BERLIN - Scrambling to calm anger of religious minorities in the European country, German officials have reiterated that a controversial ruling banning circumcision is not directed at any faith.
"I can understand that this verdict has irritated people around the world, Holm Putzke, law professor at Passau University in southern Germany, told Reuters.
But this irritation can be resolved if people look at the reasons for it.
A regional court in Cologne in Western Germany ruled last week 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.
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.
But Putzke insisted that the verdict was not directed against any faith.
"Nobody wants to ban religious circumcision in Islam and Judaism, not at all," Putzke said.
"It should just be decided by those who undergo it."
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also weighed on the controversy, saying Germany protects religious freedoms.
The ruling on circumcision has provoked annoyance internationally, Westerwelle wrote on his official Twitter account.
We have to be clear: religious traditions are protected in Germany.
He insisted that the court verdict should not lead to international doubts about religious freedoms in Germany.
The free exercise of religion is protected in Germany. That includes religious traditions, Westerwelle said.
All our partners in the world should know that.
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 Jewish and Muslim communities.
The World Health Organization has estimated that nearly one in three males under 15 is circumcised.
In the United States, circumcision is often performed for hygiene reasons on infants.
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.