BERLIN - Complicating controversy surrounding circumcision in Germany, an anonymous doctor has filed charges against a rabbi for performing ritual circumcisions on infant boys, in a move likely to compound Jewish and Muslim fears about religious freedoms in the European country.
"Charges have been filed but no investigation is yet underway," Gerhard Schmitt, the local chief public prosecutor, said, refusing to reveal who filed the charges, citing standard legal practice, Reuters reported on Wednesday, August 22.
"It really has to be examined in detail - this is a very, very complex issue."
The issue came to surface after Schmitt revealed that a doctor in the German state of Hesse has filed a charge against David Goldberg, a Jewish spiritual leader in the Bavarian town of Hof.
Schmidt noted that his office will review the charges and decide whether to open a case against the rabbi.
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 new case follows weeks of emotional debate and outrage in Germany where a regional court in Cologne banned circumcision on June 27 as physical abuse.
The ruling followed the circumcision of a four-year-old Muslim boy by a German doctor on his parents' wishes.
But the verdict sparked outrage among Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders, who denounced the ruling as a serious intrusion on religious freedom.
The case has been attacked by Jewish leader as compounding their fears about religious freedoms in Germany.
"This criminal complaint is an attack not only on one rabbi but against the entire Jewish people," Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, two officials with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, said in a statement cited by Reuters.
German politicians have overwhelmingly condemned the earlier court ruling, underscoring sensitivity about any suggestion of intolerance in a country still haunted by its Nazi past.
"We cannot put Germany's reputation as a land of religious tolerance at risk," Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Wednesday while traveling in Lichtenstein.
"Jewish and Muslim traditions must not be restricted by legal uncertainties."
Accused in the charges, Goldberg said he has performed more than 4,000 circumcisions in his lifetime - none of which resulted in complications.
He also said he has not performed the ritual in Germany since the Cologne court reached its decision in June.
"I'm hoping for a law to be passed that permits everything again," said Goldberg.
"Then this will all be over."
If passed, a new law would overrule the decision of the Cologne court and legalize religious circumcision.
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.
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.
Others use the practice for hygiene purposes, generally among infant boys.