Years ago, an Israeli friend of mine told me that he considered the fact that he was circumcised at birth, an offence caused to him by his parents. He believes that he was deprived of the fullness of sexual pleasures as a result.
A few days ago, a German court ruled that male circumcision was equal to grievous bodily harm and could only be permitted for medical reasons. Germany is a federal country and the state court ruling is not binding in the other German states. In all likelihood, however, it will be tested in the other states and probably also go up to the High Court.
Four million Muslims and about 100,000 Jews who live in Germany may have a problem. How many 18-year-old men would voluntarily undergo circumcision? The speaker of the Jewish community has already reacted with anger: "Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practised worldwide for centuries. This religious right is respected in every country in the world."
For many, circumcision is a cultural ritual that is almost as powerful as a religious command. A thirtsomething year old friend of mine told me that when his wife had announced to him that she was not having her son circumcised, he at first found it hard to accept. They are both Israeli Jews and atheists and he told me "I found it difficult to even consider that my son should not have the same kind of dick as I."
But are we to allow grievously bodily harm to our children just because it is a religious ritual that has been practiced for centuries? In addition to the human rights question, this could also add to the friction and issues with the growing Muslim population.
This exciting decision might force the courts to define religious freedom in an ever less religious Europe. I am looking forward to it.