It was bound to happen: Laws banning circumcision for infant boys. No one knew quite where it might start.
Turns out the place is none other than Iceland, lauded by some as being a “feminist paradise” with a former prime minister who was a lesbian, generous childcare benefits and a strong women’s movement. The circumcision ban is ostensibly to protect children. What the country’s tiny Muslim and Jewish minorities may think of that is not mentioned.
Here’s the bare bones recital from the Independent:
MPs from five different political parties in Iceland have proposed a ban on the circumcision of boys.
The bill, which has been submitted to the country’s parliament, suggests a six-year prison term for anyone found guilty of “removing sexual organs in whole or in part”.
Circumcising girls has been illegal in Iceland since 2005, but there are currently no laws to regulate the practice against boys.
Describing circumcision as a “violation” of young boys’ rights, the bill states the only time it should be considered is for “health reasons”.
Addressing religious traditions, it insists the “rights of the child” always exceed the “right of the parents to give their children guidance when it comes to religion”.
As to who thought up this bill and why, we hear nothing. Think about that for a moment. That's a rather important hole in the story. Right?
Ynetnews.com, the internet site of Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's most read newspaper, reports that Scandanavian Jews are furious at the development.
Senior European rabbis are fuming at the legislative initiative and are calling on Jewish communities on the continent to apply international pressure in order to prevent the bill's adoption and ensure freedom of religion.
Iceland has no official rabbi. The Chief Rabbi of Denmark Yair Melchior and the Rabbi of Oslo, Yoav Melchior are leading the campaign...
"As it looks now, the bill has a high chance of passing," wrote the Melchior brothers. "Iceland does not have a significant Jewish or Muslim population; therefore there are hardly any opponents to the bill. Only considerable international pressure can help."
We also learn from the piece that there’s a similar movement banning circumcision in Denmark.
As I looked around for other articles on this development, I found nothing about the reactions of local Jews and Muslims. Think about that for a moment, too.
I’ve been to Iceland twice and follow developments in the country to some extent, so I knew the country got its first mosque in 2014. A simple Wikipedia search reveals that while there’s no synagogue in Iceland, the former first lady, Israeli-born Dorrit Moussaieff, is Jewish. Would she have something to say about this bill?
As how many Jews there are in Iceland, the Iceland Review reported back in 2011 that visiting rabbinical students had counted about 90 residing in the country. Surely it’s possible to find a handful of them for quotes. Need a local expert? Why not try Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson, a Danish archaeologist and curator at the National Museum of Iceland who has researched the Holocaust and Iceland’s tiny Jewish community.
How about some Icelandic history? In 2015, the Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a travel warning advising Jews not to travel to Iceland after the tiny country voted to boycott Israeli goods in protest of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
The boycott was revoked, and there was some question as to whether there were any Israeli products in Iceland. Still, is there already bad blood between the two countries that provides an atmosphere for an anti-circumcision bill? Imagine how Christians would feel if they were told if they couldn’t baptize their children to get a sense of how Jews and Muslims in Iceland –- as few of them there may be –- must feel.
So there’s a lot more to this circumcision vote than meets the eye. Does Iceland even have a mohel (a person trained to perform circumcisions)? How many circumcisions are performed in the country, anyway? A lot of people who allow the operation on their infant sons are Gentiles who advocate it for health reasons. The vast percentage of Icelanders are Lutherans and I'm willing to bet not a few circumcise their boys.
Do the members of the Icelandic parliament want to take on those people? Crux points out that worldwide, 25 to 30 percent of all newborn males are circumcised, so we're not just talking about Jews and Muslims here.
Obviously a lot more reporting need to be done by folks who have a clue about Iceland, who’ve been there and who have even studied the place. Because if this bill ever passes, there needs to actually be some enlightened reporting on a country willing to be a laboratory for radical ideas.
MAIN IMAGE: From the Smithsonian Institution.