Month: September 2011

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Video 7 May 07, 2011, 10:49:03 PM


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Video 6 April 14, 2011, 02:52:47 AM

How I felt in regard to the issue of religion between me and my family. Unfortunately, my mother believes I hate her because of my last blog post which mentioned her. Contact has been severed once more, probably for good this time. Just as well, religion was driving us apart again.


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Video 5 March 31, 2011, 06:28:56 PM

The point that is made in this monologue is one my main reasons for leaving religion for good.


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Video 4 October 03, 2010, 09:52:24 AM

I want to see this movie.


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Video 3 September 05, 2010, 04:24:10 AM


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Video 2 February 17, 2010, 09:04:51 PM

Videos.

(more…)


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Video 1 February 15, 2010, 12:06:43 PM

Today, I’ll finally man up and do those articles.  Heh.

Might also look into the space issue with this damned hosting service.  Fine-print and all that.

For entertainment purposes:

Quote from: Major’s Speech

Comrades, I love war. Comrades, I love war. Comrades, I really love war!

I love extermination battles. I love blitzes. I love slugfests. I love defensive battles. I love siege battles. I love breakthrough battles. I love rearguard battles. I love cleanup battles. I love evacuation battles.

In the prairies, in the streets, in the trenches, in the fields, in the tundra, in the desert, on the sea, in the air, in the mud, in the bog. I love all and every act of war taken in this world.

I love the salvo of infantry lines in battle, blowing the enemy up in 1 thunderous roar! Watching the enemy getting thrown high up into the air and blown into bits by gunfire makes my heart dance.

I love it when the Tiger, the tank soldiers use, destroys the enemy tanks with its 88mm. I felt wonderful when I mowed down the enemy with my MG (machine gun), as they jumped out of the burning tank screaming!

I love it when the foot soldiers mount their bayonets in the same direction and trample the enemy line of battle. I even felt touched when new recruits in their panic, stab the already-dead enemy soldier over and over.

I just love hanging the defeatist runaway soldiers from the street lights! With a wave of my hand, the screaming hostages killed one after another with the Schmeisser, making a metallic sound that is just wonderful! The ecstasy when the poor resistance movements stand up to fight with their assorted pistols and then the Dora’s 4.8 high explosive shell blows them and their city to smithereens!

I love it when the Ruskis (Russians) armored division messes with me. It’s very sad to see the towns you were supposed to protect get breached and its women and children raped and killed. I love being crushed by the amount of resources the English and Americans have. It is an utter shame to be chased by Jabos and run, scrambling on the ground like insects.

Comrades, I seek war. I seek a war that is not unlike hell on earth.
Comrades, those that follow me, the Battalion Comrades. What do you seek?
Do you seek further war?
Do you seek a shit-like war with no mercy?
Do you seek an all-out war that rages like the Sturm-Krieg and kills the crows of three thousand worlds?

*men and officers of the Battalion*
Krieg! Krieg! Krieg! Krieg! Krieg! Krieg! Krieg! Krieg! Krieg!

Fine, then Krieg it is!

We are a fist that we’ve clenched with all our might, about to strike down! But an ordinary war will not satisfy us anymore after we have endured for half a century in this darkness.

A full-scale war! An all out full-scale war!

We are barely one battalion, less than a thousand troops remaining. But i believe you all to be veteran soldiers who each are a match for a thousand. In that case, you and I make a total strength of one million and one.

Let us wake those bastards that forced us into oblivion and are now fast asleep. We will grab them by the hair and drag them down. Force their eyes open and remind them.

We will remind them of the taste of fear!
We will remind them of the sound of our march!
We will remind them that there are things between heaven and earth that they cannot possibly understand. I will burn down the earth with a Kampfgruppe of a thousand vampires.

That’s right. That’s the light of Europe that we have all been waiting for. I have brought you all back as promised.

To that nostalgic battlefield.
To that nostalgic war!
*men and officers of the Battalion*
*cheering*

And so the Seelowe (Sealion) has finally crossed the sea and climbs onto land.
This is a message to all Millennium Battalion personnel. This is an order from the battalion commander!
Now comrades, let’s raise hell.


