Jews, Muslims slam German circumcision ruling as assault on religion
A German court has sparked a furor by ruling that religious-based circumcisions are not in a child's best interests.
June 27th, 2012
02:15 PM ET

Jews, Muslims slam German circumcision ruling as assault on religion

Jews and Muslims are joining forces in outrage over a German court's decision that could prohibit parents from having their children circumcised for religious reasons. The court deemed the oft-religious procedure an act of "bodily harm" to children, according to German media reports.

The Tuesday ruling says doctors who perform the procedure for religious reasons could be charged with committing bodily injury, sparking a debate that pits parents' religious freedom against a child's right to self-determination. The court essentially ruled that circumcision is not in a child's best interests, according to the German newspaper Der Spiegel.

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

While the ruling is expected to influence other courts, it is not legally binding, Der Spiegel noted.

The procedure, which is relatively common in the United States (roughly six in 10 newborn boys are circumcised), is not so prevalent in Europe. In Germany, only 11% of boys are circumcised, according to 2007 figures. However, many of Germany's 4 million Muslims and its 100,000 Jews consider circumcision a religious rite.

The case began in Cologne in 2010 after a doctor performed a circumcision on a 4-year-old Muslim boy. His parents took him to a hospital two days later because he was bleeding heavily, the Medical Daily website reported. When prosecutors learned of the emergency room visit, they brought criminal charges against the doctor.

A court initially tossed out the charges, saying the parents had consented to the procedure, which constituted a "traditional ritual belonging to the Muslim community," according to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper. One reason the court cited for defending the procedure was that a child who wasn't circumcised risked being ostracized by his peers, Der Spiegel said.

Prosecutors appealed, and a higher court ruled that circumcisions should be performed only for medical reasons. The court said its decision was for the "good of the child, who would be able to decide for himself which religious community he or she would belong to," Haaretz reported.

While denouncing the procedure, the higher court gave the doctor a pass, acquitting him because he acted in good faith and could reasonably argue he didn't realize he was committing a crime because of Germany's imprecise laws on circumcision, the paper said.

While German doctors "have been operating in a legal gray area," according to Der Spiegel, they have until now been able to cite the law's vagueness in asserting the legality of circumcision. Tuesday's court ruling would deny doctors that out, the newspaper reported.

Within hours of the decision, Jews and Muslims - not just in Germany but from all over the world - banded together to protest what they saw as an assault on their religious freedom.

The New York-based Anti-Defamation League said circumcising newborn males was a "core religious rite of Judaism" and echoed a call by Germany's Central Council of Jews demanding the Bundestag pass legislation protecting the religious practice.

"The decision by a district court in Cologne, Germany, to deem non-medical circumcision a crime places an intolerable burden on the free exercise of religion by Jews and also by Muslims who practice male circumcision as part of their religious faith," Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director, said in a statement.

While the law did not appear anti-Semitic in its intent, Foxman continued, the ultimate message was clear: "Jews are not welcome."

"Germany has dedicated itself to re-building Jewish life, and the consequences of a ban on circumcision would be a devastating blow to the future of the Jewish community," Foxman wrote.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told Israel Radio that he also felt Germany's parliament should handle the issue legislatively, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“The parliament in Berlin understands the ramifications of the ruling,” Rivlin said. “Not allowing a person to follow his religion opposes every constitution.”

Ali Demir, chairman of the Islamic Religious Community, called circumcision a harmless and "highly symbolic" procedure that had spanned thousands of years. Banning it could have an adverse on Muslims integrating into German society, he told Der Spiegel.

Added Aiman Mayzek of the Central Council of Muslims: "Religious freedom is very important in our constitution and cannot become the pawn of a one-dimensional ruling that also further strengthens existing prejudices and clichés about this issue."

At least one rabbi concurred that education was key to helping people understand the importance of circumcision to Jewish and Islamic cultures.

A "public relations campaign in cooperation with the Muslim community will do away with misunderstandings and will prevent both intentional and unintentional harm to freedom of religion in Europe," Rabbi Menachem Margolin of the Brussels, Belgium-based Rabbinical Center of Europe told Haaretz.

Circumcision entails removing some or all of the foreskin covering the penis. It's most commonly performed on newborn males for religious, personal hygiene or, in some case, preventative health care reasons, according to Medical Daily. The procedure becomes markedly more complicated when performed on older children or adults.

Der Spiegel reported that medical experts advising the Cologne court declared there is no "need in Central Europe to perform circumcisions as part of preventative health care," but the World Health organization begs to differ.

While there are short-term risks to circumcision - bleeding, hematoma and sepsis, among them - there is "substantial evidence" the procedure can help protect against urinary tract infections, syphilis, HIV and chancroid and invasive penile cancer. Male circumcision also increases sexual pleasure for men and women, WHO reports. (report PDF)

Roughly 30% of men in the world have undergone the procedure, and about two in three of those are Muslim. The procedure is routinely performed in Israel, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and much of the Middle East, Central Asia and West Africa, according to the organization.

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Filed under: Courts • Crime • Germany • Health • Islam • Israel • Lawsuit • New York • Religion • World
soundoff (566 Responses)
  1. Mary

    Yeah but if your going to have one, most have it done at birth, so I don't see a whole lotta men going in if they've become comfortable with the cosmetics of it.

    June 27, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • charging warthog

      hey, my boy wears a turtleneck, and that ain't goin nowhere, lol.

