Cologne circumcision controversy heats up

Muslims and Jews in Germany were united in anger last week over a Cologne court ruling banning circumcision on boys not old enough to consent to it. Because both Muslim and Jewish boys are circumcised as infants, members of the two faiths argue that their religious freedoms have been trampled on. The verdict came after a controversial 2010 incident, in which a four-year Muslim boy suffered profuse bleeding two days after undergoing a botched circumcision at a Cologne clinic. Ever since, the city has been immersed in a heated debate over the practice. But the court ruled that a child’s “well-being” trumps his parents’ religious freedoms.

Condemnation came quickly. “Religious freedom cannot become the pawn of a one-dimensional ruling that further strengthens existing prejudices,” said Aiman Mayzek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany. Even the U.S. Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham H. Foxman weighed in, arguing that although the ruling isn’t explicitly anti-Semitic, “its effect is to say, ‘Jews are not welcome.’ ” Religious groups worry that the law will one day extend beyond Cologne, making the ritual illegal across the country.

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