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If I had a soul… February 24, 2011, 11:50:54 PM

This is a heavily modified and edited version of a message that I sent to someone on Last.fm that inquired about Arabic music.

I’ll list you some classical Egyptian artists and some places for metal from the Middle East and North Africa.   The oud, nay, qanun and tabla are played differently depending on the country you’re looking at.  Also should be noted that a downtuned violin and accordion are used in most post 1950’s modern Arab musical ensembles.

Quote from: Source

Oud
The Oud is a fretless short neck lute played with a long plectrum called “risha”. The Oud has 5 pairs of strings tuned in unison, and one bass string. The tuning of the Oud is in 4th’s (low to high: CFADGC). The Oud is the instrument of choice for singers and composers.

Nay
The Nay is an end-blown cane flute with six finger holes and one thumb hole. The technique of playing the nay requires partially covering the top end with the lips and directing a very soft stream of air against the inside wall of the tube. The sound of the Nay has been likened to weeping, but it can also be very exciting. A Nay player uses a set of 7 or more Nays, each in a different key.

Qanun
The Qanun is a lap-zither with 26 courses of triple strings that rest on a bridge of fish skin. The Qanun player wears a plectrum on the 1st finger of each hand which is heald in place by a wide metal ring. Along the left side of the Qanun a complex system of levers called “‘Uraab” allow the player to introduce accidentals during performance by adjusting the tuning in micro-intervals.

Riq
The Riq is a fish skin tamborine with 5 pairs of heavy brass cymbals. It is the main percussion instrument in Arabic Classical music, and uses a wide variety of sounds and techniques to create intricate rhythmic patterns. The riq has 2 styles of playing: the delicate classical technique and the louder folk / pop technique.

Daf
The Daf is a goat or calf skin frame drum which is used in folk, pop music and sacred music such as Zikr or Sufi ceremonies. The sound of the daf is very warm and resonant, and it’s light weight and small size allow it to be played while dancing or walking.

Darbuka
(a.k.a. Tabla, Derbaki, Doumbek) The Darbuka is a ceramic goblet shaped drum with a fish skin on one side. The darbuka is the essential instrument for dance music throughout the Middle East, loved for it’s powerful sound and energetic playing style. The darbuka is held sideways over one leg while playing.

For information on Arabic instruments in full here is a site that is very informative:
http://www.maqamworld.com/

I have memories of Egypt so I’m partial to music from that region. This site drops some of the great names of the past:

Quote from: Site

Egypt’s importance in Arabic music is shown by the fact that many of the great masters of Arabic music were Egyptian: Sayed Darwish, Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Umm Kulthum, Mohamed Al-Qasabji, Zakariyya Ahmad, and Riad Al-Sunbati just to name a few. Egypt has also opened its doors to artists of other countries, some of them persecuted in their own lands. For example, when Abu Khalil Al-Qabani was accused in Syria of being a negative influence on the youth, he went to Cairo and there founded the first true orchestra for Arabic music. Egypt loves its musicians, and it is said that the funeral of Egypt’s greatest singer, Umm Kulthum, in 1975 was larger than that of President Nasser.

There is Farid Al-Atrach who was a famous actor, singer and wonderful oud player.

Quote from: Source

Farid al Atrash was born 1915 in syria to a druze family of princes which moved to egypt in the 1920’s. Farid’s Mother was playing the oud and was a singer as well and his sister Asmahan was a popular singer as well. Farid studied in a music school under the hands of the legendary Riyad al Sunbati.

Farid was an virtuoso oud player, a talented composer, a singer and an actor. He consider as one of the most important names of the arabic music in the 20th century. Farid al Atrash has left a great legacy to the music of the arab world. Farid’s career of 4 decades was long full of colours and inspirations. As a composer he composed songs in various styles. Farid maintained that although some of his music had Western musical influence, he always stayed true to Arab music principles.

The majority of Farid compositions were about feelings, romantics and love but he also composed several songs of patriotism and religous content.

