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Jonathan’s 2015 Onslaught By Charles Ofoji.

By Charles Ofoji

Only the naive would still be waiting for President Goodluck Jonathan to formally declare his intention to seek reelection in 2105. The body language of the president and his calculated speeches, inactions and actions leave no one in doubt that he will not only ask the Nigerian people to renew his mandate, but in fact he has started campaigning for reelection. The firing of his Chief of Staff and four ministers last week are unmistakable canons, kick starting a reelection bid.

At last, Jonathan, albeit reluctantly, sacked his controversial political ally, Stella Oduah. Undoubtedly, if not the fact that 2015 is dangerously too close, he would never have fired the woman, who not only played a pivotal role in his emerging as president in 2011, but also, despite her malfeasance, arguably did a good job in the aviation industry as minister. Jonathan was awfully disinclined to sacking Oduah for the two reasons I have mentioned. Her discharge is a loss to Jonathan personally and the Nigeria people. The Aviation Industry will miss the vision this ambitious woman had for it. She wanted to reform the rotten industry and she did well in this direction. I guess her greatest undoing was that she failed to realize that no matter how well you mean or how well you might be doing your job, public service has rules which are sacrosanct.

Oduah got carried away. In that way, she unwisely played into the hands of her enemies, who are predominantly the cabal holding aviation industry hostage – those who want business to remain as usual. At the end, she paid the price for not playing by the rules and her enemies rejoiced. Her greatest mistake was that you cannot be a reformer and live below board. Reforms hurt special interests. The owners of such interests would naturally fight back to retain the status-quo which guarantees their profit.

I was one of those who personally admired Oduah. I had wished she did well, being a woman. It would have gone a long way in bridging gender inequality in Nigeria. I also, on a personal note, wished her well, being a friend of her brother during my times in Cologne, Germany. Nevertheless, her misbehaviour was not tolerable, neither was it pardonable. You don’t bend the rules because people you like broke them.

Jonathan had tried to bend the rules for Oduah until he found out that the heat was unbearable. She had only become an agonizing political liability. This is why I refrain from congratulating this president for sacking those enmeshed in corruption, who dined with him. There is no sincerity in their sacking. They were not sacked because Jonathan was interested in ethics or in the fight against corruption. It was only onslaught towards 2015 – a selfish move aimed at winning back the trust of the Nigerian people.

It is useless to inquire if Jonathan would be successful in getting Nigerians to trust him again. Even if Nigerians would not trust him again, who would they? The so-called Alliance for Progressive Change (APC) has not presented Nigerians with a viable alternative. It takes only an extraordinary candidate to defeat an incumbent anywhere in the world, more so in Africa, where it rarely happens. The names I hear of in the APC do not come near to even being average candidates. In fact, they are worse than Jonathan.

Based on the covenant between Nigerians and Jonathan and his performance as president, he should not bother asking for another mandate. He failed to deliver on his promise – a breath of fresh air. The air got worse under his watch. For those who love Nigeria, it saddens to know that he would remain president beyond 2015. There is simply no credible challenger.

This cast a big question mark on Nigeria’s recruitment and reward system. The mere fact that all those within a touching distance of challenging Jonathan are people of questionable character simply goes to underline that something is terribly wrong with the country. No thanks to a dubious recruitment and reward system bequeathed on the Nation by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, those who are competent and those who genuinely love Nigeria and have something to contribute to her forward-march never get a chance to serve their fatherland. As a result of godfatherism, mostly unqualified people and charlatans ambled their way up Nigeria’s political ladder.

Recently, I listened once more to the brilliant speech of former Prime Minister, late Tafawa Balewa before the United Nations. Again I cried for Nigeria. You could only ask yourself, where did people like Balewa, Azikiwe and Awolowo go? Nigeria did not stop producing such people. The truth of the matter is that there is an abundance of people like them. The only thing is that the sycophants the military handed over power to, so that they could protect their interests, hijacked the country. And they would do all, including assassinating, to make sure that people like Balewa are prevented from coming close to power.

