BERLIN – Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman promised Germany’s Jewish and
Muslim communities on Friday they would be free to carry out circumcision on their children despite a court ban.
Dr. Dieter Graumann, the head of
Germany’s central council of Jews, said if there was no change in the legal
situation, “then we must go,” because the ban would spell the end of Jewish life
in the country.
The government said it would find a way around the
cologne court ban, issued in june, as a matter of urgency.
in the government it is absolutely clear that we want to have Jewish and Muslim
religious life in Germany,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
“Circumcision carried out in a responsible manner must be possible in this
country without punishment.”
Graumann called on lawmakers to rapidly
quash the growing efforts to ban circumcision in the federal republic.
an interview with Focus magazine on Saturday, he said, “we need a law that
declares circumcision to be legitimate and legal.”
Over the past few
weeks he sent letters to Merkel and to all party leaders, as well as cabinet
ministers, with the request that a law to that effect be introduced after the
Graumann said politicians must act right away and not
display cowardice by shunning action. The central council, which represents more
than 105,000 members, has posted explanations in English and German on its
website, explaining the religious importance of circumcision.
said his dramatic language about Jews leaving Germany was “not a rhetorical
trick.” He said he has received concerned queries from all over the world to the
effect of: “what is wrong with Germany?” and “can one still live there as a
Jew?” According to Focus, Graumann said he was disturbed by the contention
during the public debate that Jewish parents cause harm to their
“The love for children is deeply rooted in the Jewish
religion,” he said, adding that Jewish fathers and mothers take every measure to
protect their children.
European rabbis descended on Berlin last week to
lobby against what they see as an affront to religious freedom – with the
backing of Muslim and Christian leaders, as well as the support of many German
Ruling in the case of a Muslim boy taken to a doctor with
bleeding after circumcision, the Cologne court said the practice inflicts bodily
harm and should not be carried out on young boys, but could be practiced 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.
“It is well know that in the Jewish
religion early circumcision carries great meaning, so it is a matter of urgency
that this right be restored,” Seibert said, adding that Merkel’s office would be
involved in efforts to resolve the problem.
“We know a quick decision is
needed and that this cannot be put off. Freedom of religious practice is a very
important legal right for us,” he said.
Germany is an ally of Israel and
its ambassador has promised the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora
Affairs Committee to defend the rights of Germany’s growing Jewish
European rabbis ended their meeting in Berlin on Thursday in a
They plan talks with German Muslim and Christian leaders in
Stuttgart this week to see how they can fight the ban together.
ruling by the Cologne Regional Court applies to the city and surrounding
districts with a total population of just over 2 million people. The total
population of Germany is about 82 million.
Cologne is home to about
120,000 Muslims, whose plans for a new central mosque has stirred antiimmigrant
Germany is home to about 120,000 Jews and 4 million Muslims.
Many of the latter originate from Turkey, which has also condemned last month’s
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the head of the Conference of
European Rabbis, urged Jews in Germany to continue carrying out circumcision
despite the ban.
But the German Medical Association, while opposing the
ban because it could drive circumcision underground with greater risk of
infection through poor hygiene, advised doctors not to carry out the operation
until the legal situation was cleared up as they could risk
Goldschmidt, the Swissborn chief rabbi of Moscow who
organized the meeting, said the ban was a fresh example of creeping prejudice in
European law against non-Christians, after a Swiss ban on minarets, French and
Belgian bans on Islamic veils in public and an attempted Dutch ban on halal
“Circumcision represents the basis for belonging to the Jewish
community. It has been practiced for 4,000 years and cannot be changed,”
Reuters contributed to this report.