CAIRO - Jewish rabbis from across Europe gathered in Berlin on Tuesday, July 10, to protest a German court ruling banning circumcision, describing the verdict as a sign of rising religious intolerance in the European continent.
The decision is a frontal attack on Jewish life in Europe, Pinchas Goldschmidt, who leads the conference, told Bloomberg Business Week.
We see this as part of a trend of mounting intolerance against religious practices in Europe.
Some 40 rabbis from across Europe opened a three-day meeting in Berlin on Tuesday to discuss a court ruling banning religious circumcision of baby boys.
"The court utterly failed to consider how fundamental Brit Milah is to the Jewish faith and identity," Goldschmidt said, using the Hebrew term for circumcision.
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.
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.
Rabbis warned that the ruling would have ramification on religious freedoms of minorities in Europe.
This court ruling could have huge ramifications for the Jewish community far beyond the confines of Germany, if it is allowed to stand, Rabbi Avichai Apel, a board member of the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference of Germany, said in a statement.
The meeting will enable us to consider together how best to continue to respond, both within and outside of Germany.
Goldschmidt said Jewish leaders would join with other religious communities to "face down this unwarranted attack on freedom of religion."
"We remain confident in the German legal and political system and believe that this ruling cannot and will not stand," he said.
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.
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.