Jonathan is the biggest beneficiary of a system that encourages mediocrity. He should never have been president in the first place. He was propped up by a dubious system. Unfortunately, as he said recently, he is still better than those calling him names.



The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

German Catholics Allow Morning-After Pill in Rape Cases.

morning-after pill
The Roman Catholic Church in Germany said on Thursday it would permit certain types of “morning-after pill” for raped women

The Roman Catholic Church in Germany said on Thursday it would permit certain types of the “morning-after pill” for raped women, after two hospitals provoked an outcry for refusing to treat a rape victim.

The German Bishops’ Conference said church-run hospitals would now ensure proper medical, psychological and emotional care for rape victims—including administering pills that prevent pregnancy without inducing an abortion.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch said a four-day meeting of German bishops in the western town of Trier had “confirmed that women who have been victims of rape will get the proper human, medical, psychological and pastoral care”.

“That can include medication with a ‘morning-after pill‘ as long as this has a prophylactic and not an abortive effect,” he said in a statement. “Medical and pharmaceutical methods that induce the death of an embryo may still not be used.”

That means there is no change to the Catholic Church’s ban on the so-called abortion pill based on the drug mifepristone or RU-486, and marketed as Mifegyne or Mifeprex.

The Church remains firmly opposed to abortion and artificial birth control, but in Germany it will now differentiate between pills that prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg in the womb and pills that induce an abortion, in cases of rape.

The German church, which has already faced mass desertions over cases of sexual abuse of children by priests, had been expected to change its position on the morning-after pill after apologizing about an incident involving two hospitals in Cologne last month.

The critical German lay movement “Wir sind Kirche” (We are the Church) said bishops took the decision because they feared losing state subsidies for church hospitals. The Catholic Church runs 25 percent of German hospitals and half of those in North Rhine-Westphalia state, which includes Cologne, it said.

Cologne’s Cardinal Joachim Meisner, an ally of the outgoing German-born Pope Benedict, has already apologized for the church hospitals’ treatment of the woman. He said it “shames us deeply because it contradicts our Christian mission and our purpose”.

The 25-year-old woman was referred to the hospitals by her doctor for a gynecological exam after she was drugged at a party and woke up on a park bench fearing she had been raped.

The hospitals refused to treat her because they could not prescribe the pill, which is taken after sex to avoid pregnancy. She was eventually treated at a Protestant church-run hospital.

The German bishops’ meeting in Trier also tried to address criticism of sexual discrimination by the Church by vowing to include more women in leadership positions, although this will not include the ordination of women as priests.

More than 181,000 German Catholics left the Church in 2010 and a further 126,000 the following year, reducing the total number to 24.47 million in a total population of 82 million.


Editing by Jason Webb

© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Germany approves bill to protect male circumcision.

  • FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2012 file picture mohel doctor Yacov Gassinovitch, center, is surround by other Rabbis and relatives as he holds eight days old Jonathan during the boy's circumcision at synagogue in Berlin. German Parliament is expected to vote on legislation clarifying the legality of infant male circumcision for religious reasons. The government drew up the legislation after a court in June ruled the practice could amount to criminal bodily harm — prompting outrage in Germany's Jewish and Muslim communities. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

    Enlarge Photo

    Associated Press/Markus Schreiber – FILE – In this Oct. 29, 2012 file picture mohel doctor Yacov Gassinovitch, center, is surround by other Rabbis and relatives as he holds eight days old Jonathan during the …more 


BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday that explicitly permits male infant circumcision, ending months of legal uncertainty after a court ruling that the practice amounts to bodily harm led to an outcry from Jewish and Muslim groups.

Germany‘s government moved swiftly to draft a law following the Cologne regional court decision in June. The ruling didn’t amount to a ban but raised fears of possible prosecutions.

