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KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters Life!) - Thousands of Malaysian boys will begin the journey into adulthood at mass circumcision ceremonies that start this month throughout this mainly Muslim Southeast Asian nation.
The events, held to coincide with the year-end school holidays which run into December, are a rite of passage for Muslim boys aged between 6 and 12 and whose faith requires removing the foreskin of the penis.
This Sunday, more than 120 Malaysian Muslim children at the National Mosque in the capital of Kuala Lumpur marched to the drumbeat of traditional Malay music to heralds the ceremony.
As their waited their turn, some boys whiled away the time playing games on their mobile telephones, while others confessed they were nervous ahead of the religious ceremony.
"I am a little scared, but I know I have to do this as part of my faith," said ten-year-old Ikmalluddin Ali, who was to be circumcised with his twin brother, Akmalluddin Ali.
The procedure takes 15 minutes and costs 150 Malaysian ringgit ($44) and Ali's experience will be shared by scores of other boys in this Southeast Asian country of 27 million people over the next few weeks.
Mass circumcisions are also held in neighboring Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, although among Muslims in the Middle East, circumcision tends to be a more private affair.
Each of the boys, dressed in traditional Malay clothes, left the mosque after the procedure with a gift bag containing a T-shirt and a souvenir.
Many parents also took home their sons' foreskins.
"We will be taking back my son's foreskin to bury it at home. It is our custom, not religion, to respect it as part of the body," said Mohammad Zaini, whose 9-year-old son, Mohammad Muhaimin, was circumcised.
Modern surgical techniques mean circumcision is now relatively painless -- a local anesthetic is applied to the penis and a special device is used to hold the foreskin firmly in place before it is cut by a doctor.
Afterwards, the boys need a day's rest, said Mohammad Zaidi Radzuan, chief executive officer of Wawasan Medik, the medical company that carried out the procedures inside the mosque.
"Prior to this, circumcision meant stitches and confinement in bed as it would be difficult to walk," he added.
Editing by Denny Thomas and Miral Fahmy