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The Circumcision Debate in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Father and son during Brit mila in Paris.

Father and son during Brit mila in Paris.
Photo Credit: Serge Attal/Flash90

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The Central Council of Muslims in Germany denounced the regional court decision as a “blatant and inadmissible interference” with parents’ rights. It stated, “Freedom of religion is highly valued in our constitution and cannot be the plaything of a one-dimensional case law which, furthermore, consolidates existing prejudices and stereotypes.”

Among German Christian religious authorities, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Aachen, Heinrich Mussinghoff, described the regional court ruling against male circumcision as “contradicting basic rights on freedom of religion,” adding that the court argument about “the well-being of the child” was “not convincing.” A legal affairs official of the German Evangelical Church, Hans Ulrich Anke, said the ruling did not “sufficiently” take into account the religious importance of the ritual.

The case opened many areas for contention, including the belief that children have a “right to self-determination,” what the limits of such “self-determination” would involve, and whether parents have a right to raise their children in the religious traditions parents choose. In addition, Catholic, Protestant and some Muslim exponents viewed the decision as reflecting growing disregard for religious sensibilities rather than as an expression of anti-Jewish or anti-Muslim prejudice. Finally, the link between Jews, numbering about 200,000 in Germany, for whom circumcision is a religious obligation, and Muslims, numbering at least four million in the country, among whom circumcision is required or recommended, according to different Islamic interpretations, raises questions about the security of both minorities, and potentially of others, in maintaining their religious practices.

Rabbi Goldschmidt, in an address to a conference of European Orthodox rabbis in Berlin, called on them to defy the German law and to continue circumcising newborn boys. He told the group that if the law is enforced, “it would mean that a large part of the (Jewish) community does not have a future in Germany.”

Similarly, Serkan Tören, a Turkish-born representative of the centrist Free Democratic Party, which governs Germany in a coalition with the larger Christian Democratic Party, warned that “a ban on circumcision would be the clearest signal to the Muslims in our country that they are not part of Germany, that they are not even welcome.”

Legal obligations and guarantees of human rights should be universally applied – but these should include mutual respect between religious and non-religious people, and members of differing religious communities. Germany would do well to examine thoroughly, respectfully and seriously, the beliefs of its Jewish and Muslim citizens about the circumcision of their sons, not to mention the unquestionable medical advantages. In favoring the freedom of parents to choose circumcision, Germany will rid itself of an absurd and unnecessary diversion at a time of much greater political and financial responsibilities both in Europe and the world.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

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About the Author: Veli Sirin is a leader of the Alevi Islamic youth movement in Germany, composed of Germans of Turkish and Kurdish ethnic origin who adhere to secular politics, and other contemporary values, and oppose the encroachment of fundamentalism in Turkish governance. He is also a Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Germany.


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One Response to “The Circumcision Debate in Germany, Austria and Switzerland”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Change this picture, before some idiot or some antisemite start saying that the baby is spitting blood because of the circumcision, while it's sweet wine or grape juice he has blissfully sucked on…

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Legal obligations and guarantees of human rights should be universally applied – but these should include mutual respect between religious and non-religious people, and members of differing religious communities. Germany would do well to examine thoroughly, respectfully and seriously, the beliefs of its Jewish and Muslim citizens about the circumcision of their sons, not to mention the unquestionable medical advantages.

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