The head of Germany’s main Jewish group expressed relief at the vote, which passed with 434 lawmakers in favor, 100 against and 46 abstaining.

“The circumcision law finally restores legal certainty,” said Dieter Graumann, the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews. “What’s important for us is the political message of this law, which is that Jewish and Muslim life is still welcome here.”

Restrictions on religiously motivated circumcision would have been particularly sensitive in Germany because of the country’spersecution of Jews and other minorities during the Nazi period.

Proponents of the law, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, noted that failure to protect circumcision would have risked making Germany the only country in the world to ban a practice that Jews and some Muslims consider an ancient and essential part of their religious traditions.

The new law grants parents the right to have their sons circumcised by a trained practitioner. Once the boy reaches six months of age, the procedure needs to be performed by a doctor.

Some critics of circumcision in Germany have argued that the right of the child to bodily integrity trumped a parent’s right to make a decision on his behalf.

A minority of left-wing lawmakers in Parliament proposed that parents should have to wait until the boy is 14 so he can give informed consent, noting the procedure is irreversible.

Such a delay would have contravened Jewish religious law, which requires that boys are circumcised on the eighth day after birth in a ceremony seen as their entrance into a covenant with God. Muslims also usually perform the procedure early in a boy’s life.

Germany, a country of some 82 million people, has a population of about 250,000 Jews and about 4 million Muslims.


By FRANK JORDANS | Associated Press

Germany’s most populous state toughens smoking ban.

BERLIN (AP) — Germany‘s most populous state is toughening a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, closing loopholes in its five-year-old restrictions.

North Rhine-Westphalia, a western region of about 18 million people that includes Cologne, Bonn, Duesseldorf and the Ruhr industrial area, introduced its smoking ban in 2008 — around the same time other German states put similar restrictions into effect.

The state legislature on Thursday approved a toughened version to take effect next May. It shuts loopholes that allowed customers to light up in establishments that designated themselves smoking bars, in special rooms set aside for smokers or in beer tents, among other things. The center-left state government said the original ban had so many loopholes it didn’t effectively protect nonsmokers.

In future, exceptions will be allowed only for private parties.

 Source: YAHOO NEWS.
Associated Press

To circumcise, or not to circumcise?.


A practice that’s been a religious obligation for millennia is now in dispute. Is circumcision “mutilation?”

How did the practice start?
The Egyptians were removing the foreskins of young boys as early as 2400 B.C., but the origins of circumcision remain a mystery. “It’s like asking the question, ‘Where did religion come from?'” said medical historian David L. Gollaher. Jews have performed the ritual on 8-day-old boys for at least 3,000 years, in accordance with God’s commandment to Abraham that circumcising “the flesh of your foreskins…shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.” Muslims consider circumcision a purification ritual that can be performed on males of any age, and some African societies initiate pubescent boys into manhood through a circumcision ritual that tests their ability to withstand pain. For Americans, starting in the late 19th century, circumcision was touted as a cure for nervousness, masturbation, and imbecility. It remains a routine procedure in the U.S., with more than half of all boys circumcised — far more than in Europe.


Does the operation have real health benefits?
Three recent large-scale studies of African men have found that circumcision markedly lowers the risk of infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS; it also reduces infection from other sexually transmitted diseases, including the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV). Researchers say that’s because the foreskin can develop microscopic tears during sexual activity, allowing infections to more easily reach the bloodstream. Circumcision has also been found to reduce the risk of urinary-tract infections in a baby’s first year. Citing those studies, the American Academy of Pediatrics in August shifted its previously neutral stance on circumcision and announced that the procedure has “significant” health benefits. For every 909 circumcisions, the pediatricians reported, one man will be spared a diagnosis of penile cancer.

