in Islam which has caused some concern leading to an NHS pamphlet which could go nationwide. The NHS may start licensing the Mohelim and their Muslim equivalent which I would certainly agree should happen.
Once again we find ourselves in the slipstream of the Muslim community and having had several meetings with them at many levels over the past year or so I find that sadly there is no cohesion within their community.
I have offered to help them to form umbrella organizations to bring together their religious, welfare and charitable organizations so that they can speak with one voice as we have nationally with the Board and locally with our Representative Councils.
This would give the moderate majority a credible voice, educate the general population and further their acceptance dispelling many of the myths that harm them.