Farid resume was including 31 movies where he was the star and he recorded an amazing number of about 350 songs. The Great Egyptian icon, oud virtuoso and composer contributed his work to the great artist of that time as Warda, Sabah and Wadih Al Safi.

Farid died in December 1974 at a lebanese hospital in of beirut a short time after arriving. he was buried alongside his brother and sister.

Then there is the legendary Mohamed Abdel Wahab.  More videos here.

Quote from: Source

Legendary Egyptian composer, Oud player, singer and actor Mohamed Abdelwahab, was born in 1907 in Cairo, Egypt.

Mohamed Abdelwahab made his first recording while he was 13. In 1924, it was the Prince of Poets, Ahmed Shawky who adopted him. A little later, Abdel Wahab played oud before Ahmed Shawqi and then began to write melodies to his texts by the late 1920s.
Inspired by Western melodies and French musical presentations, Mohamed Abdelwahab created a novel kind of romantic films dominated by urban sophistication. His music also turned to simplicity and innovation. The film “The White Flower” was a big success and achieved huge attendance records.
Many actresses found way to success thanks to this tendency such as Leila Mourad. Abdelwahab also introduced new musical instruments and styles leading that way to the most important musical revolution of the 20th century in Egypt and from to Arab countries.
In the 1950s, Mohamed Abdel Wahab switched to a singing career till the 1960s while he just devoted himself to composing for other singers. Thus, he composed 10 songs for Omm Kalthum, Abdelhalim Hafez, Ismahane… He was responsible for more than a thousand songs including one hundred he sang himself.
Mohamed Abdelwahab died in 1991.

There is also Abdel Halim Hafez who was a very influential actor, singer and conductor that died early.  His melodies and songs are still famous to this day.  More videos here.

 

Quote from: Source

Abdel Halim Ali Shabana commonly known as Abdel Halim Hafez (June 21, 1929 – March 30, 1977), is among the most popular and celebrated singers ever in Egypt and the Arab world. Halim was also an actor, conductor, music teacher and movie producer. He is widely considered one of the Great 4 of Arabic music along with Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, and Farid Al Attrach. His name is sometimes written as Abd el-Halim Hafez, and he is also widely known as el-Andaleeb el-Asmar (The Great Dark Skinned Nightingale). He is widely regarded as the greatest male musician ever in the Arab world.

Modern oud player that is amazing is Dr. Atef Abdel Hameed.

Hossam Ramzy and Said El Artist are the modern tabla geniuses of Egypt.

Hossam Ramzy an Egyptian professional percussionist, composer and music arranger.

Said Al Artist is also a professional Egyptian percussionist with an line of signature drums in by his name.  He prefers to make massive compositions, tabla concerts, versus tabla solos which Ramzy loves to do.

Quote from: Adam Greenberg, All Music Guide

Mohamed Naiem, a mainstay of the Egyptian nightclub virtuoso scene, is likely best-known internationally for his work behind Hossam Ramzy on a number of albums. Here, he’s accompanied by Ramzy on percussion, but he gets the chance to shine at the forefront on both the nay and the kawala. While the compositions are largely written by Naiem and Ramzy together, the tone is distinctly different from the majority of Ramzy’s work. There is no driving percussion, no synths or string arrangements here. The focus is very clearly on the nay, with only minimal accompaniment. The mood is somewhat pensive, as the flutes lend themselves well to such, and the content itself ranges from devotional hymns and prayers to Allah, to almost poetic love odes. This album is one of a very few on the market to show the nay in its own right, with some stunning lines here and there, but primarily in a state of contemplation, evoking a voice (which is the ultimate goal of the player). Naiem is truly the star of this album, and he makes the most of it with his formidable abilities.

Not much is known about Mr. Helmy.

Hossam Ramzy’s two disc set called “Rhythms of the Nile” explains the different Egyptian tablas and tabla beats . Here is a youtube series that is beats from many regions including the different Egyptian styles done by someone named Mansour:

Maged Serour (Turkish) does wonderful work on the Qanun.