So why do some people oppose it?
Many frame their opposition to circumcision as a human rights issue: They see removing a healthy part of a newborn’s body without his consent as an involuntary form of “mutilation” — a violation of medical ethics. “Babies should be left alone,” said Georganne Chapin of the anti-circumcision group Intact America. “When they become men, they can make their own informed decision about whether they want to remove a part of their own penises.” Chapin and other so-called “intactivists” dispute the evidence of circumcision’s medical benefits — infections can be prevented with proper hygiene and condoms, they claim — and point to the pain involved and the risks of bleeding, infection, and other complications. Some critics also maintain that circumcision makes the penis less sensitive, robbing men of the full range of sexual pleasure. Intactivists seek to change society’s attitudes about the operation, with the goal, according to movement leader Matthew Hess, of “making cutting boys’ foreskin a federal crime.”

Have they made progress?
The procedure is definitely becoming less prevalent. Rates of hospital circumcision in the U.S. have dropped from a high of about 79 percent in the 1970s to 55 percent in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That may be partly because Medicaid has stopped paying for the surgery in 18 states; some insurance companies also have stopped covering it. In addition, Latin American immigrants tend not to circumcise. But another reason for the decline is that the moral argument against circumcision is swaying many American parents. In San Francisco last year, 12,000 citizens supported a ballot initiative that would have made circumcision a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or a year in jail. A judge blocked the referendum on a technicality, but the ban’s sponsor, Lloyd Schofield, claimed victory. “Just getting people to think and discuss this is very rewarding,” he said. And this year in Cologne, Germany, a regional court ruled that the botched ritualcircumcision of a 4-year-old Muslim boy amounted to assault, and the German Medical Association counseled doctors to stop performing the operation.

How have religions responded?
Across Germany, furious protests by religious Jews and Muslims prompted lawmakers to draft a law making circumcision explicitly legal, as long as it is carried out by trained experts and parents are informed of medical risks. A similar clash ignited this summer in New York City, after city health officials found that in the last decade, 11 baby boys there had contracted herpes infections — and two of them had died — through a rare Orthodox Jewish rite called metzitzah b’peh, in which the mohelwho performs ritual circumcision sucks the blood directly from the fresh wound. The city’s Board of Health proposed making parents sign a form laying out the medical risks, but ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders vowed to defy the order and last week won a temporary injunction. New parents not bound by religious custom, meanwhile, are facing the circumcision decision with considerable doubt and confusion. Circumcision “does have a medical benefit,” says Dr. Doug Diekema, who took part in the American Academy of Pediatrics task force on the procedure. “Not everyone would trade that foreskin for that medical benefit. It’s a hard decision, and there are good reasons for almost any decision you want to make.”

The life of a mohel
Max Mintz has circumcised more than 9,700 babies during the past 30 years and expects to hit the 10,000 mark by year’s end. A retired Houston-area pediatrician, he performs the ritual for Jewish families in Texas and across the country, and will happily circumcise non-Jewish babies, too. Mintz, who charges about $350 for his services, says the procedure takes about a minute, involving a deft cut with a ritual knife called an izmel. “If you know how to do something surgically, just changing to another instrument is not so difficult,” Mintz said. “And the ritual method is so much simpler.” An Orthodox Jew, Mintz is gratified to be able to marry his faith with his surgical skills. And performing abris, the Hebrew word for circumcision, is “always a very happy occasion,” he said. “I don’t have to do funerals like a rabbi. Everyone wants to meet you.”


By The Week’s Editorial Staff | The Week

Turkish Mega Mosque in Germany Sparks Controversy.


Cologne Central Mosque
(Creative Commons/Raymond)

There was a time when the Turkish-led Ottoman Empire ruled over a large chunk of Europe. Now some believe the Turks want to bring back those old glory days.

The Turkish government has embarked on a mosque-building campaign throughout Germany.

One new Turkish mega-mosque, the Cologne Central Mosque, has Germans on edge.

When construction on the facility is completed, it will be Germany’s largest Muslim house of worship—and one of the largest mosques in all of Europe.

It’s so big that it stops passersby in their tracks. The structure’s 100-foot-high-plus minarets tower over the local landscape and can be seen from blocks away.

