Intactivism feeds anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Denmark

On January 12th, 2017, Huffington Post published an opinion piece by the Danish intactivist, Dr. Morten Frisch. However, Dr. Frisch’s account of the male circumcision debate in Denmark and his own role in it leaves many things unsaid.

Dr. Morten Frisch is an epidemiologist employed at the State Serum Institute in Denmark, an institute which sorts under The Ministry of Health and Prevention.

Dr. Frisch conveniently avoids telling the readers that, in Denmark, he is not only advising against religious/cultural circumcision of boys, he is in fact aggressively lobbying for a legal ban against this practice. No country in the world currently forbids religious circumcision of boys.

It is correct that the Danish Medical Association’s ethical sub-committee recently made a statement deeming religious circumcision “ethically unacceptable”, because informed consent cannot be obtained from infants and underage boys. However, the association does not recommend a legal ban because it recognizes that this will have several negative consequences.

The statement by the Danish Medical Association is the latest result of a long and sustained effort by Dr. Frisch and the organization Intact Denmark to convince the Danish legislators to introduce a legal ban on non-medical circumcision of boys. Dr. Frisch and Intact Denmark have worked vigorously towards this aim for the last 4–5 years.

Intact Denmark is directly linked to and modeled on the American organization, Intact America, which campaigns against the widespread practice of circumcision of boys in the USA. Intact America aims to transfer its ideology, slogans and propaganda to Denmark. Leading American intactivists refer to Denmark as a “Ground Zero” for the circumcision debate, and hope to be able to use a legal ban in Denmark to further their own agenda in the USA.

In Denmark, religious circumcision is mainly practiced by the Jewish and Muslim minorities. The majority of the Danish population has no tradition for, nor knowledge of religious circumcision. Therefore, many Danes easily fall prey to prejudices, aggressive slogans and pseudo-scientific claims.

Since Jews and Muslims are the main practitioners of religious circumcision in Denmark, intactivist propaganda targets these groups directly in their description of religious circumcision as “cruel”, “mutilation”, “religious violence”, “child molestation”, “partial penis amputation”, etc.

On his Facebook wall, where Dr. Frisch posts horror stories about male circumcision on an almost daily basis, he routinely describes Jews and Muslims in scornful and demeaning terms and frequently allows others to post outright anti-Semitic and islamophobic comments.

Having been at the receiving end of this sustained intactivist campaign, which regularly spills over into the established media, for the last 4–5 years, most Danish Jews regard the situation as the most severe crisis and immediate threat to the small Danish Jewish community since World War 2.

Dr. Frisch is a medical doctor and a researcher in sexual epidemiology. He has published three epidemiological studies on circumcision and frequently refers to these studies as part of his anti-circumcision campaign.

The first study from 2011 is a study of sexual dysfunction among circumcised men and their female partners. Only 5% of the participants were Muslim, and 2% were Jews. The vast majority of the participants listed their religious affiliation as Lutheran and, thus, in Denmark, it is fair to assume that these men were circumcised for medical reasons, which are known to increase the risk of sexual dysfunction. Therefore, it is no surprise that male circumcision was associated with higher risk of sexual problems. However, this outcome was a result of disease that existed prior to the circumcision. This study is of no relevance for boys who are circumcised as healthy infants.

In the second study, Dr. Frisch found an association between circumcision status and the development of autism in Muslim boys. Among non-Muslim boys, no overall statistically significant association between circumcision and autism was observed. Therefore, the result probably indicates the hereditary risk of autism resulting from certain family patterns in some Muslim communities. The study has caused a great deal of outrage among parents of autistic children who feel that the study is manipulative, shows lack of insight into the latest research into the causes of autism, and that their plight is being hijacked for a less than noble cause.

In Dr. Frisch’s most recent study, he found that circumcision caused an increase in the risk of developing a narrowing of the urethral opening (meatus stenosis). Of the 3375 circumcised boys in the study, however, he found only 6 (six!) pathological cases of this condition. Thus, the study showed that the risk of contracting a pathological narrowing of the urethral opening is, roughly estimated, 0.18%. That is, by any standard, a minuscule risk.

Unfortunately, intactivism is feeding anti-Semitism and islamophobia in Denmark, and, regrettably, Dr. Frisch plays a major role in this. A review published in Danish Medical Journal in June 2016 showed, to Dr. Frisch’s great disappointment, that non-medical circumcision does not result in inferior perceived male sexual function. In a criticism of this review, Dr. Frisch negatively profiled the main author as a “Jewish doctor” (Ugeskrift for læger, September 23, 2016) and one of the journal’s co-editors as “belonging to a circumcision culture” (Dagens Medicin, September 9, 2016) in an attempt to malign the author’s and the editor’s objectivity and professionalism.

Dr. Frisch is within his rights, of course, to campaign for what he believes in, in this case a legal ban on religious circumcision of boys in Denmark. But his readers are equally within their rights to be informed about the truth and the consequences of Dr. Frisch’s and Intact Denmark’s intactivist campaign.

P.S. If you found this interesting, please read this letter in which 62 concerned citizens express their worries about Morten Frisch’s role as leading project manager of the Projekt Sexus population study.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store