Guido Westerwelle
Guido WesterwelleReuters

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle weighed in Friday on a controversial German court ruling on circumcision, saying the country protected religious freedom and traditions.  

“The ruling on circumcision has provoked annoyance internationally,” Westerwelle wrote on his official Twitter account, according to a report on AFP

“We have to be clear: religious traditions are protected in Germany,” he added.

The German District Court of Cologne ruled this week that non-medical circumcision, practiced by most Jews and Muslims, causes bodily harm and therefore is a crime.

The practice is a "serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body,” the court decided.

The ruling involved the case of a Muslim doctor who performed a circumcision on a four-year-old boy, who later suffered bleeding and was taken to a hospital emergency room. The decision is likely to be appealed to the Federal Constitutional Court. 

Westerwelle was also quoted in the Bild's online edition Thursday saying that Germany “is an open and tolerant country where religious freedom is well established and where religious traditions like circumcision as an expression of religious diversity are protected.”

Jewish and Muslim leaders in Germany were united on Wednesday in their condemnation of the court's decision to. Representatives of the two religious communities called the ruling insensitive and discriminatory, saying it was an attack on centuries of religious tradition.

Dieter Graumann, president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, called the ruling “an egregious and insensitive measure” and said it amounted to “an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in religious communities' right of determination.”

Ali Demir, chairman of the Religious Community of Islam in Germany, was quoted by The Guardian as having said, “I find the ruling adversarial to the cause of integration and discriminatory against all the parties concerned.”

He predicted that a ban in Germany would lead to a rise in “circumcision tourism in neighboring countries in Europe.”

The European Jewish Parliament (EJP) expressed its outrage on Thursday over the ruling, saying it “firmly condemns this unacceptable interference in the prerogatives of religious communities and considers the argument that circumcision goes ‘against the interests of a child to decide for himself later on to what religion he wishes to belong’ for the least surprising.”

The EJP also called on German lawmakers “to issue legislation on this question in order to avoid any future violation of freedom of worship.”

Meanwhile in Norway, Center Party official justice policy spokeswoman Jenny Klinge said this week she wants circumcision to be declared illegal, a move that would jeopardize the future of the 700-member Jewish community.

She told the Dagbladet newspaper that circumcision of girls already is prohibited and that the law should be extended to males.

An anti-circumcision movement in the United States last year was stopped when a petition to end the practice in San Francisco was taken off the ballot because it violated state law.

Circumcision has been credited with preventing the spread of diseases, particularly in Africa.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)