Iceland’s Mooted Circumcision Ban Sparks Religious Outrage

Religious groups have condemned a bill in Iceland’s parliament that would ban circumcision for non-medical reasons.

The draft law would impose a six-year prison term on anyone guilty of “removing part or all of the [child’s] sexual organs”, arguing the practice violates the child’s rights.

Jewish and Muslim leaders, however, have called the bill an attack on religious freedom.

Iceland would be the first European country to ban the procedure.

The country is thought to have roughly 250 Jewish citizens and around 1,500 Muslim citizens.

Why is the bill being introduced?

MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir of the Progressive Party, who introduced the bill at the start of the month, said: “We are talking about children’s rights, not about freedom of belief.

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

Iceland passed a law in 2005 banning female genital mutilation, and supporters of this move have compared it to that law.

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.

What do religious groups say?

The Nordic Jewish Communities issued a statement condemning the ban on “the most central rite” in their faith.

“You are about to attack Judaism in a way that concerns Jews all over the world,” the open letter reads.

Jewish campaign group Milah UK stated that comparisons with female genital mutilation are unwarranted, given that in the case of male circumcision there is “no recognised long-term negative impact on the child”.

Imam Ahmad Seddeeq at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Iceland also criticised the move.

“It’s… part of our faith,” he said.” It’s something that touches our religion and I believe that this is… a contravention [of] religious freedom.”

The Bishop of Reykjavik, Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir, warned Jewish and Muslim people could feel “unwelcome” in Iceland.

“The danger that arises, if this bill becomes law, is that Judaism and Islam will become criminalised religions,” she said. “We must avoid all such forms of extremism.”

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