The German government has sought to reassure Jews and Muslims that their religious practice of infant circumcision will be protected, despite an earlier court ruling that the child's right to bodily integrity outweighed the parents' rights.
As earlier reported in Digital Journal, last month a court in Cologne found that infant circumcision constituted actual bodily harm. According to the Daily Telegraph, the court said:
The body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision. This change contravenes the interests of the child...
The ruling outraged both Muslims and Jews, who characterised the judgement as prejudice reminiscent of the excesses of the Holocaust.
The protests reached a climax this week when European rabbis descended on Berlin to demand state protection for their religious practice. In a rare show of religious solidarity, the rabbis were supported by both Muslim and Christian leaders.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert announced today that the government would find a way around the Cologne court ban as a matter of urgency. Reuters reports that Seibert stated:
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.
The situation is extremely fraught. The court ruling remains in place and the German Medical Association has advised doctors against carrying out infant circumcisions on religious grounds, as they would be open to prosecution. Meanwhile, the Conference of European Rabbis is urging Jews to ignore the ban and continue to carry out infant circumcisions. As RT reports, Rabbi Goldschmidt, who organised this week's protests, said:
We urge the Jewish community in Germany and circumcisers to continue to perform circumcisions and not to wait for a change in the law.
The continuance of such a stalemate could drive circumcisions underground and substantially increase the risks of injuries and illness.
The court ruling has also been subject to international criticism, with both Turkey and Israel condemning the ban on infant circumcision. However, much as Chancellor Merkel's government might wish to appease the religious sensibilities of its domestic Jewish and Muslims communities and, perhaps especially, the country's allies, it is difficult to see how the European Court of Human Rights, the ultimate legal authority, could reach a different judgement.