The $40 million-plus facility will hold at least 1,200 worshippers and include a restaurant, a prayer room, a library and more.

Germany is home to some 4.3 million Muslims, including 125,000 who live in Cologne. The large majority are Turkish.

Muslims’ ‘Rightful’ Place?
Although Cologne already has some 30 mosques, one German Muslim activist told CBN News the new facility is needed.

“You had for years, for decades, you had very, very ugly places in the poorest parts of Cologne, underground,” Muslim activist Ibrahim el-Zayat said.

“And so now,  to have something which is visible, which is quite in the midst of the society, is something which is indeed a great need for the city itself, for the Muslims, and for the society,” he continued.

El-Zayat helps support mosque projects throughout Europe. His critics have said he’s a radical Islamist with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

He denied the charge, saying he’s only trying to help Muslims take their rightful place in German society.

“If you compare it by percentage to the total population of Muslims and compare it, for example, to churches for the total population of Christians, then you should have in Germany not 3,000 prayerplaces but 15,000,” he said.

A Political Statement
Michael Höhne-Pattberg is an anti-jihad activist based in Cologne. He told CBN News the new mega-mosque is a political statement designed to show Islamic dominance in the city.

It’s no coincidence, he added, that Cologne is also home to the famed High Cathedral of St. Peter, a historic landmark and symbol of German Catholicism.

“The cathedral is the largest Christian building north of the Alps, and the four Islamic Turkish associations also have their center in Cologne,” he noted. “That is with a purpose to challenge the sovereignty of Christianity in Cologne.”

Not far from Cologne, in the small German town of Herten, locals are experiencing similar issues. Herten’s population is 10 percent Turkish Muslim and rapidly growing.

Jutta Becker is a member of Herten’s city council. She took CBN News to Herten’s so-called “blue mosque,” where cars were decorated with Turkish flags.

Becker said the town’s Christian leaders have been silent in the face of Islam’s growth.

“When there are so-called Christian-Islamic dialogue meetings, both the Catholic priests and the Protestant ministers ask me not to open my mouth and cause any trouble,” she told CBN News. “I’ve got a reputation for stirring up things because I will not take the Islamization of this town lying down.”

In Germany, critics of Islamization are often labeled by the major media and the left as “Nazis” and “racists.”

“It’s always the same argument, their knock-’em-dead argument:­ You’re a right radical or a populist radical or you’re a Nazi or you’re a foreign hater,” said Claudia Ludwig, head of the Independent Citizens Party in the town of Recklinghausen, north of Cologne.

She believes many German Turks are more attached to their home country than to Germany.

“The Turks in Germany regard (Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan—and not the chancellor of Germany—as their leader,” she said.

Assimilation ‘Crime Against Humanity’
In 2008, Erdogan told an audience of Germany’s Turks that assimilation into German society would be “a crime against humanity.” He believes Turks should keep a separate identity.

Erdogan’s government is directly involved in the building and supervision of mosques across Germany, including the Cologne Mega Mosque, through a cultural organization called DTIB.

DTIB acts as an arm of the Turkish government in Germany—with Germany’s full permission.

“They should be looked at as enrichment, not as threats,” el-Zayat said. “So if we say Erdogan has a relation to the people, that’s absolutely fine.”

Yet Erdogan’s regime has forged closer ties with its Islamic neighbors in recent years and is fiercely anti-Israel.

That has some in Cologne wondering whether the new mosque will really be the beacon of tolerance that el-Zayat would suggest.



Germany outlines new law allowing circumcision.

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany‘s Justice Ministry has outlined a planned new law that will allow thecircumcision of infant boys and end months of legal uncertainty after a local court banned the practice.

The ruling in June by a district court in Cologne outraged Muslims and Jews and sparked an emotional debate in the country, leaving an embarrassed government to promise legislation by the autumn protecting the right to circumcise.

