A new proposed German law is set to approve ritual circumcision (known as brit mila or bris mila in Judaism) hopefully ending the debate – and the threat – to the ancient custom practiced by Jews and Muslims.
German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger presented the proposal to the state governments and associations throughout the country on Tuesday, the eve of Yom Kippur.
If approved, the move would end an attempt in May by a court in Cologne that outlawed the practice by ruling that removing the foreskin constitutes a violation of bodily integrity.
The verdict raised international eyebrows and ignited outrage among Jews and Muslims around the world.
A host of conditions accompanied an attempt in Berlin to create a “medical standard” by which circumcision could be formally legalized. Those conditions, however, specifically excluded the participation of a mohel if he is not a medical doctor – the rabbinical expert who performs the procedure in the Jewish world.
The new law proposed by Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger would correct that by adding a new paragraph to relevant child protection laws.
Under her proposal, the procedure would include anesthetic “if necessary” in order to ensure that it be painless. Moreover, the amendment adds that generally a doctor should carry out the circumcision, but that in the first six months of a child's life, “a person designated for the task by the religious community will also be permitted, providing he is equally competent as a medical doctor.”
Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany praised the new proposal, and said he expected any debate on the issue to now be carried out soberly. "The Justice Ministry deserves respect and recognition for making such a wise suggestion,” he said.
There are at least four million Muslims and 150,000 Jews living in Germany at the present time.
Legal experts, however, said the proposal had a long way to go before it could be voted into law, predicting the issue could go as far as the German Court of Justice, the Constitutional Court, or even all the way to the European Court of Justice.