A decision by a German court prohibiting doctors from performing circumcisions based on religious reasons is being protested by Jews and Muslims who say the ruling is a violation of their liberties, as circumcision is held by both groups as a religious rite.
"The decision by a district court in Cologne, Germany, to deem non-medical circumcision a crime places an intolerable burden on the free exercise of religion by Jews and also by Muslims who practice male circumcision as part of their religious faith," Abraham Foxman, the The New York-based Anti-Defamation League's national director, said in a statement.
"Religious freedom is very important in our constitution and cannot become the pawn of a one-dimensional ruling that also further strengthens existing prejudices and clichés about this issue," added Aiman Mayzek of the Central Council of Muslims.
The Colonge court argued Tuesday, "The body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision. This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs."
Although the ban only applies in Colonge, the court's decision is seen as an affront to Germany's four million Muslims and 100,000 Jews.
The court's decision stems from an incident in Cologne in 2010 in which a doctor, who was not identified, performed a circumcision on a 4-year-old Muslim boy. The child eventually needed emergency care after the faulty procedure.
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Prosecutors who found out about the case first had their charges tossed out because the parents had agreed to have their son circumcised based on the traditional ritual practices of the Muslim community. One reason for the circumcisions presented to the court was that the procedure was necessary for the boy if he did not want to be ostracized by his peers.
The Colonge court, however, insisted that the procedure took away from the child's right to choose his own religion when he grows up, as it forced a permanent body alteration. The court's decision was for the "good of the child, who would be able to decide for himself which religious community he or she would belong to," the newspaper Haaretz reported.
The ruling also created some legal clarification for local doctors over the practice of circumcision, who until now had mostly acted on their own accord.
The Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman insisted that the court's decision carried a very anti-semantic message, even while attempting to disguise itself as based on the desire to protect children.
"Germany has dedicated itself to re-building Jewish life, and the consequences of a ban on circumcision would be a devastating blow to the future of the Jewish community," he insisted.
Israel's Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin also remarked to Israel Radio that he felt Germany's parliament should create and pass official legislation on the issue so that there is a very clear law on what types of circumcisions are acceptable.
"The parliament in Berlin understands the ramifications of the ruling," Rivlin said. "Not allowing a person to follow his religion opposes every constitution."
Circumcision is commonly practiced in the United States, with roughly 60 percent of newborn boys undergoing the procedure. According to 2007 figures, only 11 percent of German boys are circumcised.