Jewish and Muslim groups condemn German circumcision ruling

Jewish and Muslim groups in Germany on Wednesday condemned a court ruling that deemed circumcision equivalent to grievous bodily harm, claiming the ruling trampled on religious freedom and could lead to “circumcision tourism”.

In what has been described as a landmark decision, a court in the city of Cologne said circumcision violated a child’s “fundamental right to bodily integrity” and that this right outweighed the rights of the parents.

“The religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised,” the court added.

“The body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision. This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs.”

The court case revolved around a four-year-old Muslim boy who was circumcised at the request of his parents but was later admitted to hospital with bleeding.

The doctor was charged and tried for grievous bodily harm but was acquitted on the grounds he had parental consent.

Prosecutors appealed against the decision but the doctor was again acquitted, this time owing to the imprecise nature of the law.

The Cologne ruling is not binding but legal experts said it appeared to clarify a grey area in the law and will guide doctors in the future.

“The court has, unlike many politicians, not been deterred by the fear of being criticised as anti-Semitic or antireligious,” Holm Putzke, an expert in criminal law from Passau University, told the Financial Times of Germany.

“The ruling is very important because for the first time physicians have legal certainty.”

But Jewish and Muslim groups were quick to go on the offensive against the court’s decision.

“This ruling is an outrageous and insensitive measure,” said Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Committee of Jews. “Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practised worldwide for centuries. This religious right is respected in every country in the world.”

He added that it was “an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination.”

The committee also called on the German parliament to protect the “freedom of religion”.

Jewish groups were supported by leaders of Germany’s large Muslim population “I feel the decision is discriminatory and counters efforts to promote integration,” said Ali Demir, chairman of the Islamic Religious Community in Germany. “This is a harmless procedure that has thousands of years of tradition and a high symbolic value.


Telegraph has the full article

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