 

Quote from: Source

Professor Maged Serour, Well known in the Middle East and internationally as one of the top players of Qanun. Professor Maged Serour is in constant demand, recording with the best artists from the region and leading the most acclaimed ensembles and orchestras in the Middle East. Up to eight years of practicing and following a conservatory program are needed to learn how to play this instrument… and Maged holds a doctorate! This is no simple instrument to play. Just try tuning the 72 strings. But when the Professor plucks this harp the sound is nothing short of heavenly. In our opinion, the Qanun is the most angelic of all the instruments… and Maged is the master. The Professor is one of the most amazing musicians we have ever encountered. [hybrid-records.com]

Little is know about the Egyptian qanun player, Amin Fahmi, but here is something from him so you can see the Egyptian style of qanun.

There is one specifically Egyptian instrument called the arghoul and it is mainly played in falahi (farmer) dance music and music from Upper Egypt (Saidi):

Quote from: Source

Arghoul (from Arabic “urgun” meaning organ), an ancient wind instrument dating from the 5th and 6th centuries played originally by peasants. Often called the Egyptian “oboe,” the Arghoul is made of 2 pipes held together by wax-coated strings from cloth or rope. The main pipe consists of 5 to 7 punctures, and segments of varying length can be added to the longer pipe to change the overall tonality and pitch of the instrument. There are 3 different sizes of Arghoul, the largest one posing the greatest challenge to the musician — the distance between the holes can be difficult to reach and the musician has to breath in constantly and blow in a circular fashion. It is one of the instruments that frequently accompanies traditional and folk performances. The oldest professional Arghoul musician, Mostafa Abdel Aziz, died in 2002.

Arghul – A double-reed pipe, also called an “Egyptian oboe”. It looks like an oboe but the Arghul, like the Kawala, can produce a soulful, wailing sound similar to that of a clarinet.

This album by Fathy Salama should give you a nice supplementary list of more modern players too:

 

Quote from: Source

Album Camel Road 1996

Credits:
Fathy Salama (ep, tara), Hossam Shaker (kanun), Ayman Sedky (perc), Gaafar Hargal (bongos), Ramadan Mansour (tabla, dof)

Special Guests:
Kamil Erdem (eb) – Asia minor, Ankara, Turkey, Fekry Sabry (hi-hat), Mohamed Mostafa (rababa). Mohamed Fouda (nai, kawala), Mostafa Abd El Nabi (viol), Mamdouh El Gebaly (oud), Moustafa Abd El Azyz (argoul), Husenien Hendy (mezmar), Ali Klay (sagat, toura), Nashat Yehya (rik), Gamalat Shiha (voc), Mamdouh Byrm (voc), Tarek El Zyn (tanboura), Somya Hassan, Khalda El Gnyd, Zynb El Horys, Abd El Hady Mohamed, Hamed Mousa (Sudanese – voc)

With “Camel Road”, the second “Sharkiat” recording produced by Face Music, it is even more clear how deeply Fathy Salama and his fellow musicians are committed to the back-to-the-roots concept. Fathy himself is continually proving this with other groups, such as the percussion ensemble “Gouzour”. The implementation of this particular concept cannot be equated with purely nostalgic and often also transfigured entertainment music emulating some other trend. Rather more, it is the case once again of asserting a claim to present current, contemporary music – although of course, with a much more accoustic effect in comparison to the first production “Camel Dance”.

Out of this arises a form of music which – in contrast to much of what appears as recordings under labels such as “world music” – does not form some unfounded conglomeration created in the minds of producers, ultimately shaped by a Euro centric body of thought, but on the contrary, adapts current trends of musical creation in an inspired way as well as traditions in actual existence in the sphere of the performers.

Encounters with outstanding instrumentalists, such as Kamil Erdem (“Asia minor”) are ultimately really ideal per-requisites for more than just a surprising and exciting sound.

Fathy Salama is one of the fathers of “jeel,” Arabic pop.

Quote from: Source

Fathy Salama was born by the Nile, when he was a child he swam there with his friends.

He grew up listening to the family radio, which played the music of Oum Kalthoum, Abdelwahab and Farid el Attrash.
Later, when he could tune the radio, he reached beyond the banks of the Nile to Jazz and to a huge variety of world traditional music.

