(Lubavitch.com) Jewish and Muslim groups throughout Europe showed a rare unified front this week in an emergency conference in Brussels to address the June 26 ruling by a regional court in Cologne, Germany, denouncing circumcision.
Representatives of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, European Jewish Association, Germany’s Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs and the Islamic Centre of Brussels met. Joining them were MEP’s from Germany, Finland, Belgium, Italy and Poland, as well as many legal and medical experts.
The court ruling, which caused an international uproar, suggests that circumcision “causes bodily harm and should be performed on males old enough to give consent.” The ancient Jewish custom is to circumcise male infants eight days after birth while the time for Muslim circumcision varies according to family, tradition and country.
There are approximately 4 million Muslims and 150,000 Jews living in Germany. In their first official response since the ruling, Jewish and Muslim groups are demanding that the German parliament protect their religious freedom.
“We consider this to be an affront (to) our basic religious and human rights,” the joint appeal states. “Circumcision is an ancient ritual that is fundamental to our individual faiths and we protest in the strongest possible terms this court ruling. To that end we will vigorously defend our right to maintain our mutual tradition and call on the German parliament and all political parties to intervene in overruling this decision as a matter of urgency.”
Medical experts stated that the courts’ concerns for the physical wellbeing of circumcised males were unfounded. Dr. Igor Byshkin, a noted urologist from Cologne opined that circumcision “is the most common operation worldwide with 25-33% of the global population being circumcised.”
He mentioned that world medical organizations have repeatedly reported that circumcision is not harmful and actually protects against serious infections. “In the US, 56% of the population is circumcised.”
For many of the Jews in attendance the medical reasoning for banning circumcision seemed to be a thinly-veiled guise of growing anti-Semitic practices throughout Europe. During the meeting, Rabbi Yitzhak Shochet, from the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, spoke of a “shock” situation.
“What happens in one city tends to spill over into other cities,” he said, stressing that circumcision “is the oldest and most fundamental practice in Judaism. It is synonymous with our spiritual essence. The reason why Jewish life has continued despite persecution lies in circumcision.”
Even more shocking, he said, “is that it is a German court inflicting the ban.”
EJA director, Rabbi Menachem Margolin stated, “This ruling is an attempt to send a message to Jews in Europe that they’re not welcome.”
“It’s a duty of Europe to suppress such dark views to prevent a repetition of history. To allow Jews to live in religious freedom but also to send a message that what happened in the past can’t happen again,” he continued.
Rabbi Yisroel Diskin, Chief Chabad representative to Germany, mentioned that members of his local community in Munich have began asking him if they should now go abroad to do circumcision. “I told them they should do it in Germany. We should send the message everywhere that circumcision will continue.”