Preparing for circumcision
Preparing for circumcision Israel news photo: Flash 90

Muslims and Jews, normally not the best of friends, have banded together to ask the German parliament to overrule the court ban on circumcision. There are approximately 4 million Muslims and 150,000 Jews living in Germany.

A Cologne court last month ruled that the procedure, even when performed for religious reasons, is illegal because, in its words, circumcision "causes bodily harm and should only be performed on males old enough to give consent.”

Jewish law requires that new-born boys be circumcised when they are eight days old, unless medical reasons force a postponement. Muslim law also requires circumcision, which the forefather Avraham performed on himself and his two sons. Ishmael, from whom Muslims consider themselves descendants, was born by Hagar, the maid servant to Abraham’s wife Sarah, who bore Yitzchak (Isaac).

The European Jewish Association (EJA) and Jewish and Islamic representatives met in Brussels on Monday along with legal and medical experts and European Parliament representatives to discuss how to fight the court ban, which they said is “an affront on our basic religious and human rights.”

The European Jewish Press reported that the statement added, “Circumcision is an ancient ritual that is fundamental to our individual faiths and we protest in the strongest possible terms this court ruling. We will vigorously defend our right to maintain our mutual tradition.

“We remain committed to resolving this matter of deep concern expeditiously in order to protect the rights of faith groups and restore harmony amongst these groups within Germany and throughout the European Union.”

"Circumcision flies in the face of persecution of Jews, such as the Holocaust – which is why it makes it even more shocking that it is a German court inflicting the ban,” Rabbinical Center of Europe Rabbi Yitzhak Shochet said at the meeting.

EJA Director and Rabbi Menachem Margolin stated, “This ruling is an attempt to send a message to Jews in Europe that they’re not welcome.”

On the Muslim side, Imam Mustafa Katstit of the Islamic Center in Brussels declared, “A one-off accident shouldn’t call a long-time tradition into doubt.”  He was referring to the court case, which involved a four-year-old Muslim boy who was hospitalized for excessive bleeding after a circumcision.

Prof. Ali Dere, President of the umbrella organization of Muslims in Germany, said that “as Muslims in Germany, we are also confronted with discrimination, attacks on mosques…

“We hope the aim of the ruling is not repression or discrimination against Muslims or other communities. We seek further enlightenment from politicians and other individuals to solve this situation.”

Dr, Igor Byshki, an urologist from Cologne, noted that circumcision “is the most common operation worldwide, with 25-33 percent of global population being circumcised.

"World medical organizations have repeatedly reported that circumcision protects against serious infection, such as AIDS."

Brussels-based lawyer Mark Lieber stated that the European Human Rights Convention mentions family rights and freedom of religion and that “circumcision is not a crime [because] it doesn’t harm the victim. It is a fundamental religious tradition, it is the parental right to educate their children and make choices for them.”