After the recent attempts to outlaw religious circumcision in parts of Europe, European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor has written a letter to European leaders calling for dialogue and mutual agreement on the issue which has escalated over the last few months. The letter was sent to national leaders as well as senior EU officials, including European Parliament President Martin Schulz, the president of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy.
In the letter, Kantor writes that these “assaults on our religion are causing untold anxiety to Jewish communities across Europe who are successfully balancing their adherence to European law and principles of their Jewish faith.” Circumcision came under assault when a regional German court in Cologne ruled that religious circumcisions were unlawful earlier in the year. This soon spread to neighboring countries like Austria and Switzerland and has since arisen in other European countries, including Scandinavia. Most recently, the Finnish political party True Finns expressed its intention to present a bill to parliament that would make ritual circumcision a criminal offense.
“The basic right of freedom of religious expression is not only enshrined in the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights and in the European Convention of Human Rights but is also heavily protected by national legislation in member states,” Kantor wrote, saying that the best way to stem the assault is through dialogue, citing the model of the mutual agreement between the Dutch Government and the Jewish community over attempts to proscribe kosher slaughter in the Netherlands.
“In the highest spirit of European tolerance and conciliation we are happy to discuss these issues further with you and express our concerns in a more detailed manner in the hope that we can secure a resolution to allow for the full freedom to continue practicing our religion.” Kantor wrote.
In addition to sending the letters, an EJC delegation headed by Kantor met with senior European officials on this and related issues.