BERLIN The head of Germany's Jewish community and a leading doctor have urged the government to draw up a new law stating clearly that circumcising boys for religious reasons is legal, following a regional court's ban on the practice.
In June, a court in Cologne, western Germany, ruled in a case involving a Muslim boy who had suffered bleeding after undergoing circumcision that families should wait until their sons are older before going ahead with the operation.
The ruling applies only to the Cologne area, but Jewish and Muslim groups responded angrily, saying it posed a threat to religious freedom in Germany, and Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has vowed to tackle the issue.
"We need a law that makes clear that circumcision is legitimate and legal," Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the weekly Focus magazine.
Graumann said he had sent letters to Merkel, the leaders of other political parties and regional premiers calling on them to give urgent support to such a law after the summer break.
So far, only the opposition Greens have given an explicit commitment to back a new circumcision law, he added.
Graumann said failure to act could put in jeopardy the continued existence of Germany's Jewish community. "We would have to leave (without such a law)," he said.
Jews usually circumcise male infants eight days after birth, while the time for Muslim circumcision varies according to family and country.
Germany, home to about 120,000 Jews and 4 million Muslims, is highly sensitive to charges of intolerance, especially towards Judaism, because of the Nazis' slaughter of 6 million European Jews in the Holocaust.
German doctors are also concerned that a lack of legal clarity following the court decision could increase health risks by forcing the practice of circumcision underground.
"We consider this court verdict culturally insensitive and wrong," Frank Ulrich Montgomery, head of the German Medical Association, told the Tagesspiegel am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday, also urging swift government action to end the legal uncertainty.
(Reporting by Gareth Jones; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)