Iceland - Religious Groups Outraged over Banning Circumcision


Only 20 years ago, nearly 90 percent of all Icelanders were religious believers. Today, less than 50 percent are. Exactly zero percent of young Icelanders believe that God created the Earth, a recent Gallup International and WI Network of Market Research poll found. It is therefore not surprising that Iceland could become the first country in Europe to ban male circumcision.

Circumcising women has been illegal in Iceland since 2005, but until now there have been no laws in regard to the circumcision of boys. This is possibly because circumcision is not a tradition in Iceland, a country where the Muslim and the Jewish communities in Iceland are very small. The latest bill (in Icelandic) says circumcision "involves permanent interventions in a child's body that can cause severe pain". If it passes its first reading, the draft law will go to a committee stage before it can come into effect.

Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir, a lawmaker from the center-right Progressive Party, said she proposed the measure after realizing the country’s ban on female genital mutilation had no equivalent to prevent male circumcision.

Iceland outlawed female genital mutilation in 2005, in line with other nations, to prevent procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

“We are talking about children’s rights, not about freedom of belief,” she said when she introduced the bill in early February. “Everyone has the right to believe in what they want, but the rights of children come above the right to believe.”

According to the Grapevine, the male circumcision would be possible if there is the evidence it will benefit baby boys medically:

In the Icelandic bill, the only exception for circumcising a boy would be precisely to protect a child’s health. In all other circumstances, however, the practice is a clear violation of human rights against children who are too young to have a say in this. When it comes to religious reasons, then, the practice would be strictly banned and punished with up to six years of prison for personal assault.

About 336,000 people live in Iceland, including 250 Jews and 1,500 Muslims, according to government statistics and Seddeeq. Religious groups are now expressing outrage over the proposal. "It's an attack on freedom of religion," Ahmad Seddeeq, the Egyptian-born imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of Iceland, said Monday. Jews and Muslims typically circumcise their sons to confirm or mark their relationship with God.

Milah U.K., a British group that protects the Jewish community's right carry out religious circumcision, said, "For a country such as Iceland, that considers itself a liberal democracy, to ban it, thus making sustainable Jewish life in the country impossible, is extremely concerning." "You are about to attack Judaism in a way that concerns Jews all over the world," the open letter from The Nordic Jewish Communities reads.

Photo Credits: The Blue Diamond Gallery

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