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Iceland’s Proposed Circumcision Ban Draws B’nai Brith Concern

By Aidan Fishman
Interim National Director of the League for Human Rights
B’nai Brith Canada

Feb. 28, 2018

OTTAWA – B’nai Brith Canada has conveyed its dismay to the Embassy of Iceland in Canada in light of a proposed ban on male circumcision.

The proposal is working its way this week through the parliament of this North Atlantic island.

The bill, which would ban non-medical circumcision for infants, has been submitted by a member of Iceland’s governing coalition, but “cannot be considered government policy,” according to a response received by B’nai Brith from the Icelandic Embassy.

Circumcision of infant males is an integral part of Judaism, dating back to the time of the patriarch Abraham. Circumcision is also widely practiced by Muslims and millions of other people around the world for non-religious reasons.

The Icelandic proposal has been condemned by the country’s tiny Jewish and Muslim populations. In a joint statement, leaders of the Nordic Jewish communities said that the proposed ban “will guarantee that no [Jewish] community will be established” in the country.

“Any attempt to ban this essential and benign practice is nothing less than an attack on religious freedom,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “Circumcision is so central to Jewish tradition that our organization is named for it – ‘Brith’ is the Hebrew term for the covenant of circumcision.”

Mostyn added: “We have asked Canada’s Ambassador to Iceland and officials at Global Affairs Canada to intercede with the Icelandic government on this important matter.”

In 2014, Norway adopted legislation protecting the right to male newborn circumcision. The American Academic of Pediatrics has declared that “the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks,” though it stopped short of recommending that every male infant be circumcised.

Canadians concerned by Iceland’s proposed circumcision ban are encouraged to contact the country’s parliament at [email protected].