Learning the piano from the age of six was a good beginning and was followed by gigging in Cairo clubs from the age of thirteen. Soon the kid of Shobra, Harlem of Cairo, made it to Europe and to NewYork to learn Jazz with such great artists as Sun Râ or Ossman Kareem.

Progressing to creating many hits in Cairo during 80’s, touring the world, and winning two prizes for his film sound tracks, it is with Sharkiat (is own group) that Fathy is making his dreams come true of merging modern and traditional music together, thus expressing both a message from his home country and his love of music. His music reflects his experience from the Orient and from Europe. His “success” on the music market plays a secondary role ; first and foremost he wants to be understood, and so he works tirelessly on this bridge linking traditional and modern music from the Orient.

Here is a list of Egyptian artists from Wiki to supplement all that:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Egyptian_musicians

Finally I leave you with a song that highlights how the violin is used in Arabic music.  The lead violinist is the talented Abboud Abdel Aal (from Lebanon born 1925).  It also shows how well integrated Western instruments became in Egyptian music which spread all over the region.

In this video, he plays the violin like a qanun in some parts. Absolutely impressive and beautiful.

 

I think that’s enough of a start for you for traditional styles and history. ON TO METAL (and punk?)! Surprisingly, metal is alive and struggling in the Middle East and North Africa. Hardcore punk too it seems. Here are some links for you to read regarding the history and status of metal in the region:
http://www.chroniclesofchaos.com/articles/rants/6-988_desert_demons_-_part_i.aspx
http://www.chroniclesofchaos.com/articles/rants/6-998_desert_demons_-_part_ii.aspx
http://www.chroniclesofchaos.com/articles/rants/6-1005_desert_demons_-_part_iii.aspx

This right here is an article list by Chuck Foster who highlights black metal bands from that region. You have to scroll down past his recent articles for the one on this topic.
http://www.bigtakeover.com/author/Chuck+Foster/

Webzine that keeps track of metal from that region of the world and hosts downloads, etc:
http://www.jorzine.com/

My personal favorites are:
Odious (Egypt)

Al-Namrood (Saudi Arabia)

Narjahanam (Bahrain)

Thamud (United Arab Emirates)

Dhul-Qarnayn (Bahrain) – Get herehere, and here.

Qafas (Bahrain)

Damaar (Lebanon)


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The Future of al-Qaeda as I see it May 04, 2011, 10:50:33 AM

From what I can see, al-Qaeda is done for. The celebrity is gone. The leadership is being killed off too quickly for them to find adequate replacements — for instance, of the three guys under Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, two of them were already killed when he was captured. Now, the US government might have their hands on everything al-Qaeda has been planning.

The death of Osama probably will inspire people to join terrorist organizations, especially among populations of people who are disenfranchised and impoverished (that is why al-Qaeda sent agents in 2009 to Somalia and Yemen to assist regional terrorist organizations in training recruits). I doubt they would join the al-Qaeda network since now it is common knowledge that the US military has scored a substantial amount of intelligence on the organization.

Perhaps more importantly, people will be averse to joining al-Qaeda because the unifying message of Osama will be overwritten by the divisive persona of Zawahiri, who will likely be taking Osama’s place as emir. This is a guy who has branded the Muslim Brotherhood as heretical, and not the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood specifically as far as I can tell, who sound more like Republicans if they were in Northern Africa, but rather all organizations that call themselves the Muslim Brotherhood, which covers a lot of gorund.

So, in all likelihood, the people who would join al-Qaeda will be distributing themselves among smaller, regional terrorist networks. I highly doubt that there will be another terrorist network starting up anytime soon that will have the same global presence that al-Qaeda has had. One reason why al-Qaeda managed to develop such a presence was through Osama, who was already something of a war hero in the Middle East for leaving the comforts of upper-class living in Saudi Arabia to fight the godless Soviets in Afghanistan alongside the Mujahideen. I am not sure if there is anyone else with that kind of reputation in the Middle East and Northern Africa, someone with a sort of legendary status that people can get behind.

