Circumcision ban makes Germany 'laughing stock': Merkel

Published: July 17, 2012

Govt criticises court ruling, promises new law to protect the right to circumcise male infants. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Germany could become a laughing stock if it fails to overturn a district court ban on circumcision that has enraged Jews and Muslims.

Merkel’s government has already criticised the Cologne court ruling and promised a new law to protect the right to circumcise male infants, but the conservative leader’s strong comments underline how sensitive Germany is to charges of intolerance because of its Nazi past.

“I do not want Germany to be the only country in the world where Jews cannot practise their rituals. Otherwise we will become a laughing stock,” the Bild daily quoted Merkel as telling a closed meeting of her Christian Democrats (CDU).

Joerg van Essen, parliamentary floor leader of Merkel’s junior coalition partner the Free Democrats, told the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper that the new law would be introduced in the autumn.

The Cologne court, ruling in the case of a Muslim boy who suffered bleeding after circumcision, said the practice inflicts bodily harm and should not be carried out on young boys but could be practised on older males who give consent.

This is not acceptable under Jewish religious practice which requires boys to be circumcised from eight days old, nor for many Muslims, for whom the age of circumcision varies according to family, country and branch of Islam.

Jewish and Muslim groups have branded the court ruling an attack on their religious freedom and Jewish leaders say it could even threaten the continued existence of their community in Germany – a disturbing claim for a country still haunted by the Nazis’ murder of six million European Jews in the Holocaust.

But the court ruling has drawn support from some, including Britain’s Secular Medical Forum which has written to Merkel urging her to resist pressure to make non-consensual circumcision lawful.

“Emotional blackmail”

“We are shocked that religious groups deny the harm (caused by circumcision) and at the distorted and disingenuous claims made by those opposing the court’s decision, wrongly suggesting that it is an indication of anti-Semitism,” the chairman of the Secular Medical Forum, Dr. Antony Lempert, said in the letter.

“We urge you not to let such emotional blackmail persuade you to change the law or criticise the court’s decision.  As it stands, the court’s decision ensures that today’s children will be free to grow up to make their own decisions,” it said.

Echoing such comments, Ronald Goldman, head of the US-based Jewish Circumcision Resource Centre which opposes the practice, cited studies he said show that circumcision causes considerable pain and trauma.

“The majority of the world does not circumcise because of an instinctive awareness of the harm, analogous to cutting off any other healthy body part,” it said in a statement entitled “The German Circumcision Ruling: What about the harm to the child?”

The German court ruling applies only to the city of Cologne and its environs – home to a large Muslim minority – but Jewish and Muslim groups fear it could set a precedent and the ban could spread to other parts of Germany.

German doctors have also urged politicians to act to clarify the legal situation, fearing the ruling may force circumcisions underground and increase health risks for young boys.

Germany is home to about 120,000 Jews and some four million Muslims, many from Turkey which has criticised the court ruling.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Riaz Khan
    Jul 17, 2012 - 8:14PM

    Welldone Angela Merkel.

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  • Khalq e Khuda
    Jul 17, 2012 - 8:25PM

    How about ban on getting ears pierced and wearing braces as 90% of kids who wear them do so for cosmetic reasons?

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  • Mohd Butt
    Jul 17, 2012 - 8:42PM

    Criticizing court ruling, is there no contemept of court law in Germany? Send some urgent help to them from our stock please, we are overstock.

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  • Giri
    Jul 17, 2012 - 9:23PM

    Circumcision is barbaric act and should be stopped immediately. If you allow for boys, what is stopping for girls like they do in Somalia or in other places with hardcore religious beliefs. There is no benefit even by medical standards. Agree, it is religious practice, but you can have it after 18yrs when the adult can make decisions.

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  • Javed
    Jul 17, 2012 - 10:36PM

    So its the Jewish concerns that have Ms. Merkel so worked up? If this was a ban on “Hijab”, Ms. Merkel would be happy to oppose it. Hypocrisy is the word.

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  • Jul 18, 2012 - 6:07PM

    purely a vote business.

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  • Nobody
    Aug 28, 2012 - 6:49AM

    @Giri:
    Read up on how many medical benefits there are. There’s plenty out there. Furthermore, not to be vulgar (dear ET mods, kindly don’t scrap my comment; as far as I know, I followed the guidelines), but I don’t know many women who aren’t turned away from an uncircumcised male, more for hygiene reasons. And comparing female circumcision to male circumcision is absurd. Female circumcision is often comprised more of mutilation, and is now commonly referred to as FGM (female genital mutilation). I’ve never heard male circumcision referred to as male genital mutilation. Men are still fully functioning after a circumcision. Female genitalia is almost always never the same again, and often the female continues to feel immense pain. And waiting for a guy to turn 18 first?? Lol, I promise most guys you ask would MUCH rather it be done when they’re newborns so they don’t remember it.

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