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Jews, Muslims may resume rite

July 13, 2012

Germany's government plans to pass legislation that would ensure that cirumcision may be carried out for religious reasons. A German court decision had sparked outrage in the country's Jewish and Muslim communities.

Circumcision's tools of the trade
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government announced on Friday that it would look for a way around a partial ban on circumcision imposed by a German court last month, as a matter of urgency. This comes after rabbis, as well as Muslim and Christian leaders, from across Europe descended on Berlin for an emergency meeting to discuss how to respond to what they consider an affront.

"For everyone in the government, it is absolutely clear that we want to have Jewish and Muslim religious life in Germany," said Steffen Seibert, the chancellor's spokesman. "Circumcision carried out in a responsible manner must be possible in this country without punishment."

Beschneidungen sollen straffrei bleiben # 13.07.2012 18 Uhr # haut16e # Journal Englisch

Ruling in the case of a boy taken to a doctor with bleeding after a circumcision, a court in the western city of Cologne had said that the practice inflicts bodily harm and should not be carried out, although could be performed on older males who give their consent.

The decision clashes with Judaism, which requires boys to be circumcised from eight days old, and with Islam, which - depending on the family, nationality and sect - requires the practice at varying ages. The ruling by the Cologne Regional Court applies to the city and surrounding districts, with a total population of just over two million people.

"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, who added that Merkel's office would be directly involved in efforts to resolve the problem. "We know a quick decision is needed and that this cannot be put off,” he added. “Freedom of religious practice is a very important legal right for us.”

On Thursday, European rabbis were in a defiant mood after wrapping up their emergency talks. They plan a to hold a further meeting with German Muslim and Christian leaders in Stuttgart next week to see how they can fight the ban together. The head of the Conference of European Rabbis urged Jews in Germany to continue carrying out circumcision despite the ban.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt called the ban an example of prejudice in Europe against non-Christians, following Switzerland's ban on the construction of minarets, French and Belgian restrictions on Islamic veils, and a Dutch attempt to outlaw halal meat.

Germany is home to about 120,000 Jews and 4 million Muslims. Many of the latter originate from Turkey, which has also condemned last month's court ruling.

mkg/pfd (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)