Thus, what I think is most likely in the near future is that there will be increased membership in smaller, regional terrorist organizations. No one organization will see such a significant rise in membership that they will be able to develop much influence outside of their region. There probably will not be some legendary war hero with a unifying message that people can get behind for years. Each network lacking the ability and drive to cooperate with other groups and not having the influence of numbers nor fundraising power of a celebrity presence, it will be quite some time before any terrorist network will be able to coordinate attacks such as on New York, London, and Madrid.

Consequently, the bad news is that if the terrorist networks can’t pull feasible plans together to attack outside of the Greater Middle East, then they will settle for attacks within the Greater Middle East. There will be more attacks like the one in Marrakesh, more embasy bombings, more attacks on foreign troops occupying their territories.


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The Origin of Male Circumcision April 16, 2011, 09:45:49 PM

Discussions on female genital mutilation are quite common. People are generally in agreement on the issue. The term “female genital mutilation” isn’t considered confrontational or controversial. It is a practice that clearly doesn’t merely have no medical benefit to women, it is obviously harmful, and is blatantly justified by its practitioners as a means to steal sexual pleasure and enjoyment from women and consequently serves a purpose as an attempted deterrent against recreational sexual activity.

Something that never comes into question is the male parallel to this practice. The practitioners don’t say “female genital mutilation”. They call it “female circumcision”. No one seems to be asking questions about male circumcision. Why is male circumcision performed? We know it is a Jewish religious practice, so why do non-Jews get circumcised, too? What purpose is circumcision supposed to serve for men? Evidently, the reasoning behind circumcision is not so dissimilar between men and women.

Before getting into history, an explanation is in order for women. Men’s and women’s sexual organs are essentially the same. For the first six-to-eight weeks of embryonic development, all human beings develop as females. It is only after six-to-eight weeks that the Y chromosome kicks in and tells male embryos to start developing as males. By this point, there is already a basic outline of the reproductive system. There are the ovaries, which become the testes. There is a clitoris, a phallic structure which grows into the penis. The vaginal opening closes back up to create the scrotum. The urethra routes itself through the phallis. The foreskin is the clitoral hood. So, if a woman wants to think of male circumcision in a way that relates to her, then think of the procedure of circumcision as the surgical removal of the clitoral hood.

The foreskin, and hood, serve the purpose of making the phallus a semi-internal organ. The foreskin keeps the glans, or head, of the penis soft, and sensitive. Most of the nerve endings are in the glans (though I have read statements from medical papers suggesting that the foreskin actually contains more nerve endings) of the penis. What happens when the foreskin is removed is that the glans is forced to harden, creating a sort of skin shield. This reduces exposure of the nerve endings in the glans of the penis.

That description should give the women readers an idea of how to relate to male circumcision. Now, history.

The Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher Philo Judaeus (alternately known as Philo of Alexandria, Yedidia, and Philo the Jew) defended circumcision in the 1st century Greco-Roman world, which perceived circumcision as a barbaric practice that mutilated a perfectly shaped organ. Philo claimed that circumcision had benefits to health, cleanliness, and fertility. He insisted that foreskin blocked semen. More interestingly, Philo also held that circumcision would be an effective method of reducing sexual pleasure, stating, “The legislators thought good to dock the organ which ministers to such intercourse thus making circumcision the symbol of excision of excessive and superfluous pleasure” (Gollaher, David L, 2000, “Circumcision: A history of the world’s most controversial surgery”).

The great 12th century Jewish philosopher Maimonides (otherwise known as Moses ben-Maimon or Rambam) followed suit. In “The Guide for the Perplexed”, Maimonides wrote:

Quote

The bodily pain caused to that member is the real purpose of circumcision. None of the activities necessary for the preservation of the individual is harmed thereby, nor is procreation rendered impossible, but violent concupiscence and lust that goes beyond what is needed are diminished. The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure is indubitable. For if at birth this member has been made to bleed and has had its covering taken away from it, it must indubitably be weakened. The Sages, may their memory be blessed, have explicitly stated: It is hard for a woman with whom an uncircumcised man has had sexual intercourse to separate from him. In my opinion this is the strongest of the reasons for circumcision (Maimonides, “The Guide for the Perplexed”, Volume III, Chapter 49, Page 609).