Although the ban applied only to the Cologne region, doctors across the country refused to carry out operations because of what they saw as a risk of legal action.

The outline draft of a new bill states that the operation should take place “with the most effective pain relief possible” and only if parents have been fully informed about the nature of the procedure, a ministry spokesman said.

Generally doctors would carry out circumcisions but if the baby boy is less than six months old than it can also performed by another qualified person, such as a mohel, a Jewish individual specially trained in circumcising.

The ministry’s outline bill, a first but critical step towards creating the new law, has been sent to Germany’s federal states ahead of a consultation with experts due later this week.

According to the spokesman the outlines were based on parents’ constitutional right to bring up their children and decide on all matters concerning them. The state, however, has a responsibility as watchdog to protect a child’s wellbeing.

The speed with which national lawmakers agreed in July to pass a new law underscored sensitivity to charges of intolerance in a country haunted by its Nazi past. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany risked becoming a laughing stock if Jews were not allowed to practice their rituals.

About 120,000 Jews are registered as living in Germany along with around 4 million Muslims, many of whom are from Turkey.

The Cologne court, ruling in the case of a Muslim boy who suffered bleeding after circumcision, said the practice inflicted bodily harm and should not be carried out on young boys, although it could be practiced on older males with consent. (Reporting by Christian Ruettger; Writing by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Stephen Powell)



Israel chief rabbi in German circumcision talks.


  • Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger briefs the media at the Federal Press Conference organization in Berlin, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012. Israel's chief rabbi is in Germany for talks aimed at smoothing over controversy over the legality of circumcising young boys. German lawmakers have called for the government to draft a law this fall explicitly permitting 'medically correct circumcision'. That call came after a Cologne court concluded in June that circumcision amounts to bodily harm. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel …

BERLIN (AP) — Israel’s chief rabbi is in Germany for talks aimed at smoothing over a controversy over the legality of circumcising young boys.

German lawmakers have called for the government to draft a law this fall explicitly permitting “medically correct circumcision.” That call came after a Cologne court concluded in June that circumcision amounts to bodily harm — a ruling that doesn’t amount to a ban but worried Jewish and Muslim groups.

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, who represents Israel’s European-descended Jews, noted Tuesday that Jews are religiously required to circumcise baby boys on the 8th day after birth.

But he suggested after meetings at the Justice Ministry and elsewhere that rabbis could certify mohels, people trained and specialized in the Jewish ritual of circumcision, after they receive additional medical training.


Associated PressAssociated Press 

In German circumcision debate, ‘us vs them’ fears.

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  • FILE - In this Thursday, July 19, 2012 file photo Rabbi Netanel Wurmser, left, sits on a visitors tribune and follows the debate during a special session of the German Parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany. The German Parliament met to reassure Jewish and Muslim parents that they will continue to be able to circumcise their sons according to religious tradition, despite a local court's ruling that the practice amounts to bodily harm. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer, File)FILE – In this Thursday, July 19, …
  • In this photo provided by the Furer family Rabbi Abraham Dauss, left, and Moishe Furer, a rabbinical student in Berlin holding his son Elchanan attend a circumcision ceremony in Berlin, Germany, Friday, June 29, 2012. Elchanan was born five days before a regional court in Cologne ruled in June that the practice of circumcision amounted to causing bodily harm to a child. Though the Cologne court's decision has raised fears among Muslims and Jews that circumcising their children could get them into legal trouble, it has had little practical effect in reducing religious circumcisions _ especially since the government has weighed in with assurances to both communities that their practices will be respected. (AP Photo/Aviel Granov)In this photo provided by the Furer …

BERLIN (AP) — Rabbi David Goldberg had performed about 25 ritual circumcisions this year before a regional court ruled in June that the practice amounted to causing criminal bodily harm.

Despite the decision, he expects to perform the same number in second half of the year.

“I haven’t changed anything,” said Goldberg, one of Germany‘s few mohels — a person trained in the Jewish ritual of circumcision.

