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German Muslims Resume Circumcision

Published: 02/10/2012 04:19:59 PM GMT
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BERLIN - After months of uncertainty in the wake of a controversial court ruling, German Muslims have resumed their operations to circumcise their young boys following new guidelines allowing the ritual practice. There wer (more)

BERLIN - After months of uncertainty in the wake of a controversial court ruling, German Muslims have resumed their operations to circumcise their young boys following new guidelines allowing the ritual practice.

"There were days when we didn't even open the till, but now the phone never stops ringing," Nevzat Cavan, a Turkish-born Muslim, told Reuters.

Cavan sells white, fur-trimmed costumes worn by Muslim boys for their circumcision.

Circumcision: Jewish or Islamic Practice? German Muslims Urge Circumcision Law

In his shop 'Kids Elegance' in the mainly ethnic Turkish district of Kreuzberg, Cavan sells suits from 85 euros and brightly colored party dresses and festive clothing for siblings.

Cavan's business came to a halt after a Cologne court in June banned circumcision on the ground that it causes “bodily harm”.

"Those judges in Cologne had no idea about the ramifications of their ruling," said Cavan, whose own grandson's circumcision had to be postponed.

The controversial verdict sparked outrage among Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders, who denounced the ruling as a serious intrusion on religious freedom.

The ruling triggered a highly charged debate in Germany over infants' and parents' rights, religious freedom and the practice of circumcision itself.

It also prompted doctors across Germany to refuse to carry out circumcision operations because of what they saw as a risk of legal action.

Easing the uproar, the German city of Berlin announced last months that families circumcising their sons had no reason to fear prosecution.

Berlin authorities said that circumcising boys was legal if parents had given their permission and been informed about the risks of the operation.

Last week, the German Justice Ministry also issued a draft bill that allows circumcision operations in the country.

The bill says the operation must be carried out "with the most effective pain relief possible" and that parents must be fully informed of the nature of the operation.

The draft has been sent to the federal states ahead of a consultation with experts this month.

Circumcision is a confirmed Sunnah in Islam as an act pertaining to fitrah (pure human nature).

The practice is also mandatory for Jewish males according to biblical texts.

Others use the practice for hygiene purposes, generally among infant boys.

Thousands of young boys are circumcised every year in Germany, especially in the country's large Muslim and Jewish communities.

The World Health Organization has estimated that nearly one in three males under 15 is circumcised.

Damaging Row

However, German Muslims are still reeling under the damaging impact of the debate on circumcision.

"This whole row has been very damaging to the integration process," Cologne doctor Omar Kezze told Reuters.

Kezze, originally from Aleppo in Syria, is the doctor whose trial sparked the Cologne court ruling.

A Muslim boy he circumcised was taken to hospital after his wounds continued to bleed and the hospital informed the police and local prosecutors.

Though the court cleared the doctor of all charges, it created a legal minefield when it classified circumcision as "bodily harm".

"We have a financial crisis,” Kezze said, speaking in his busy surgery where pictures of his native city adorn the wall.

“We have extremists on the left and the right, many, many attacks.

"There are many things for our prosecutors to fight; they really shouldn't be questioning a tradition dating back to Abraham."

Ender Cetin, community chairman for Berlin's Sehitlik Mosque, echoes a similar opinion.

"We are yet again thrown into the spotlight and forced to defend ourselves ... This only exacerbates prejudice against us."

Despite welcoming the new German outlines for circumcision, German Muslims are concerned about one aspect in the bill, which states that only infants below the age of six months can be circumcised by an individual other than a doctor.

This accommodates the Jewish mohel, an individual specially trained in circumcising, but could prevent Muslims from using similar specialists who are not doctors.

Jews circumcise male infants eight days after birth to recall their covenant with God.

The time for Muslim circumcision varies according to family, region and country.

"This difference must be revised in the interest of fair treatment," Nurhan Soykan, general secretary of the German Central Council of Muslims, said in a statement cited by Reuters.Germany is home to nearly four million Muslims and about 120,000 Jews.

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