Brit milah (circumcision) ceremony (illustrat
Brit milah (circumcision) ceremony (illustratIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Norway's new Foreign Minister Børge Brende assured senior officials of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) that "the Norwegian Government recognizes the importance of ritual male circumcision for the Jewish community in Norway…[and] it will not propose a ban on ritual circumcision." 

The Wiesenthal Center raised concerns over Norway's proposed ban on ritual circumcision (brit milah). The concerns prompted Brende to send his assurances by letter last Friday to Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Center's Associate Dean and Mark Weitzman, its Director of Government Affairs.

In response to the Foreign Minister's words, Cooper and Weitzman commended "the Government of Norway for declaring their commitment not to ban brit milah and for reaffirming their commitment to protecting 'religious freedom as enshrined in international law.'"

Norway has not been the only country talking about banning the Jewish ritual.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in early October passed a resolution calling for the banning of ritual circumcision. The head of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, urged the council to reconsider the resolution and confirmed there was no binding law banning brit milah.

Furthermore, European calls to ban ritual circumcision were echoed this month by politicians in Quebec.

Regarding proposed bans, the Wiesenthal Center said "the Jewish world is for the first time confronted with efforts in numerous countries to ban Jewish rituals. Historically, such draconian actions were taken by tyrants, dictators and mass murderers. Today we are confronted with such initiatives being proposed and passed in democracies...We urge all European democracies who currently criminalize or are seeking to criminalize core Judaic practices to recognize that such laws and initiatives stand in direct defiance of international laws protecting religious freedom."

The Wiesenthal Center has also been vocal in calling for Norway to rescind its longstanding anti-Semitic ban on Jewish ritual slaughter (shechita) which has been law since 1929.