Germany tells Jews, Muslims they will be free to circumcise (REUTERS) By Stephen Brown BERLIN, GERMANY 07/13/12 8:55am EDT)
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(Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel´s spokesman promised Germany´s
Jewish and Muslim communities on Friday they would be free to carry
out circumcision on young boys despite a court ban which has provoked
concerns about religious freedom.
In a country that is especially sensitive to allegations of
intolerance because of the Nazis´ slaughter of 6 million Jews in the
Holocaust, the government said it would find a way around the Cologne
court ban in June as a matter of urgency.
"For everyone in the government it is absolutely clear that we want
to have Jewish and Muslim religious life in Germany," said Merkel´s
spokesman Steffen Seibert. "Circumcision carried out in a responsible
manner must be possible in this country without punishment."
European rabbis descended on Berlin this week to lobby against what
they see as an affront to religious freedom - with the backing of
Muslim and Christian leaders in an unusual show of unity, as well as
the support of many German politicians.
Ruling in the case of a Muslim boy taken to a doctor with bleeding
after circumcision, the Cologne court said the practice inflicts
bodily harm and should not be carried out on young boys, but could be
practiced on older males who give consent.
This is not acceptable under Jewish religious practice which requires
boys to be circumcised from eight days old, nor for many Muslims, for
whom the age of circumcision varies according to family, country and
branch of Islam.
"It is well know that in the Jewish religion early circumcision
carries great meaning, so it is a matter of urgency that this right
be restored," said Seibert, adding that Merkel´s own office would be
involved in efforts to resolve the problem.
"We know a quick decision is needed and that this cannot be put off.
Freedom of religious practice is a very important legal right for
us," he said.
Germany is a close ally of Israel and its ambassador there has
promised parliament´s Diaspora Affairs Committee to defend the rights
of Germany´s growing Jewish community.
European rabbis ended their meeting in Berlin on Thursday in a
defiant mood. They plan talks with German Muslim and Christian
leaders in Stuttgart next week to see how they can fight the ban
The ruling by the Cologne Regional Court applies to the city and
surrounding districts with a total population of just over 2 million
people. The total population of Germany is about 82 million. Cologne
is home to about 120,000 Muslims, whose plans for a new central
mosque has stirred anti-immigrant sentiment.
The head of the Conference of European Rabbis urged Jews in Germany
to continue carrying out circumcision despite the ban.
But the German Medical Association, while opposing the ban because it
could drive circumcision underground with greater risk of infection
through poor hygiene, advised doctors not to carry out the operation
until the legal situation is cleared up as they could risk
Pinchas Goldschmidt, the Swiss-born chief rabbi of Moscow who
organized the meeting, said the ban was a fresh example of creeping
prejudice in European law against non-Christians, after a Swiss ban
on minarets, French and Belgian bans on Islamic veils in public and
an attempted Dutch ban on halal meat.
"Circumcision represents the basis for belonging to the Jewish
community. It has been practiced for 4,000 years and cannot be
changed," said Goldschmidt.
Germany is home to about 120,000 Jews and 4 million Muslims. Many of
the latter originating from Turkey, which has also condemned last
month´s court ruling.
(Additional reporting by Matthias Sobolewski; Editing by Gareth Jones
and Robin Pomeroy) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 07/13/12) (© Thomson
Reuters 2012. 07/13/12)
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