BRUSSELS (EJP)---Jewish and Islamic communities representatives have called on the German Parliament and all political parties in the country to intervene in overruling the recent Cologne court decision against circumcision "as a matter of urgency."
A court in the western city of Cologne caused an uproar in June by ruling in the case of a Muslim boy who suffered bleeding after such an operation that circumcision “causes bodily harm and should only be performed on males old enough to give consent.”
Jews usually circumcise male infants eight days after birth while the time for Muslim circumcision varies according to family, religion and country.
At the initiative of the European Jewish Association (EJA), Jewish and Islamic representatives met together in Brussels on Monday along with legal and medical experts as well as representatives of the European Parliament to discuss the recent disturbing court ruling.
They issued a joint statement in which they “consider this to be an affront on our basic religious and human rights.”
“Circumcision is an ancient ritual that is fundamental to our individual faiths and we protest in the strongest possible terms this court ruling . We will vigorously defend our right to maintain our mutual tradition,” they said.
“We remain committed to resolving this matter of deep concern expeditiously in order to protect the rights of faith groups and restore harmony amongst these groups within Germany and throughout the European Union.”
During the meeting, Rabbi Yitzhak Shochet , from the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, spoke of a “shock” situation.
“What happens in one city tends to spill over into other cities,” he said, stressing that circumcision “is the oldest and most fundamental practice in Judaism.” “It is synonymous with our spiritual essence. The reason why Jewish life has continued despite persecution lies in circumcision.”
He added: “Circumcision flies in the face of persecution of Jews, such as the Holocaust – which is why it makes it even more shocking that it is a German court inflicting the ban.”
EJA Director, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, is convinced that “this ruling is an attempt to send a message to Jews in Europe that they’re not welcome.”
“It’s a duty of Europe to suppress such dark views to prevent a repetition of history. To allow Jews to live in religious freedom but also to send a message that what happened in the past can’t happen again,” he continued.
Rabbi Israel Diskin from Munich mentioned the fact that people in Germany ask now if they should go abroad to do circumcision. “I told them they should do it in Germany. We should send the message everywhere that circumcision will continue.”
Imam Mustafa Katstit, of the Islamic Center in Brussels, said “a one-off accident shouldn’t call a long-time tradition into doubt.” But he suggested two types of precautions: Muslim, he said, should commit to perform circumcisions by medical professionals and should recommend to perform circumcisions at 7 -day-old childs.
Prof. Ali Dere, President of the umbrella organization of Muslims in Germany, said “as Muslims in Germany, we are also confronted with discrimination, attacks on mosques. “ Islamic religious practice is not that easy.”
“We hope the aim of the ruling is not repression or discrimination against Muslims or other communities. We seek further enlightenment from politicians and other individuals to solve this situation.”
Germany is home to about 4 million Muslims and 150,000 Jews.
As representative of the Turkish Islamic community in Cologne, Ayse Aydin argues that the issue beyond the ruling is that “they want to secularise the society and create a society without religion.”
“The main argument here is of bodily harm and the irreversibility of circumcision – that is the point we have to answer as well as talking about religious freedom.”
25 to 33 % of world population circumcised
As an urologist from Cologne, Dr Igor Byshkin, recalled that circumcision “ is the most common operation worldwide with 25-33% of global population being circumcised.”
He mentioned that world medical organisations have repeatedly reported that circumcision protects against serious infection, for example AIDS. “ In the US, 56% of the population is circumcised,” Byshkin said.
“Not being circumcised can be subject to risk of infection throughout life, so it’s medically beneficial in many cases,” the doctor added.
“Like every operation, there could be complications, but that’s not a reason to ban circumcision which is a very important procedure.”
On the legal viewpoint, Mark Lieber, a Brussels-based lawyer, referred to articles 8 and 9 of the European Human Rights Convention which speak of family rights, freedom of thought and of religion.
“Circumcision is not a crime, it doesn’t harm the victim. It is a fundamental religious tradition, it is the parental right to educate their children and make choices for them,” he said.
“It is generally accepted that even a non-medical professional can perform circumcisions, as long as it with the consent of both parents and according to medical standards.”