Iceland to ban circumcision?

European Jews fear ban being promoted in Iceland's legislature could lead to similar bans across the continent.

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Tzvi Lev,

Brit milah (circumcision) ceremony (illustration)
Brit milah (circumcision) ceremony (illustration)
Flash 90

Icelandic MP's from five parties are promoting legislation aimed at prohibiting the circumcision of children - a ban European Jews fear could be imitated by other legislatures on the continent.

The bill would impose a punishment of up to six years in prison for anyone found guilty of "removing sexual organs in whole or in part" of a minor. According to the bill's drafters, circumcision "violates the rights" of young boys.

While acknowledging the role circumcision plays in Judaism and Islam, the law says that "the rights of a child" outweigh the "rights of the parents to give their children guidance when it comes to religion”. The legislation is supported by the Progressive Party, the Pirate Party, the Left-Greens and the People’s Party.

The move was swiftly condemned by the Conference of European Rabbis. "Circumcision is an important and critical part of Jewish life and there is no authority in the world that can forbid Jews from fulfilling this important mitzvah," said President Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt.

"Even though the Jewish population in Iceland is small, it is impossible to ignore the dangerous precedent set by this law and the implications that may lead to other countries," Rabbi Goldschmidt continued. "We call upon the decision-makers to immediately cancel this horrible legislation and to support Jewish life without restrictions".

Many Europeans view circumcision on minors as a violation of children’s rights. A similar debate is taking place across Denmark, which wants to ban the procedure entirely.

The Danish Health Ministry announced that as of 2017 it would require all circumcisions performed in the country to be registered at the local health office in order to supervise them. A recent survey found that 87% of Danish residents favor banning circumcision by law.