German circumcision ruling draws applause from Raelians, condemnation from Jewish and Muslim faith groups
On July 3, 2012 At 9:22 pm
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A German court verdict on June 26 has outraged some in the religious community, but drew applause from the Raelians.
The decision aims only to delay the act of religious circumcision, not ban it, and is not specifically directed against any faith. The judge found that circumcision amounted to bodily harm and only males old enough to consent to it freely should undergo it.
Jewish and Muslim leaders called the ruling insensitive and discriminatory, saying it was an attack on centuries of religious tradition, the UK's Guardian reported.
Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel wrote in the San Diego Jewish World that "Germany’s circumcision decision smacks of Nazism," writing:
For the German government, they need to ask themselves an important question: At what cost? Are they prepared to undo nearly sixty-five years of mending fences and good will? The German courts are entitled to past whatever legislation they want—so long as it does not affect the Jewish community. However, if this court’s decision is upheld by the higher courts, Germany will have taken one gigantic step backwards toward the realization of Hitler’s macabre dream—a Judenrein Germany (a Jew-free Germany).
The European Jewish Parliament has added its voice to outrage over the German district court judgment which ruled that the circumcision of a child for religious reasons should be considered physical assault and that "neither the parents' rights nor the right to religious freedom can justify what constitutes bodily harm."
A Jewish News video explains that the case was brought against a doctor in Cologne who had circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy in accordance with his parents' wishes. Several days after the operation, his parents took him to hospital as he was bleeding heavily and prosecutors subsequently charged the doctor with grievous bodily harm.
The European Jewish Parliament, which was established this year represents Jewish communities across more than 40 countries, issued a statement condemning unacceptable interference in the rights of religious communities and saying that it 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 highly surprising.
The parliament stressed that the "Judeo-Christian foundations" of Germany are enshrined in the country's Basic Law and that circumcision of male newborns, practiced in all Jewish communities for millennia, "is a rite that goes to the very core of Judaism."
The European Jewish parliament said it expected Germany's Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe to nullify the court decision "which otherwise would set a precedent and permanently deprive parents of their basic rights regarding freedom of religion". Muslim and Christian groups have similarly condemned the court ruling.
Rael, spiritual leader of the Raelian Movement, today commended a German court's recent ruling that the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons amounts to bodily harm.
"Circumcision for men, like clitoral excision in females, constitutes sexual mutilation and should be forbidden," Rael said. It is a position he has taken for years. He also favors a Norwegian political party that is currently seeking a ban on circumcision in Norway.
"Thousands of Germans have declared that a ruling of this kind was long overdue, and Raelians are happy to hear that," said Brigitte Boisselier, Ph.D., spokesperson for the Raelian Movement. "We Raelians are the first to fight for religious freedom, but above all else, we fight for respecting human rights. Any genital mutilation of a human being without his or her consent clearly violates the Declaration of Human Rights and should be considered a criminal act, despite the attempts to justify it as a religious tradition."
Boisselier said Jewish leaders have called the ruling anti-Semitic, while Muslims leaders have pronounced it Islamophobic.
"But for the court, this ruling upholds a child's right to physical integrity," she said.
This isn't the first time Raelians have taken a strong stance against genital alterations made in the name of religious or cultural traditions.
In 2006, Rael launched Clitoraid (www.clitoraid.org), an organization that helps women who have been genitally mutilated regain their physical integrity and sense of dignity as well as their ability to experience sexual pleasure.
"Thanks to a procedure developed by Dr. Pierre Foldes, a French surgeon, it's now possible to repair what's left of the mutilated clitoris," Boisselier explained. "We're setting up a hospital in Africa and several clinics in North America where the millions of women who have been mutilated can find relief by having that surgery performed."
But what's also interesting, she said, is that Clitoraid has been receiving hundreds of e-mails from men who have been circumcised.
"They're seeking a way to have that mutilation undone," Boisselier explained. She added that, according to the World Health Organization, 30 percent of males worldwide are circumcised.
"This means that billions of human beings on Earth have been genitally mutilated without their consent," Boisselier declared. "We note that all the women who seek help from Clitoraid show clear signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And I'm convinced that the billions of men who have been exposed to the traumatic mutilation of circumcision at an early age have developed also some degree of PTSD. It's urgent to have more than just one court saying 'Stop!' to this barbaric practice. All courts worldwide must place the right of a child above the right of a religion."
She said Rael has repeatedly asked that all religious scriptures, teachings and practices be reviewed by an independent international committee, which would see to it that all religious group practices not in agreement with the Declaration of Human Rights be banned worldwide.
"All Raelian books and practices are open for review at any time by such a committee," Boisselier said.