Should Iceland outlaw circumcision for boys – a common practice among Jews and Muslims – it will prevent Jewish communities from being established in the country, Jewish leaders warn.
A bill that would ban the nonmedical circumcision of boys younger than 18 has triggered a strong reaction from the heads of Scandinavian Jewish communities. It was submitted by members of four parties and would also punish offenders with up to six years in prison.
In a joint letter, representatives of Jewish communities and councils in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland warn Iceland against becoming “the only country to ban one of the most central, if not the most central rite in the Jewish tradition, in modern times,” urging it to follow Norway, where right to circumcision is protected by law.
Throughout history, “more than one oppressive regime” tried “to suppress our people and eradicate Judaism by prohibiting our religious practices,” the letter reads.
With around 250 Jews living in Iceland without any organized community, banning the ritual, which is obligatory in Judaism, “will be an effective deterrent and will guarantee that no Jewish community will be established,” the letter warns.
The letter “might be perceived as meddling in Iceland’s internal affairs,” the writers admit. “And why should we care?” they ask. Because Iceland is “about to attack Judaism in a way that concerns Jews all over the world.”
“If any country with next to no Christian inhabitants would ban a central rite in Christianity, like communion for instance, we are certain that the whole Christian world would react as well.”
The Catholic community of the EU, however, also condemned the bill, saying it considers “any attempt on the fundamental right to freedom of religion as unacceptable.”
“The criminalisation of circumcision is a very grave measure that raises deep concern,” the Catholic Church in the European Union (COMECE) president and head of the Catholic Church in Germany, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, said.
Icelandic MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir from the Progressive Party, which proposed the bill, sees it as “a child protection matter.”
“In Iceland we acknowledge the right to believe but we also acknowledge the right and freedom of everyone to choose and have their opinions,” she told Euronews.
The debate comes as Chabad, a prominent Jewish Orthodox organization, is set to send a rabbi to Reykjavic, the “last European capital” without one.
“We hope to bring this awareness to local Icelandic people and especially to lawmakers in their decision on rules, which we hope will have a religious exemption clause,” Rabbi Avi Feldman said.