Is it possible to justify a Cologne court’s ruling on the legality of circumcision on the basis of Germany’s Basic Law? In this essay, Patrick Bahners takes a closer look at both the Basic Law and the ruling and concludes that the judges in Cologne must have made a serious error of judgement
Anyone who toils over his tax returns, painstakingly adding up write-offs and tax-free contributions, and finally comes to the conclusion that he can expect to receive a refund the size of the federal budget will instantly realise that the result cannot possibly be correct. Such obviously absurd conclusions also occur in the field of practical reason.
A ruling by a German regional court, which, if observed, would mean that all Jews would have to leave the country, cannot possibly be correct. Our human faculties of reason, better known as common sense, tell us so. This also explains the prompt and unequivocal reactions of leading politicians to the Cologne circumcision ruling. Their intuition is intact, which is certainly a relief.
The Catholic theologian and philosopher Heiner Bielefeldt talks in this interview about legitimate criticism of religion on the one hand and racist Islamophobia on the other hand. Bielefeldt claims that as long Islam is in line with the German Basic Law – and theologically figures out how to do so – there should be no conflict within the German society. Criticism may be uttered in a robust, even satirical way, but the limit is reached when the discussion comes to a point of simple defamation and marginalization.
Heiner Bielefeldt is the former director of the state-funded German Institute for Human Rights in Berlin. In September 2009, he assumed the very first German chair for Human Rights and Human Rights Policy at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. On this subject he has already published, among other things, a book entitled “Muslime im säkularen Rechtsstaat – Integrationschancen durch Religionsfreiheit” (Muslims in the Secular State Governed by the Rule of Law: Opportunities for Integration through Religious Freedom).
In the opinion of CSU boss Edmund Stoiber, social security benefits should be collected from immigrants if they do not participate in integration courses. It should also be possible to refuse them permanent residence status. Guenther Beckstein, the Bavarian Minister of the Interior, expressed his position in similar terms. Ute Vogt, vice chairman of the SPD, was one of the voices in the federal government that criticised the Leitkultur approach as the basis for integrating foreigners; the Basic Law should be sufficient, he argued, as the guiding principle.