Circumcision ban makes Germany "laughing stock": Merkel
By Gareth Jones
BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Germany could become a laughing stock if it fails to overturn a district court ban on circumcision that has enraged Jews and Muslims.
Merkel's government has already criticized the Cologne court ruling and promised a new law to protect the right to circumcise male infants, but the conservative leader's strong comments underline how sensitive Germany is to charges of intolerance because of its Nazi past.
"I do not want Germany to be the only country in the world where Jews cannot practice their rituals. Otherwise we will become a laughing stock," the Bild daily quoted Merkel as telling a closed meeting of her Christian Democrats (CDU).
Joerg van Essen, parliamentary floor leader of Merkel's junior coalition partner the Free Democrats, told the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper that the new law would be introduced in the autumn.
The Cologne court, ruling in the case of a Muslim boy who suffered bleeding after circumcision, said the practice inflicts bodily harm and should not be carried out on young boys but could be practiced on older males who give consent.
This is not acceptable under Jewish religious practice which requires boys to be circumcised from eight days old, nor for many Muslims, for whom the age of circumcision varies according to family, country and branch of Islam.
Jewish and Muslim groups have branded the court ruling an attack on their religious freedom and Jewish leaders say it could even threaten the continued existence of their community in Germany - a disturbing claim for a country still haunted by the Nazis' murder of six million European Jews in the Holocaust.
But the court ruling has drawn support from some, including Britain's Secular Medical Forum which has written to Merkel urging her to resist pressure to make non-consensual circumcision lawful. Continued...