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Jewish leaders hit out over Iceland’s plans to ban boys’ circumcision

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Jewish leaders hit out over Iceland’s plans to ban boys’ circumcision
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Jewish leaders in Europe have slammed a draft law that proposes to ban boys in Iceland from being circumcised.

They say the outline legislation — set to be debated in Iceland’s parliament in the coming weeks — would be an attack on Judaism.

The proposal has been put forward by Progressive Party MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir and is backed by several other Icelandic politicians.

Circumcising girls has been illegal in Iceland since 2005, but there is no provision for boys, Gunnarsdóttir told Euronews.

The bill proposes a six-year prison term for anyone found guilty of “removing part or all of the [child’s] sexual organs”.

But religious leaders — including those from the Jewish and Catholic community — have criticised the plans.

The Jewish Communities in the Nordic Countries said if passed the law would stop its brethren from establishing themselves in Iceland.

“Iceland would be the only country to ban one of the most central, if not the most central rite in the Jewish tradition in modern times,” the letter continued.

“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.

“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.”

Gunnarsdóttir said Jewish and Muslim communities were not very big in Iceland but that they were getting more common.

She said while circumcisions based on religious grounds were rare, they were not unknown.

“I see it as a child protection matter,” Gunnarsdóttir added. “In Iceland we acknowledge the right to believe but we also acknowledge the right and freedom of everyone to choose and have their opinions.

“I stand by that and I say people should be allowed to have their beliefs for themselves but you have to draw the line when it’s about other people. Children should also have their own rights for their own beliefs when they are adults.”

Gunnarsdóttir said she was acting on advice issued by children’s ombudsmen in five Nordic countries. They said in 2013 that “circumcision without a medical indication on a person unable to provide informed consent conflicts with basic principles of medical ethics, particularly because the operation is irreversible, painful and may cause serious complications."