A new ban proposed on male circumcision in Iceland has caused controversy amongst Muslim and Jewish communities across Europe.
The new bill, which is to be taken up by the Icelandic parliament, suggests a 6-year-long imprisonment for anyone carrying it out without medical reasons.
“Many Jews and Muslims fear the issue of circumcision could become a proxy for antisemitism and Islamophobia, pointing to similar tensions over religious dress and the ritual slaughter of animals for meat,” an article by British weekly, The Observer said.
A spokesperson for a Jewish campaign group Milah U.K. was quoted as saying by the daily that “circumcision – known as brit milah – is a non-negotiable element of Jewish identity, common to Jews from all backgrounds and respected in liberal democratic countries.”
“For a country such as Iceland, that considers itself a liberal democracy to ban it, thus making sustainable Jewish life in the country impossible, is extremely concerning.”
The president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor also said: “We can only assume that this attempt to ban a core practice of Jewish communities comes from ignorance about the practice and its effect on Jewish children, rather than to send a message that Jews are no longer welcome in Iceland.”
“Circumcision has been practiced for centuries, it is deeply rooted in cultural and religious traditions,” Ahmad Seddeeq, the imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Iceland, said.
The religious organizations in Iceland held a meeting earlier in February and voiced their concerns, saying they hoped to issue a declaration of opposition, according to Seddeeq.
Seddeeq also told The Observer that Muslims in the country are already traveling to neighboring countries as the local doctors are reluctant to carry out the operation.
“The benefits of this practice far exceed the risks,” Saddeeq said.
The new bill says the circumcision of young boys violates their rights and is incompatible with the U.N. convention on the rights of the child. The new bill was proposed by Silja Dogg Gunnarsdottir from the centre-right Progressive party.
Iceland’s population is 336,000 and it is thought to include 250 Jews and about 1,500 Muslims.
The proposed ban is not the only intervention into Muslims’ religious practices. The Danish parliament will hold a debate on banning face veils, a garment worn by Muslim women, in public.
Belgium last year banned halal and kosher meat – meat produced via Muslim and Jewish tradition – and Poland also proposed a law ending kosher slaughter.
The Icelandic bill on circumcision will go into committee stage if it passes the first reading and will become law in following months.