COLOGNE - German Muslims leaders have urged the parliament to pass legislation protecting circumcision to ensure religious freedom after a court ruling banned the practice when carried out on religious grounds.
"We call on the German Bundestag (lower house) and the government to act as quickly as possible to put an end to this legal insecurity and establish legal safeguards allowing the circumcision of boys," Gurcan Mert of the Turkish Islamic Union, speaking on behalf of the other groups, told Agence France Presse (AFP).
The Turkish Islamic Union was one of 20 organizations representing most of Germany's Muslims who urged the parliament to ensure freedoms of religious minorities since the June 26 ruling that banned boys' circumcision.
A regional court in Cologne in Western Germany ruled 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.
The ruling marked a "big blow against integration", said Ali Kizilkaya, spokesman for the Coordinating Council of Muslims in Germany, another of the groups issuing the appeal.
"Germany is a state based on the rule of law where rights, in particular religious liberties, are very important and I think that a ban (on circumcision) would not be good for Germany or Germany's image and concept of rights," he said.
"I hope this will be corrected quickly."
Another US-based Jewish group urged authorities in Berlin to overturn the court ruling, saying it would be "a stain on today's Germany" to let it stand.
The German court ruling "is an attack on one of the fundamental principles of Judaism," wrote Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, founder and dean and associate dean of the Center in a letter to Merkel.
"For 3,500 years, every male child has entered the Jewish people through the rite of circumcision. We are not talking about a mere custom, but a biblical principle that has defined the Jewish people from time immemorial."
They noted that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler said "in one of his infamous anti-Semitic rants" that "conscience is a Jewish invention, it is a blemish like circumcision."
"Since the defeat of Nazism, Germany has come a long way, and worked very hard to successfully chart a new course after the horrific legacy of the Holocaust by guaranteeing religious freedom and democracy," they wrote.
"It would be a stain on today's Germany to have this ruling stand," the rabbis added.
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.