      June 27, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |

    After all these years of paying for the sins of their ancestors, what more provocative law could they of dreamed up to once again offend than this one.
    Now I could see them banning Islamics from this practice,were trying our best to eliminate them and their religion as it is, and who cares what they want as they'd have little economic/political power as well.
    But damn, to take on the Jews of the world, at least the ones who believe in a creator or derive economic benefit from that grouping, is borderline insane.
    Heck even the fanatical christians GOD, all three phases of him plus Mary, is waiting until he can raise a big enough army to invade Israel and make it a
    christian nation and flying tbe american flag
    Christian nation and eliminate or convert them.

    June 27, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sailor101

      Are you deranged or something, did not know they gave people internet access in the Lunny Bin.

      June 28, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. Philip

    Interestingly, of the Muslims who chose sides, they chose sides with Hitler just as most catholics did. Imagine that. Catholics and Muslims from Europe fighting Catholics and...wait, Muslims never joined the US MILITARY BACK THEN. Years later, even Cassius Clay (Muhammed Ali) went to prison before he would risk killing a fellow Muslim on mans battlefield.

    June 27, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dawn

      this is about no hurting your babies

      June 28, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Philip

    That organized religions will end should be obvious to all. Membership among the worlds organized religions have been decreasing for years, even with the watering-down of God's word to allow for more members.
    I'm in no hurry to convince you of governments abolishing organized religions. I'm just trying to bring it up so it's fresh on your mind as you see it occuring.

    June 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. charging warthog

    all the social skills, all the grace, all the tenderness of a charging warthog. burn, baby, burn.

    June 27, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mary

    Archbishops convicted of keeping secrets.
    Holy wars coming to an end with a few dozen countries left to invade and occupy.
    Why? Why the problem is 'religion sir, get rid of it, you get rid of war... easy peasy
    PEACE has been had WITHOUT God. Look at what's coming down the pipe when no more wars are to be made.
    what would people have to fight over other than religion, oil, land freedoms, ect...
    Watch for how the world leaders address these issues that war stems from.

    more telling than what anyone could say of the coming days to Armageddon.

    June 27, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • opinionguru

      ...never read Orwell did you?

      June 27, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy©

    They may have covered it, but just not on this particular blog.
    It's a very widespread theory.

    June 27, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    @ banasy:
    I tried twice to reply to your greeting. My phone has been ringing off the hook all day and evening, and I failed to get two posts through my jammed "switchboard."
    I haven't been around: too much work or too tired to come here. Away from NY some.
    They keep telling me to slow down.

    June 27, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Well, I know how your work ethic is, so I won't even try to tell you to slow down either.
      I just want you around more, selfish little me.
      Stay healthy, dear heart.

      June 27, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    @Jeff Frank:
    That won't stay up long, because they don't like info from other media.
    Matter of fact, they don't like half of my posts either, lol....

    June 27, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. banasy©

    Jeff Frank:
    It's not one of the things that I ascribe to.
    It will never happen.
    It just makes for good fiction.

    June 27, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mary

    Hint: "Wicked men and impostors" who see profit, power, and glory.

    June 27, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • ron simmons

      People like you have no clue as to true culture of other customs or rights of others!

      June 27, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • vinni gambini

      Ron, don't even bother understanding this law, it's about hate.
      Bet on a Euro collapse, and i wouldn't dare imply 'because of you know what i mean'.
      These people simply don't connect the dots.

      June 27, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      This law is not about hate. It is about making the world a better place where kids are not snipped. It is a brutal practice that needs to be stopped world wide.

      June 28, 2012 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Hebrew

      Next the Israelis, Russians, Serbs and Brits will outlaw Germans from entering their countries until they take a good clean shower.

      June 28, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • JuneCleaversBeaver

      Chicks dig unclipped c 0ck.........

      June 28, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sailor101

      ehh? You post made absolutely no sense at all, try rewording and post again.

      June 28, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Dana

      @vinni gambili, no it is YOU who do not understand the reasons for this law.

      June 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • BRod

      rights of others? You mean the right of the children to make their own decisions about body part removals?

      June 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. charles bowen

    So what are we talkin here a little foreskin seems like a big toodo about a small subject........What can you say about Germans too soon oldt too late smart........ Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    June 27, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |

    Yes no more organized religions sonds good.
    A disorganized religion is best, one that nobody knows what and the hell god is doing, that way if a person gets to meet one you can always ask him where the hell was he when he let you make all those sins.istakes

    June 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Scott

    This is socialism. Telling you how to worship.


    June 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      First of all... I don't think that's what socialism means, you might want to look that one up.. The last I checked socialism is an economic theory, but I could be wrong. Regardless – cutting off a child's personal bits before he understands how fanatical his parent's religion is... is kind of messed up. People should have a choice as to if they want their genitals changed from whichever god intended.

      June 27, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee

      It's not telling anyone how to worship. It's merely stating even parents have not right to permit disfigurement of a baby. This is something that is permanent and should be decided by the person when he's an adult not because of the belief in some absurd mythical being.

      June 27, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Scott

    This is what happens when you live in a komrade socialist goobirmint and this is precisely what the Wonder Chimp want to turn our country into.


    June 27, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Augie

      It's because of incredibly moronic people like you Scott; No grasp of facts with hate buzzing around your head all day, that many people like me left the republican party. keep up the great insights. Your a recruiting tool for democrats and independents.

      June 27, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
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