BERLIN - The German government pledged on Friday, July 13, allow the country's Muslim and Jewish minorities to carry out circumcision on young boys despite a court ban which has provoked concerns about religious freedom.
"For everyone in the government it is absolutely clear that we want to have Jewish and Muslim religious life in Germany," said Steffen Seibert, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Reuters reported.
"Circumcision carried out in a responsible manner must be possible in this country without punishment."
Circumcision: Jewish or Islamic Practice?German Muslims Urge Circumcision Law
A regional court in Cologne in Western Germany ruled last month that circumcision for religious reasons amounted to harm and thus a crime.
The ruling followed the circumcision of a four-year-old Muslim boy by a German doctor on his parents' wishes.
The Cologne court ruling said the four-year-old boy was not old enough to consent to have part of his body removed permanently and his parents should have let him decide when he got older.
It, however, gave no minimum age for this.
"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's own office would be involved in efforts to resolve the problem.
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.
The controversial verdict sparked outrage among Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders, who denounced the ruling as a serious intrusion on religious freedom.
Though the German government did not specify the expected decision, it confirmed that it was approved out of respect for religious freedoms.
"We know a quick decision is needed and that this cannot be put off," Seibert, Merkel's spokesman, said.
Freedom of religious practice is a very important legal right for us.
The new statements are expected to ease tensions simmering over the past two weeks.
Rejecting the court ruling as breaching their religious freedoms, Germany's Muslims and Jews have joined hands to protest the decision.
Yesterday, several groups, including the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, the European Jewish Parliament, the European Jewish Association and Germany's Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs and the Islamic Center in Brussels, issued a statement demanding freedom of circumcision for Muslims and Jews.
Germany is home to about 4 million Muslims and 120,000 Jews.
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.
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.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net