Several hundred people have held a demonstration in the German capital, Berlin, to demand that the practice of religious circumcision remain legal. The government is seeking ways to resolve the controversy.
"A 'yes' to circumcision must be be enshrined in a law," demanded Lala Süsskind, the former chairwoman of the Jewish Community of Berlin, speaking in front of 300 people gathered on Bebel Square.
The protesters mostly belonged to the Jewish faith, but Muslims and Christians also took part. The protest was supported by more than 50 organizations and institutions, including the German Protestant Church and the Berlin archbishopric.
The chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, Kenan Kolat, also spoke at the rally.
The slogan of the rally was "For religious freedom, against criminalization and paternalism."
The protest comes amid heated debate in Germany in the wake of a ruling by a court in the western city of Cologne in June that deemed religious circumcision to constitute 'unlawful bodily harm."
Although the Cologne ruling was binding only in a small region of Germany, doctors across the country halted the operations for fear of prosecution.
The vice president of the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse of the Social Democrats, promised at the rally to work toward finding a legal solution to the problem.
On Thursday, Jews in Berlin rejected a transitional regulation that would allow doctors to conduct the operation, but not professional Jewish circumcisers, known as "mohels."
Jews are also concerned that Germany will demand the use of a local anasthetic during circumcisions. One of Israel's two chief rabbis has visited Berlin to say that Jewish tradition does not allow this.
Amid the ongoing controversy, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, has said he finds it "unbearable that we Jews are being branded as child tormenters and that Jewish life is being presented as illegitimate in some way."
Speaking to the German news magazine Focus, Graumann maintained that nowhere else in the world did critics of circumcision argue with the same "acerbity, implacability and rough, accusatory tone" as in Germany.
Graumann added, however, that Jews would not let their "new, positive future in Germany" be taken away from them.
He also expressed understanding for comments made by his predecessor, Charlotte Knobloch.
In an article in the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Knobloch wrote that she felt a sense of resignation and that Jewish existence in Germany was threatened for the first time since 1945.
tj/pfd (AFP, KNA, dapd)