Both Jewish and Muslim leaders have criticized the ruling by a court in Cologne, Der Spiegel reported. The decision is only binding in the Cologne region, but religious leaders fear it could be a precedent for the rest of Germany.
The case involved a 4-year-old Muslim boy who was circumcised in 2010. Two days later, his parents brought him to an emergency room with bleeding and the doctor who performed the procedure was prosecuted for harming a child.
The doctor was acquitted, and prosecutors appealed. The regional court dismissed the prosecution, arguing the doctor was protected by the vagueness of German law on the subject of circumcision, but found that the procedure does cause "bodily harm."
The Central Council of Jews called the decision an "unprecedented and dramatic intrusion on the right to self-determination of religious communities."
Ali Demir, chairman of the Islamic Religious Community, said he fears parents could be prosecuted.
"This is a harmless procedure, a tradition that is thousands of years old and highly symbolic," he said.