Trends in pediatric circumcision in Belgium and the Brussels University Hospital from

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Religious and cultural motives

In the past South Sea Islanders, Sumatrans, Incas, Aztecs, Mayans and ancient Egyptians have practiced ritual male circumcision.4 Today it is still practiced among Jews and Muslims, less so among Christians and rarely among other religions.6 Ritual circumcision is also practiced in some parts of tribal Africa and by Australasian Aborigines. The timing of the circumcision varies from religion to religion and from culture to culture. In Judaism, boys are circumcised on the eight-day after birth. In many tribal cultures the ritual is performed in early adult life. In some African tribes circumcision is performed at birth. Islamic scholars and jurist are not unanimous about the timing of the circumcision; it varies from an early age (the seventh day after birth) up to the age of 7 years.3

Male circumcision is not mentioned in any form in the Koran. In Muslim societies the practice is attributed to the Prophet Abraham, who Muslims (and Jews) revere as a patriarch. Therefore circumcision has acquired the status of tradition. If a man converts to Islam, it is not mandatory for him to be circumcised. If Muslim parents decide not to circumcise their son, he would not be considered non-Muslim. In the Torah on the other hand, circumcision is mentioned. It is said to represent the covenant made between God and Abraham and Abraham’s descendants. Any child born to a Jewish mother is Jewish according to Jewish law, and circumcision is another vital component confirming a male child as Jewish. It is the father’s duty to ensure their son is circumcised. If it is not performed, God will punish the father by shortening his life. Traditionally, the circumcision is performed by a specially trained mohel of traditional circumciser in a ceremony called a Bris Milah.1,3

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