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February 22, 2018 1:02 pm

Lawmaker Who Proposed Controversial Iceland Circumcision Ban Claims It Does Not Violate Religious Freedom

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

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Parliament House in Reykjavík. Photo: Zinneke via Wikimedia Commons.

The Icelandic lawmaker who proposed a controversial ban on circumcision told The Algemeiner in an interview this week that her bill does not violate religious freedom.

Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir of the Progressive party recently introduced the legislation in the Icelandic Parliament, where it is currently being debated. It proposes a blanket ban on male circumcision on the basis that it violates the rights of children. Violators of the law could receive up to six years in prison.

The bill has been widely condemned and opposed by Jewish groups across Europe.

Icelandic MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir. Photo: Framsókn via Flickr.

Defending the bill, Gunnarsdóttir compared male circumcision to female circumcision, saying, “In both cases the individual right of the child to choose, is taken away. Those procedures are unnecessary, done without their informed consent, non-reversible and can cause all kinds of severe complications, disfigurations, and even death. Thankfully, many do not have any complications, but some do and one is too many if the procedure is unnecessary.”

Gunnarsdóttir was asked by The Algemeiner whether she understood that such a ban would essentially make Jewish life in Iceland impossible.

She replied, “Banning circumcision does not go against the religious freedom of the parents. Jewish people will always be welcome in Iceland.”

In response to this statement, Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt — the president of the Conference of European Rabbis — said, “It is clear from the words of this member of parliament that she has not comprehended the ramifications of her proposal.”

Circumcision, Goldschmidt stated, “is a core principle in Jewish life. Proposing a ban is an affront to Jewish people who will have no other option but to leave the country in which they are legally prohibited from religious practice. … It is clear as day that once circumcision will be outlawed in Iceland, it will become impossible for young parents to stay in this country.”

“We call on Iceland’s lawmakers to fully comprehend the implication of this law,” he added.

Goldschmidt related the proposed ban to the overall rise of antisemitism and political extremism in Europe. “While open antisemitism has become politically incorrect in our time, we witness covert initiatives to rid countries of their Jewish populations,” he said. “This is another strain of populism, which threatens to disintegrate the very fabric and values which hold countries ascribing to Western civilization together.”

European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin met with Iceland’s ambassador to Belgium on Thursday and raised the issue of the ban with her.

After the meeting, Margolin said in a statement, “The ambassador had a very common-sense and pragmatic approach to this issue, and her words were very reassuring. It is clear from this meeting that this is a party-led initiative and not one that enjoys the initiative or direct support of the Icelandic Parliament as a whole. This on its own is a good start.”

He added that there would be an ongoing dialogue with Icelandic legislators on the subject.

Margolin echoed Goldschmidt in relating the ban to political trends in Europe, saying, “It reeks of the type of populism that is all too sadly manifesting itself across the European continent at the present time. … The import of such legislation ever becoming law is that it sets precedents for other European nations, and normalizes the branding of the entire Jewish population as ‘criminals’ for performing this important, vital and precious rite of ours. It cannot and will not be allowed to happen.”

Dr. Moshe Kantor — president of the European Jewish Congress — expressed similar sentiments, saying in a statement to The Algemeiner, “The European Jewish Congress has always fought against any ban which infringes on the right to religious freedom. We have always said that an attempt to ban a basic Jewish practice is a crude way of saying that Jews and their traditions are not welcome and this is absolutely unacceptable.”

Kantor also defended the practice of circumcision, saying, “We call upon one of the world’s oldest legislatures to respect the values of openness and tolerance to an age-old practice for which there is absolutely no evidence that it is harmful in any way.”

From within Iceland itself, Rabbi Avi Feldman of the country’s new Chabad Jewish Center said, “This is definitely an area of concern, and something that is very much on our minds. … We are hopeful that the proposal will include a provision for people of all faiths to practice their religion.”

The proposed ban was also condemned by Jewish groups outside of Europe. Zionist Organization of America National President Morton Klein said in a statement, “To be absolutely clear, circumcision is not an obscure or dated Jewish ritual or a mere local custom of some Jewish communities — it is and has been a core practice of Jewish life in every land throughout the long history of the Jewish people. Any legislation that bans the practice is essentially saying to Jews — ‘You are not welcome in this country’ — because Jewish life is impossible without it.”

