Church leaders blast Iceland’s anti-circumcision bill

This would make Jews and Muslims "criminals," bishop says.

February 19, 2018 16:35
2 minute read.
A general view of Reykjavik, Iceland

A general view of Reykjavik, Iceland. (photo credit: REUTERS/MICHAELA REHLE)

The chief official of Iceland’s National Church has blasted the country’s proposed ban on circumcision, saying that if the bill becomes law it will criminalize Judaism and Islam on the Nordic island.

“There is a danger that if the bill will become law, Judaism and Islam will be subject to criminal religious beliefs and that persons who adhere to them will be banned in this country or unwelcome,” Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir said in a report to parliament on the bill for the amendment of the criminal code concerning boys’ circumcision. “All such extremes should be avoided.”

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As the draft law stands now, anyone found to have removed “part or all of the [child’s] sexual organs” would be guilty of violating the child’s rights, and would face a six-year prison term.

Sigurðardóttir said she was proud that the country has successfully banned female genial mutilation in 2005, but that a ban on circumcision was different given that it is a wide-held practice around the world and the bill seems to have missed that point.

“It is important that parliament and society should be in a position to discuss this delicate matter in such a way that there is scope for listening to the views of different cultures,” she said. “It is doubtful that the bill will be successful in promoting enlightened discussion.”

In practice, the actual ban would make no practically difference in the Christian country. The Reykjavik Grapevine web site has reported that there has only been one male circumcision recorded at the Directorate of Health, in 2006, and independent medical professionals in Iceland have performed 13 circumcisions of boys under 18 from 2010 to 2016. Iceland, which has a population of around 334,000, has a small Muslim population of a few hundred, and its Jewish population consists of about 100 people.

Just last week, however, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement announced that it would be sending emissaries to the island in order to help build up the community.

Jewish and Muslim groups have been outspoken regarding the ban, but the Icelandic bishop hasn’t been the only one to condemn the proposal in the Christian world.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a German member of the Catholic Church, also sees this bill as a clear attempt to remove any non-Christian factors from Icelandic society.

“Protecting the health of children is a legitimate goal of every society, but in this case this concern is instrumentalized, without any scientific basis, to stigmatize certain religious communities. This is extremely worrying,” he said.
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