(February 14, 2018 / JNS) Scandinavian Jewish leaders have slammed proposed legislation in Iceland that would ban ritual circumcision of boys in the country.
In an open letter issued by the Jewish Communities in the Nordic Countries, which represents Jewish communities in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland, the Jewish leaders said that the proposed ban would make Iceland one of the only countries in the world “to ban one of the most central, if not the most central rite in the Jewish tradition in modern times,” wrote Aron Verständig, Dan Rosenberg-Asmussen, Ervin Kohn and Yaron Nadbornik. “But it would not be the first time in the long tradition of the Jewish people. Throughout history, more than one oppressive regime has tried to suppress our people and eradicate Judaism by prohibiting our religious practices.”
They continued: “This letter might be perceived as meddling in Iceland’s internal affairs. And why should we care? The reason is that you are 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 proposed legislation, which was put forward by eight members of Iceland’s 63-member parliament, including MPs from the Progressive Party, the Pirate Party, the Left Greens and the People’s Party, seeks to criminalize circumcision of boys under the age of 18. Both Jews and Muslims consider male circumcision a central tenant of their faith that is generally performed during childhood.
European Catholic leaders have also condemned Iceland’s circumcision bill, calling it an attack on religious freedom and have urged the European Union to block the law.
Iceland, which has a population of around 300,000, is home to only a few hundred Jews and Muslims. However, the island nation is set to open a synagogue soon, with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement announcing plans to start a Chabad center in Reykjavik to serve the Jewish community and visitors there.