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Kemal Ozkan is the undisputed master of circumcision in Turkey. Known as the Sultan of Circumcisions, the sunnetci (circumciser) is a celebrity in the nation, and has performed over 100,000 circumcisions in his thirty seven year long career. He's done famous publicized circumcisions on camel, horseback, and in flight, and once performed 2,000 circumcisions in a 24 hour marathon.

In 1976, a lavish two story tall building with a go-cart playground, dance hall, and restaurant was erected (ahem) by Ozkan in a wealthy Istanbul neighborhood. Called the Circumcision Palace, it was a place for the rich to throw lavish circumcision ceremonies for their male children. In a tradition that began in 1582 when Sultan Murad III had a 52 day long celebration for his son's circumcision, modern boys ages five to twelve dress up in white suits with hats, capes, and scepters, and parade through the streets. Performed most often between the ages of ten and twelve, circumcision is Turkish Islam's coming of age rite, and is said to prove that the boy is a man, and brave.

As of this writing, the circumcision and party package costs $450, which is twice what average citizens make in a month, and four times what the operation costs in a hospital. Also, because of Turkey's recent economic downturn, even the wealthy are hesitant to send their boys to the palace, afraid that others will see the ceremony as showing off their wealth. Ozkan estimates that in 2001 he will have performed only half of the 3,000 circumcisions he did in 2000.

Curiously, since circumcision is mentioned no where in the Qur'an, it is considered obligatory for many Muslims. The prophet Muhammad himself was circumcised in accordance with Arab custom, and no uncircumcised male can make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Today most Muslim circumcisions are done at birth, since it is generally cheaper and safer than the traditional ceremony. Ritual circumcisions are kept alive by traditional Muslim men, who look back on their own circumcision as a time of celebration and family strength, and wish to continue that with their children or grandchildren.

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