13 July 2012
The German government has sought to reassure Jews and Muslims and said they would continue to be able to carry out circumcision on young boys despite a court ban which has provoked concerns about religious freedom. Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Friday that the federal government would find a way around the Cologne court ban in June as a matter of urgency: "For everyone in the government it is absolutely clear that we want to have Jewish and Muslim religious life in Germany. Circumcision carried out in a responsible manner must be possible in this country without punishment."
"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, adding that Merkel would be personally involved in efforts to resolve the problem. "We know a quick decision is needed and that this cannot be put off. Freedom of religious practice is a very important legal right for us," he said.
Earlier this week, European rabbis called the court ruling (which held that circumcision on religious grounds inflicts bodily harm to boys and should not be carried out until they can give their consent) an affront to religious freedom. Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), said the ban was a fresh example of creeping prejudice in European law against non-Christians, after a Swiss ban on minarets, French and Belgian bans on Islamic veils in public and an attempted Dutch ban on kosher and halal meat.
They plan talks with German Muslim and Christian leaders in Stuttgart next week to see how they can fight the ban together. Goldschmidt urged Jews in Germany to continue carrying out circumcision despite the ban. However, the German Medical Association, while opposing the ban because it could drive circumcision underground with greater risk of infection through poor hygiene, advised doctors not to carry out the operation until the legal situation is cleared up as they could risk prosecution.
"Circumcision represents the basis for belonging to the Jewish community. It has been practiced for 4,000 years and cannot be changed," said Goldschmidt.
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