Circumcision ban ignites a religious battle in Germany

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The German National Ethics Council, a forum for ethical issues, said Germany’s special relationship with the global Jewish community meant that the rite had to be protected.

However, the council recommended that boys receive comprehensive information on the procedure and give their consent to the operation.

German medical associations have backed the decision of the court.

The DAKJ, Germany’s umbrella organization of pediatric associations, said circumcision has a “6 percent chance of complications, which should not be disregarded.”

The association also cited the common occurrence of trauma in boys between the ages of 4 and 7 who have had circumcisions without anesthesia, a common practice in Muslim circumcision rites. Even infants might unconsciously carry trauma from their circumcision experience, the association added.

Last week, a doctor launched a criminal complaint against German Rabbi David Goldberg, a ritual circumciser in the Bavarian city of Hof. However, Mr. Goldberg and other religious leaders have vowed to continue performing the rituals.

Other doctors bemoaned the court decision, saying it left them in a difficult position.

“Now we can’t be sure whether or not we will be punished [for the procedure],” said Martin Mueller, a physician in Berlin.

“We have had to cancel five circumcisions, most of them for Muslims. We had to talk to the parents about this, and it was not an easy discussion because the parents ahead already planned the celebrations. Now the parents are left feeling confused about the future of their religious practice.

“For some religions, especially Jews, this is a central part of their religion,” he added. “I don’t really see how this can be solved politically.”

The German government has already announced its intention to draft a law this fall that will protect Jews and Muslims from prosecution over circumcisions.

“The Ministry of Justice is consulting with religious and medical experts among others, to ensure that the legal question be clarified on as many levels as possible,” said ministry spokesman Anne Zimmermann.

“[But] it’s not a simple issue. Even the religious dimension itself has other layers, such as the fact that Muslim and Jewish circumcisions are performed differently from one another and such facts also have to be taken into consideration.”

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