A court in Germany has ruled that circumcision on religious grounds amounts to bodily harm, making it potentially punishable by law. Sociologist of religion Rolf Schieder says this is an unacceptable move that questions the right to religious freedom
Upon first glance, the Cologne district court is correct: any medical intervention in the case of a child amounts to bodily harm in Germany. The same applies to the removal of a wart, just as it does to the removal of a boy’s foreskin. The state has both the right and the duty to assess whether the medical treatment carried out on the child is in the interests of that child. If for example the removal of a child’s tonsils is in the interests of the child’s welfare, then despite the fact that this is amounts to bodily harm, the actions of the doctor are justified.
As a rule, medical reasons are accepted as justification. So if the Muslim parents in Cologne had explained to the doctor that they wanted a circumcision for reasons of hygiene, the case would not have come as far through the courts as it eventually did.
Furthermore, until the Cologne district court ruling, the commonly-held view among lawyers competent in such religiously sensitive legal matters was that adherence to a religious tradition is an acceptable basis for justification. This was even the assumption of the first court to deal with the matter, the Cologne magistrates’ court.
12 June 2012
The Dutch Upper House has rejected a ban on ritual animal slaughter without anaesthetizing animals first. Earlier this month Jewish and Islamic organizations had agreed to an agreement stipulating that ritual slaughter was permitted in the case that an animal would be dead forty seconds after the cut was administered to its neck.
Following the agreement, Animal Rights Party member Marianne Thieme has debated the bill in the Dutch Senate. This is the second time the bill has been debated in the Senate: the bill was passed with large majority in the Lower House in June 2011, but stalled in the Upper House in December 2011.
June 5 2012
Religious leaders in the Netherlands have signed an agreement with Deputy Minister Henk Bleker amending the terms of ritual animal slaughter in the country. The agreement states that an animal must be unconscious within forty seconds of the cut to its throat, or else must be stunned. The minister, interest groups and the slaughterhouse association have all signed the agreement.
The accord, Bleker states, provides “a good balance… between religious freedom and the improvement of the welfare of animals.” Rasit Bal, chair of the Muslim and Government Contact Group, stated that he is happy the agreement enables Muslims to continue to practice halal ritual slaughter in the country.
The agreement comes into force next week, ending negotiations over a proposed ban on ritual slaughter which have carried on since June 2011. A scientific advice committee has been established to answer any questions about the new procedures.
14 December 2011
A debate in the Netherlands over a proposed ban on ritual slaughter continues with a majority of senators in the upper house of parliament now opposing the ban. A large majority of MPs in the lower house voted in favour of a ban in June, though Jewish and Muslim groups oppose the proposition. The change comes as members of the Labour and Liberal VVD parties decided to oppose the ban; members of the country’s Christian Democrats had opposed from the outset. The senate vote, now a foregone conclusion, will take place next Tuesday.
October 19 2011
The future of a proposed ban on ritual slaughter in the Netherlands is in doubt, as the ruling VVD party appears unlikely to support the legislation in the senate. VVD Senator Sybe Schaap commented that the ban, which has drawn criticism from Muslim and Jewish religious organizations, ‘has a poor legal framework’. He would not say definitively if the VVD would vote against the legislation.
28 June 2011
The Dutch parliament voted in favour of banning kosher and halal slaughter of animals, following debate which saw considerable resistance from Jewish and Muslim communities. The ban contains an exception such that groups able to prove that animals do not suffer comparatively more during ritual slaughter than standard methods will be permitted to continue with halal and kosher methods. While several MPs voed against the ban on religious grounds, it passed in parliament 116 to 30. The story received considerable coverage internationally.
23 June 2011
A hotly debated proposal in Dutch parliament to ban ritual slaughter has potentially reached a compromise. This compromise would allow ritual slaughter to continue under certain circumstances, and has the support of a slim majority of MPs. It would allow exceptions to the ban on slaughtering animals which have not been stunned if it can be proved this does not cause them more suffering. D66 MP Stientje van Veldhoven said the proposal would allow Jewish and Islamic groups to find alternatives to their current methods of slaughter which do fit with their religious beliefs. Following this week’s debate parliament will vote on the proposed ban next week.
June 9 2011
A proposed ban on ritual slaughter which currently had majority support in the Netherlands parliament is facing continued resistance. The ban targets the production of kosher and halal meat in the country. Members of the national Green Left (GroenLinks) are being asked to vote against the ban, while the VVD party asks the government to refocus its attention on industrial rather than ritual slaughter. The parliament is due to debate the issue again on June 16.
Mercabarna, the Barcelona’s slaughterhouse, is one of the most important slaughterhouses for Muslims in Spain. Last year 127,651 lambs were killed (32.8% of total) in Mercabarna following the Islamic ritual. Three quarters of these products were exported to south of France, Italy and even countries as Egypt or Turkey. Morocco is also an emerging market. The slaughterhouse employs nine Muslim slaughterers who are trained, approved and certified by the Halal Institute (supervised by Junta Islámica).
The Dutch Parliament has terminated efforts by the country’s animal rights party (PvdD) to ban the ritual slaughter of animals without anaesthetic. MPs announced that religious freedoms were more important. The news is of relevance to both Jewish and Muslim communities in the country, and their ritual slaughter of cows, chickens, sheep and goats.