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German circumcision ruling points to religious intolerance, critics say Add to ...

Jewish religious leaders will hold an international meeting in Berlin on Tuesday to discuss how to respond to a German court ruling against performing circumcision on baby boys, which also sparked protests from Muslims and Christians in Germany.

A court in the western city of Cologne caused an uproar in June by ruling in the case of a Muslim boy who suffered bleeding after such an operation that circumcision causes bodily harm and should only be performed on males old enough to give consent.

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The head of the Conference of European Rabbis told Reuters on Monday that it was part of a trend to limit religious freedom in Europe that was targeting Jewish and Muslim traditions such as circumcision and the religious slaughter of animals for meat.

“We see this decision by a German court in the context of a new European intolerance towards other religions,” said Pinchas Goldschmidt, the Swiss-born chief rabbi of Moscow and organizer of the meeting to be held in Berlin on Tuesday.

He cited a Swiss ban on building new minarets on mosques, a French ban on women wearing Islamic veils in public and a failed Dutch bid to outlaw kosher and halal meat prepared by Jewish and Muslim butchers as other examples of legislation inspired by resentment at growing Muslim immigration.

Jewish, Muslim, Catholic and Protestant leaders in Germany denounced the Cologne verdict as an infringement of religious freedom.

Germany’s foreign minister also spoke out, arguing tolerant modern societies such as Germany should permit such faith-based traditions. Turkey protested too, while the U.N. special rapporteur on religious freedom called the ruling “nonsense.”

Germany is home to about four million Muslims and 120,000 Jews.

The German ambassador to Israel appeared before a panel of its parliament on Monday to try to ease concerns the ruling, which he referred to as a “particularly sensitive” issue after the Nazi Holocaust, an Israeli statement said.

Ambassador Andreas Michaelis told the parliament’s Diaspora Affairs Committee that the Cologne ruling pertained to only that region and that three German political parties were “advancing legislation to anchor the right to circumcision,” it said.

The statement released by the Israeli committee quoted Mr. Michaelis as saying: “Clearly, the subject of a ruling on the issue of banning circumcision is particularly sensitive in Germany, because of its guilt for the Holocaust.”

Israeli lawmaker Danny Danon, the committee chairman, said at the session that “circumcision is one of the foundations of Judaism and the last time it was restricted was in Germany at its darkest hour.”

The Cologne court, which took action after the doctor who treated the boy for bleeding notified police, did not recommend a minimum age for circumcision.

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