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German cabinet approves law allowing religious circumcision

11-10-2012 Anti-Semitism

The German cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday approved a draft law to allow circumcision in Germany after a court in Cologne said earlier this year the religious rite amounted to grievous bodily harm, a ruling that caused international uproar. The new legislation, which must now be passed by the Bundenstag, the German parliament, "makes clear that circumcision is possible in Germany," said Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger in a statement.

The ministry added the new text would "remove the legal uncertainty created by the judgement of the regional court in Cologne." While considering a case brought against a doctor who had circumcised a Muslim boy, the court in the western German city ruled that the rite was tantamount to grievous bodily harm.

The ruling sparked an emotional national debate about religious freedom and the procedure itself. The court ban had applied only to the Cologne region but doctors across the country refused to carry out operations because of what they saw as a risk of legal action.

The decision united Jewish and Muslim groups in opposition and caused outrage from religious and political leaders in Israel and Muslim countries.

Diplomats admitted that the ruling proved "disastrous" for Germany's international image, particularly in light of its Nazi past. Merkel was reported to have warned that Germany risked becoming a "laughing stock" if it banned circumcision. "It was always our intention to lift this ruling," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a press conference. The new bill stipulates certain provisos for a boy to be circumcised. Among these conditions, the draft law stipulates the practice must be carried out "professionally" and "with the most effective pain relief".

An exception must also be made in individual cases if there are health risks, for example if the infant is suspected of being a haemophiliac.

"It was very important that our government reacted so quickly and responsibly. The proposal is balanced and suitable for lifting the legal uncertainty," said Charlotte Knobloch, former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Jewish leader. She expressed her relief that "Germany would not become the one country in the world where Jewish people cannot practice their religion" and added she hoped the damaging public debate about circumcision would end. Around four million Muslims and 200,000 Jews live in Germany.



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