Iceland’s circumcision ban bill draws religious protest

A proposal to ban circumcision in Iceland for non-medical reasons has drawn protest from Iceland’s Catholic bishop, Davíð Tencer.

In common with other religious leaders in Iceland, Tencer is concerned the bill before Iceland’s parliament compromised the Icelandic Jewish and Muslim communities’ right to observe their religious practices.

“Jesus Himself was circumcised, as were His apostles,” the bishop wrote in a letter to other religious leaders.

“We fully support Muslims and Jews in their fight to freely express their faith.”

Tencer says the bill could be tantamount to religious persecution.

“To us [religious leaders] it looks like this can be an opportunity for those who are interested in this matter to misuse the subject of circumcision in an attempt to persecute individuals for their religion.”

The bill, introduced by four political parties, uses the same wording as a 2005 Icelandic law banning female genital mutilation, changing the word “girls” to “children”.

If passed into law, people who violate the ban could be imprisoned for up to six years.

Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir has also condemned the ban.

“The danger that arises, if this bill becomes law, is that Judaism and Islam will become criminalised religions,” she says, and “that individuals who subscribe to these faiths will be banned in this country and unwelcome.”

Silja Dogg Gunnarsdóttir from the Progressive Party says she proposed the bill as part of children’s health rights.

She says it not about religious beliefs but was instead a health issue.

“Everyone has the right to believe in what they want, but the rights of children come above the right to believe,” she says.

Rabbi Yair Melchior says a circumcision ban does not exist in any country but Iceland. He is concerned if the bill is passed into law when politicians vote on it in June, it could set a precedent.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, says the bill is perceived as an anti-immigration issue directed against Muslims “and we the Jews are the collateral damage.”

It is “basically saying that Jews are not anymore welcome in Iceland,” he says.

Ahmad Seddeeq, the imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of Iceland, called it “a contravention to the religious rights of freedom” that criminalises a centuries-old tradition.


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