Though the Cologne court’s decision has raised fears among Muslims and Jews that circumcising their children could get them into legal trouble, it has had little practical effect in reducing religious circumcisions — especially since the government has weighed in with assurances to both communities that their practices will be respected.

But both Jews and Muslims say that a more lasting effect may be “us vs. them” tensions that have raised an invisible barrier between secular Germans and religious minorities.

“It is no surprise that the Catholics and the Protestants have stood behind the Muslim community in this case and denounced the verdict,” said Aiman Mazyek, the chairman of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims. “In my opinion this is no picture of tolerance or religious freedom from a modern civilization. It is a step backward.”

Jews are religiously required to circumcise baby boys on the 8th day after birth in a ceremony seen as their entrance into a covenant with God. Muslims also usually perform the procedure early in a boy’s life, though sometimes wait until later in childhood.

In the Cologne decision, announced June 26, the court said circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to bodily harm even if parents consent to the procedure. The charge is punishable by anything from a fine to up to five years in prison.

The ruling came in the case of the circumcision of a 4-year-old Muslim boy that led to medical complications.

The boy was circumcised at the request of his parents. He developed complications two days later and was rushed to the hospital. Prosecutors charged the doctor, who was acquitted when a Cologne court found that he had performed the procedure properly, and that he had the parents’ permission to carry out the circumcision.

But prosecutors appealed, and the higher Cologne court ruled that in a case of circumcision for non-medical reasons, the welfare of the child outweighed the religious rights of the parents. The acquittal of the doctor, however, was upheld because the court said the law had been unclear.

Though not precedent setting for other courts in Germany, the ruling prompted an outcry from Jewish and Muslim groups across Europe, while in Israel the German ambassador was invited to explain the decision to the Knesset.

Germany’s main Catholic and Protestant organizations also condemned the ruling as an attack on religious freedom. The president of the German Medical Association said the ruling could even endanger children, by forcing circumcisions to be performed under possibly unsanitary conditions outside of hospitals.

Caught in the middle were people like Moishe Furer, a rabbinical student in Berlin whose son Elchanan was born five days before the decision was announced.

The native of Moldova said his own parents had to bribe a doctor when he was born to certify that his own circumcision was for medical purposes because performing the procedure for religious reasons was not allowed in the former Soviet Union. When he first heard of the Cologne decision, he said he thought the court ruling was being misinterpreted.

“We thought it was a mistake, that it could not be true that something like circumcision could be forbidden in Germany,” he said.

But because of the religious significance, he said, they had the circumcision done, despite fears that other courts might follow the ruling even if it did not set a precedent.

“It was important enough to risk,” he said.

The most disturbing part of the ruling for Jews and Muslims is the court’s contention that being circumcised “runs contrary to the interest of the child to later choose his religious affiliation,” said Josh Spinner, an American rabbi who grew up in Hamilton, Canada, and has been in Berlin for more than a decade.

“I’m a circumcised male, I expect that I have the right to become a Catholic or Protestant or Buddhist or atheist if I choose to today. But what the court is saying is that if I am circumcised I am a Jew,” he said. “There’s a very dark and very illiberal view of what this mark does on the individual.”

Around 250,000 Jews live in Germany today, and about 4 million Muslims — the largest minority among Germany’s 82 million population.

Spinner said the ruling has the potential of opening the door to even greater restrictions on religious freedom for minorities — a particularly sensitive issue in Germany given the years of state-imposed anti-Jewish measures under the Nazis that preceded the Holocaust.

“Germany needs to understand that if they want to tolerate Jews then they need to tolerate Judaism,” Spinner said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged the same concern behind closed doors in a meeting this week with her party leaders, saying “I don’t want Germany to be the only country in the world in which Jews cannot perform their rituals,” according to an official who was present.

Immediately following the court ruling, however, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was alone among top officials to speak out on the issue. He offered assurances that “the free exercise of religion is protected in Germany — that includes religious traditions.”

