Demonstrators seek clear law on circumcision | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 09.09.2012
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Demonstrators seek clear law on circumcision

Jews and Muslims gathered in Berlin to demonstrate against a controversial circumcision court ruling. Some said they could not live in Germany if the practice is outlawed.

Circumcision must remain legal in Germany - that's one thing Jewish and Muslim demonstrators in Berlin agreed on.

"The 'yes' to circumcision must be secured in law," demanded Lala Süsskind, who chairs a Berlin-based organization against anti-Semitism. She and around 300 demonstrators gathered at the Bebelplatz square in Berlin to call on the government to pass such a law immediately.

The protest was sparked by a Cologne court's ruling in June that the ritual circumcision of a four-year-old Muslim boy represented a criminal assault.

"This ruling was incomprehensible for us," said Berlin rabbi Gesa Ederberg, adding that the ensuing national debate was equally troubling. Some argued that Jews and Muslims were being bad parents by circumcising their children.

The practice of removing boys' foreskin on the eighth day after their birth is essential for Jews as it represents a bond with god, Ederberg explained.

Uncertainty in religious communities

Parents continue to circumcise their boys in Berlin, Ederberg said, but the Cologne ruling means extra stress for them. Rabbi Yitzhak Ehrenberg showed demonstrators a letter from state prosecutors - a complaint he received after encouraging his congregation to adhere to the millennia-long tradition of circumcision.

"I will say it once more: We're going to continue," the rabbi shouted to applause from the demonstrators.

Rear view of demostrator with kippa Photo: Florian Schuh dpa/lbn

Many of the demonstrators wore the Jewish head covering, the kippa

Another attendee at the protest was Kenan Kolat, who heads the Turkish Community in Germany. Kolat, a Muslim, spoke while wearing a kippa, the traditional head covering worn by Jewish males. Muslims and Jews must work together to ensure that circumcision remains legal, he said, noting that more parents are beginning to take trips to Turkey to have their sons circumcised after the Cologne court's decision.

Seeking clear laws

A number of Jews and Muslims at the gathering stressed that a law guaranteeing a right to circumcise should not require parents to prove they are requesting the procedure based on religious motives. Such a provision is contained in an interim solution established by Berlin's justice ministry, which allows circumcision to be undertaken when it meets certain criteria.

Many of the Jewish demonstrators said they would be unable to live in Germany if circumcision is outlawed. Following the Cologne ruling, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that if Germany were to forbid religious circumcision, it would turn itself into an international laughing stock.

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