19-year-old English boy tells of being an uncircumcised Protestant in primary school then a circumcised Muslim in high school

My circumcision story is far from being a typical experience for a British boy, but it is something that I know is becoming increasingly common nowadays. To explain how I came to be circumcised, it is necessary to provide a little background. I was a working-class London lad, being brought up on a council estate by my mum, who was a single parent. I was her only child. My "father" (in the strictly biological sense of the word) abandoned my mother and me before I was born, and until I was 10-years-old, I had no-one to call 'Dad'. That all changed when my mum met Samir. He and my mum very quickly fell in love, and we went to live with him in a wealthy part of London. Samir and I took to each other very quickly, and I couldn't believe my luck that I actually had someone who wanted to be my dad. Samir absolutely doted upon me and I idolised him in return.

It wasn't very long before Samir proposed to my mum, but not before he asked for my permission to do so (something that I've always thought was a wonderful gesture), and, of course, I happily gave him my permission. Samir was from a mixed Turkish-Bosnian family, and he was Muslim. He and my mother arranged to get married in Turkey at an Islamic ceremony with all his family in attendance, and we planned to spend the whole summer with them. By this time, I was 11, and I would be starting secondary school after the summer holidays.

A few months before the holidays began, my mum sat me down and told me that she and Samir thought that it would be better for me if my religion (Protestant) was changed to Samir's religion (Islam) and that they wanted me to change my religion during the summer while we were in Turkey. She told me that all I would have to do would be to dress up and say a few words in English and Arabic, and then I'd have a big party, with lots of food, presents, and money. To my 11-year-old self, that sounded a pretty good deal, and so I consented to it...except, my mum didn't tell me everything! In reality, it had been planned that two weeks before my parent's marriage ceremony, I was going to take the shahada (convert to Islam) in front of numerous family members, followed by a big party, and then I would be circumcised (have my sünnet) immediately after.

On the morning of my sünnet, I was dressed up in an expensive white outfit with silver detailing, and my stepdad's sister pierced my left ear with a diamond stud, so that I'd look like 'a little Turkish prince' and also resemble my stepdad in the future. The latter was also intended as a little gift from him so that I'd look grown-up going to secondary school. The conversion ceremony was quite brief and uneventful; there were a few prayers and then I just had to speak a short statement in English and Arabic into a microphone, after which I was hugged and kissed by practically everyone there. My mum and stepdad were then congratulated on having 'a wonderful and handsome son' and my stepfather's family thoroughly approved of me.

A huge party then ensued for about 90 minutes, during which I had a great time, although, about 15 minutes before the party ended, I was taken by my mum and my stepdad into a small side room off the main event area where we were met by another man, who I would later learn was a doctor and my circumciser (sünnetҫi). He spoke to my stepdad in Turkish, so I didn't know what was being said, but my stepdad then told me to take my trousers and underwear down to my knees and to lay on the sofa in the room, while my mum nodded in approval. I didn't know what was going on, but I just did as I was told. Moments after laying down, to my complete shock, my penis was being injected four times around the base. I couldn't believe what was happening and I didn't understand it either. I asked my parents what was happening and they simply said "It's nothing to worry about" and "It'll all be over in a second". The injections were painful and gave me a cramping feeling in my left leg. Once the injections were done, I was allowed to pull my clothes up again and I rejoined the party for the finish, although I wasn't particularly happy as I could feel my penis was very heavy from the numbness. I still had no idea why that had happened, and I certainly had no clue about what was to happen next; in fact, I was completely ignorant about circumcision as a whole.

At the end of the party, bifold doors were pulled back in the event area which led to another smaller, but still substantially-sized room. In the middle, was a raised area with a soft padded mat covering it, which I was ushered on to. The males in attendance came into the room, but the women stayed outside. The men crowded around me, while the man who had given me the injections appeared at my side. My stepdad was with me too, holding my hand and reassuring me with a smile on his face. My stepdad's brother acted as my kirve (similar to a godfather) and he held me from behind. My legs were also held apart by other family members.

My penis was then exposed through my clothing by the circumcising doctor and my stepdad, and within a very short time, my foreskin had been squeezed between the sides of some form of metal instrument. It looked like a silver piece of metal with a slit down the middle. My foreskin was slid through the slit and pulled tightly upwards by forceps that were attached to the tip of my foreskin. Then the doctor handed me – to my great surprise – a scalpel that he put into my left hand. He said something to my stepdad in Turkish, and my stepdad relayed what he had said to me, which was to hold on to the scalpel tight – and so I did. The doctor evidently saw that I had tightened my grip and at that moment he grabbed my hand that was holding the scalpel, and drew it down to the metal instrument, swiping it quickly along the top, severing my foreskin completely in one stroke. I was in a state of shock and upset, as I couldn't believe what had just happened, but fortunately, I felt no pain at all. Everyone around me was cheering and making religious exclamations that I didn't understand. My stepdad had a huge smile on his face and kissed me on the cheek, telling me that I was a good boy, and my stepdad's brother kissed me on the other cheek. Music seemed to start almost immediately and people were then dancing around. I didn't know at the time, but it is a hugely important event for a boy in Turkey, marking their manhood, coming of age, and also their dedication and devotion to God (Allah subhana wa ta'la).

I must be honest in saying that I did not immediately appreciate my circumcision. I was initially angry that it had taken place, partly because my parents had not been honest with me, and partly because the healing process was a painful one. However, I did come to understand over the following weeks why it had been done, why it was important, and why my parents had decided to withhold knowledge of it from me. I came to accept their reasoning and I forgave them, as children tend not to stay mad with their parents for very long. Over the next few weeks, my circumcision healed extremely well and I played a full part in my parent's wedding ceremony a few weeks later. Once I had returned home, I was amazed to see the amount of money my Turkish relatives had gifted to me and the presents my stepdad had bought for me as a reward for my conversion and circumcision. I was bought a BMX bike, a playstation, a watch, and two pairs of expensive trainers, one of which I was told I could wear to my new school. As a boy who had spent 10 years of his life watching his mum struggle to make ends meet as a nurse, I just cried as I couldn't believe how lucky I was to have those things. I am grateful to my parents every day.

I am sure that the hysterical anti-circumcision lobby would react to my personal experience with horror; no doubt professing how 'cruel' and 'backwards' my parent's decision was, but, as an adult, I can categorically state that it was the right decision for me and I am proud that my parents took the steps necessary to do it. I freely admit that everything that happened to me that summer was a huge change for me, as I left primary school as an uncircumcised and unpierced Christian boy, and I entered secondary school six weeks later as a circumcised Muslim boy with an earring. Nevertheless, I cannot fault my parent's decision-making. Since then, my twin half-brothers and my younger half-brother have had their circumcisions in the same way, albeit at a much younger age. I can only state that if I am fortunate enough to have sons in the future, they will be circumcised, and I have no doubt whatsoever about it being absolutely the right thing to do for them. I sincerely hope that in the near future, the NHS will offer routine infant circumcision to all newborn boys free of charge or for a token fee. If anyone were to ask me if they should circumcise their son, I would only ever answer them with a definite 'yes'.

Circumcision is not an act of cruelty, it is, in fact, an act of love and care – so, thank you mum and dad!

Harry / Hasan