In the past week, however, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert has weighed in several times, promising that the government will come up with a solution that will allow the practice.

And in Parliament on Thursday, lawmakers from several parties adopted a resolution urging the government to draft a new law by the fall guaranteeing Muslims and Jews the right to continue circumcising their boys.

“Jewish and Muslim religious life must continue to be possible in Germany,” the lawmakers said in the two-page resolution. “The circumcision of boys for Jews and Muslims has a central religious importance.”

Had the government spoken out strongly sooner, said Goldberg, Germany may have managed to prevent the discussion from turning into an “us vs. them” embroilment.

“I get a lot of emails from non-Jewish Germans saying things like ‘if you don’t like it, leave Germany’ — very anti-Semitic. It’s a bad atmosphere,” said the rabbi, who immigrated to Germany 19 years ago from Israel and now lives in the southeastern city of Hof.

“Nobody said anything aside from Westerwelle, so that is also partially the fault of the government.”

Joerg van Essen, parliamentary chief whip of the Free Democrats, Merkel’s junior coalition partner, said that drafting the resolution to protect circumcisions took time because lawmakers needed to carefully balance constitutionally guaranteed religious freedoms and parental rights with the safety of the child.

“It’s a relatively small procedure for the child, but banning it would be a big encroachment on religious freedom and the right of the parents to decide how to raise their children,” he said.

Furer said he hoped that the circumcision debate would be expose more Germans to other religious ideas.

“I think a lot of Germans don’t understand our religion and our religious issues,” he said.


Associated Press correspondent Frank Jordans contributed to this report.


Associated PressBy DAVID RISING | Associated Press

German MPs vow to protect circumcision after court ban.

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany‘s lower house of parliament is set to pass a cross-party resolution on Thursday to protect the religious circumcision of baby boys after a district court ban on the practice outraged Muslims and Jews.

              The main political parties have attacked the ruling by a Cologne court and conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s government has promised a new law to make clear doctors or families will not be punished for carrying out the procedure.

              The speed with which lawmakers agreed on the terms of the motion underscored sensitivity to charges of intolerance in a country haunted by its Nazi past.

              The draft resolution demands that “the government present a draft law in the autumn … that guarantees that the circumcision of boys, carried out with medical expertise and without unnecessary pain, is permitted”. The new law would overrule the Cologne decision.

              Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, a member of Merkel’s Free Democratic (FDP) coalition partner, said Germany had a duty to protect religious customs and promote tolerance.

              “The resolution shows that we live in a cosmopolitan and tolerant country,” Westerwelle told reporters. “It would be inexplicable … if Jewish citizens in Germany were not allowed to circumcise their boys.”

Merkel has said Germany risked becoming a “laughing stock” if Jews are not allowed to practise their rituals.


About 120,000 Jews are registered as living in Germany along with around 4 million Muslims, many of whom are from Turkey which has also criticized the court ruling.

              Germany’s Central Council of Jews described the Cologne ruling as an “unprecedented and dramatic intrusion” on religious freedom and the Central Council of Muslims in Germany called it a “blatant and inadmissible interference” in parents’ rights.

              However, a poll released on Thursday suggested almost half of Germans support a ban on the religious circumcision of boys. The YouGov survey showed 45 percent wanted to end the Islamic and Jewish tradition. About 42 percent were against a ban and 13 percent had no opinion.

              The Cologne court, ruling in the case of a Muslim boy who suffered bleeding after circumcision, said the practice inflicted bodily harm and should not be carried out on young boys, although it could be practised on older men with 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 tradition.

              The cross-party resolution condemns other “damaging and immoral procedures” carried out on children and young people including female genital mutilation.

              It will be rushed through in the same sitting as a vote on aid to Spain for which MPs were recalled from their holidays.

              (Editing by Gareth Jones and Andrew Heavens)


ReutersBy Madeline Chambers | Reuters 

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