A German court's decision to ban the circumcising of young boys for religious reasons has been criticised by the German foreign minister.
Guido Westerwelle told the Bild newspaper that "Germany is an open-minded, tolerant country where religious freedom is firmly established and religious traditions like circumcision are considered an expression of religious pluralism."
On Tuesday, a court in Cologne ruled that involuntary religious circumcision should be illegal on the grounds it could inflict serious bodily harm on those who had not consented to it.
The ruling applies only to the area around the western city of Cologne, but Jews and Muslims fear other states could follow suit.
The court ruled that "the fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighs the fundamental rights of the parents".
Westerwelle said this decision had caused 'irritation' around the world, with the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet's quoting the Turkish European Minister Egemen Bagis as saying that circumcision was a matter of freedom of religion and conscience.
"If German judges have a problem understanding this issue, we can send our scientific circumcisers, we can give them lessons in how to circumcise," he said.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany said the ruling was an "unprecedented and dramatic intrusion" on religious freedom, while the Central Council of Muslims in Germany said it was "blatant and inadmissible interference" in the rights of parents.
The country's two main Christian churches also hit out at the ruling, with the Catholic Episcopal Conference calling it "extremely disconcerting".
"To ban circumcision is a serious attack on religious freedom," said Catholic Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff.
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