In other words, it is the undisputed fact that circumcision reduces sexual pleasure and enjoyment that circumcision is performed. Not only for men, either. The circumcision of men was expected to even diminish the pleasures of sex for women. Maimonides suggests that if a woman were to have sexual intercourse with an uncircumcised man, then she may not be able to restrain herself from having sex non-stop.

Isaac ben Yediah, a 13th century French disciple of Maimonides echoes this point, adding:

Quote

(S)he feels pleasure and reaches an orgasm first. When an uncircumcised man sleeps with her and then resolves to return to his home, she brazenly grasps him, holding onto his genitals and says to him, “come back, make love to me.” This is because of the pleasure that she finds in intercourse with him, from the sinews of his testicles—sinew of iron—and from his ejaculation—that of a horse—which he shoots like an arrow into her womb (Gollaher, 2000).

Other than that highly erotic imagery, Yediah agreed with the notion that circumcising a man would open up his schedule for more Torah study. Yediah said that, without circumcision, a husband “will not empty his brain because of his wife (and) his heart will be strong to seek out God” (Davis, Dena S, 2001, “Male and Female Genital Alteration: A Collision Course with the Law?”, Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine, Vol 11: pages 487-570).

Those would be the Jewish explanations for the practice. How did circumcision catch on? Evidently, non-Jews did not latch onto the idea until the late 19th century, mostly in English-speaking countries. An article titled “The Ritual of Circumcision” authored by Karen Ericksen Paige (Human Nature, page 40-48, May 1978) explains the growing trend:

Quote

In the United States, the current medical rationale for circumcision developed after the operation was in wide practice. The original reason for the surgical removal of the foreskin, or prepuce, was to control “masturbatory insanity” – the range of mental disorders that people believed were caused by the “polluting” practice of “self-abuse.”

“Self-abuse” was a 19th century euphemism for masturbation. People in the time period were especially concerned about masturbation, especially in infants. At the time, it was popular opinion that masturbation was not only sinful, but also at fault for many physical and mental health issues, from epilespy to hysteria to chronic indigestion. Many doctors felt that circumcision would curb masturbation habits. This wasn’t restricted to boys, either.

Quote

Girls were spared neither parental worry about masturbation nor similar medical solutions. Female circumcision – removal of the clitoral hood, analogous to the foreskin of the penis, began to be recommended at this time, but other forms of genital surgery were attempted as well, including the removal of the entire clitoris, or clitoridectomy.

Apparently the first clitoridectomy performed in the West occurred in 1858, in England. Isaac Baker Brown published a book describing his success at treating female masturbators with genital operations, after which he was roundly criticised and expelled from the London Obstetrical Society. Most evidence indicates that clitoridectomy, but not female circumcision, was thereafter abandoned in England. No such credit for good sense can be applied to American physicians.

By the 1890s an “Orificial Surgery Society” had been formed in the United States, whose function it was to promote genital operations on women and men. Its official journal advocated that any deviation from a “normal” clitoris “requires attention.” If the hood covered the clitoris completely, the clitoris should be amputated. If the hood was too tight, it should be slit open along one side and the wound stitched with catgut.

Female circumcision slowed down after the Orificial Surgery Society disbanded in 1925 and as fewer and fewer doctors recommended the practice into the 1930’s.

It wasn’t until the 1930’s when the justification for circumcision changed from diminishing sexual pleasure in an attempt to limit sexual compulsion to the explanations heard today regarding hygiene and STD transmission. However, those studies on STD transmission and hygiene are highly disputed. Results are skewed by politicization of the topic.

Thus, what is left is a ritual that has gained support through its purported ability to halt sinful behavior, a ritual that serves no apparent medical purpose and can only be proven to do harm.

 

EDIT:

I happened to find a blog post on the subject.

Also, the American Academy of Family Physicians has much to say on studies regarding circumcision, with the inclusion of such statistics as a conservative 0.1% probability of complications involving the procedure and a one in 500,000 mortality risk. Yes, there are deaths associated with circumcision.