Klein also defended circumcision as a practice, saying it “goes back to the covenant between God and Abraham in the book of Genesis. Since that time, it has been a central ritual of Jewish life, affirming the ongoing covenant in Jewish communities in every part of the world.

“There is no good reason to ban circumcision,” he noted. “Medical studies over the years have found that it causes no harm to those who undergo it. Indeed, certain health benefits derive from the practice. It is a fact, for example, that African tribes that practice circumcision have far lower incidence of AIDS than tribes that do not. Accordingly, there is no valid or compelling human rights or medical reason to enact legislation that bans the practice.”

Klein called on the Icelandic Parliament to reject the “deeply deplorable” bill should it come to a vote.

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  • kevin

    80% off the worlds men do just fine with their intact penises. High time the remaining 20% where allowed the same rights.

  • kevin

    Genital mutation of infants deserves no respect.

  • kevin

    Muslims and Jews should also get a life a quit with their fixation of cutting baby boys penises. It’s disgusting.

  • kevin

    None of the other choices that parents make involve cutting off healthy, normal, erogenous sexual tissue. If a parent cut any other body part off a boy or the genitals of the girl, they would be in jail pretty quick. That must tell you something about how ethical circumcision is. Just because you don’t have a foreskin doesn’t mean it was worthless. You can keep telling yourself that you weren’t harmed if that’s what it takes, but you know deep down it is a lie.

    • mtevans

      I can assure you that I was not harmed and appreciated the fact that my parents followed the age long Jewish tradition.

  • kevin

    In fact FGM and MGM are very similar. Both are unnecessary procedures performed on non consenting children to satisfy their parents wishes. Both procedures are harmful and remove healthy, erogenous, sexual tissue for the purpose of reducing sexual pleasure and for social conformity. Both procedures are a violation of the individual’s human rights. Both have false claims for health benefits and cleanliness. One procedure is illegal (FGM) and the other procedure is legal (MGM). Ya, so I guess they are different.

  • kevin

    Judaism is anti human rights as far as infant circumcision is concerned. Jewish parents have lied to their children for millennia telling them that the foreskin is just an extra useless flap of skin and the bris is harmless to babies and men. The foreskin is an important, healthy, normal, nerve rich and sensitive part of the human male body and is essential for experiencing normal sex, period. To cut it off an infant without his consent is a gross violation of medical ethics and human rights. This barbaric practice must end. We don’t care about how important it is to your religion. Get over it and join the 21st century. Human rights and ethics trump religious rights every time.

  • marbon67

    Her argument just doesn’t cut it.

  • Nemesis

    How much do you want to bet that this ‘progressive’ cunt has nothing against Muslim FGM?

  • Kris Kristian

    Jewish men have less chance of being affected with AIDS,
    It is the uncirumsisedm men who are liable to be affected with aids.
    The Jewish penis does not have a foreskin, which, if not properly cleaned after sex, can cause aids.
    Jewish men do not have a foreskin.
    so their chances of being affected by aids is very low,.
    That woman has denied the commandment from GOD.
    Does she also attack Muslims?

    • kevin

      In fact you are wrong. USA where 80% of men are circumcised has a 2 to 6 times higher rate of AIDS than Europe where 3% of men are circumcised. So it appears circumcision promotes the spread of AIDS. So much for the American studies that always show a link between AIDS and non circumcision that is never reflected in the actual infection data.

  • Magda Harker

    Alle, die lügen, sollen tot umfallen. Dann wär das Problem gelöst.

  • rosaliecesar

    I believe that this banning of circumcision in Iceland is not an Anti Semitic law because Islam also has the circumcision practise but it does violate Religious Freedom both for Jews and Muslims .

  • Jack Aiken

    Retarded Inbred Country, Where Incest is apparently not Avoidable. There only Hope is that those Volcano’s will stop there Gene problem. Amen.

  • Tamara van Utens

    I wonder if the bill’s author is motivated by the number of articles suggesting that uncircumcised males may have more satisfactory sexual experiences as adults than those circumcised in infancy e.g.

    • kevin

      Probably these studies that document the functions of the foreskin and it’s importance during sex are part of the campaign to ban infant circumcision. The foreskin is essential for normal sex and to experience the full range of sensitivity.

  • HansC

    I’m Jewish–circumcised and hate it.

    Go Iceland!

    • kevin

      Yes, Go Iceland. Show the world that human rights trump religious rights and we will have a model to follow.