Iceland could become first country to ban male circumcision

Opponents of male circumcision hold signs outside a medical clinic during a news conference in San Francisco on July 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

(USA Today) — Iceland could become the first country in Europe to ban male circumcision, prompting criticism from religious groups about the ritual practiced in both Judaism and Islam.

The legislation being debated by Iceland's Parliament would impose a six-year jail term on anyone who "removes part or all of (a child's) sexual organs" for nonmedical reasons.

"It's an attack on freedom of religion," Ahmad Seddeeq, the Egyptian-born imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of Iceland, said Monday (Feb. 19).

Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir, a lawmaker from the center-right Progressive Party, said she proposed the measure after realizing the country's ban on female genital mutilation had no equivalent to prevent male circumcision.

Iceland outlawed female genital mutilation in 2005, in line with other nations, to prevent procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for nonmedical reasons.

"We are talking about children's rights, not about freedom of belief," she said when she introduced the bill in early February. "Everyone has the right to believe in what they want, but the rights of children come above the right to believe."

About 336,000 people live in Iceland, including 250 Jews and 1,500 Muslims, according to government statistics and Seddeeq.

This Nordic island nation is known for progressive legislation on gender equality. Last month, the government made it illegal for companies to pay women less than men — another world first.

The religious ritual of male circumcision, or removing the foreskin from the penis, generally occurs shortly after birth, during childhood or around puberty as a rite of passage. Jews and Muslims typically circumcise their sons to confirm or mark their relationship with God.

While the practice is often associated with Judaism, a 2007 report by the World Health Organization said Muslims are the largest religious group to perform male circumcision. An estimated 30 percent of all males globally are circumcised, and about two-thirds of them are Muslim, the organization said.

In the United States, 98 percent of Jewish men are circumcised, according to the world agency. The organization also said there is substantial evidence that male circumcision protects against diseases, such as urinary tract infections, syphilis, invasive penile cancer and HIV.

In Iceland, Gunnarsdóttir's draft law has political support in Parliament and popular backing. But religious leaders around Europe worry that Iceland's quest to protect children is trampling on religious practices and could amount to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

"Protecting the health of children is a legitimate goal of every society, but in this case (it is being used) without any scientific basis, to stigmatize certain religious communities," said Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the Brussels-based Catholic Church in the European Union.

Milah U.K., a British group that protects the Jewish community's right carry out religious circumcision, said, "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."

Seddeeq pointed out that native-born Icelanders do not get circumcised, and he is not aware of any medical specialists in the country trained to perform the procedure. He took his own 3-year-old son to Egypt to have it done.

"What's the point in banning something that doesn't really exist?" he said.


  1. Good! Genital mutilation of children is wrong in all instances.

  2. There is, and should be, no right to perform any medically unnecessary process on anyone incapable of giving informed consent to the event.

    Just because someone sincerely believes that their deity wants it done is not enough.

    Would those advocating such behaviour (mutilating a person male or female) accept having their ears and nose removed simply because I believed it was required by my invisible friend?

    This shouldn’t even be a topic for discussion in the 21st century.

  3. I see no good reason why anybody should have pieces of their body cut off by somebody else without their own permission…I guess I will make an exception for children’s hair and fingernails !!

    I understand Jewish sensibilities…But hey, you know…YWHY changed his mind on lots of things in the Tanakh — He’s cutting us all a break on shellfish and non-cloven hooves, etc…

    …He won’t mind if both girls and boys have their private parts intact. What you do with those intact private parts…Now that is a completely different, more wrathful story !!

  4. Who is YHVH cutting (pun intended?) a break on shellfish and cloven hooves?

  5. They pick on a religious and hygienic issue eight days after birth but will abort the baby in the last trimester?

  6. I stand corrected. Iceland abortion laws are what I’d like to see in America. I apologize for shooting my keyboard off.

  7. There is a difference, a BIG difference, between female genital mutilation which is designed to inhibit the full sexual experience of women in the erroneous belief that it will keep a woman “faithful” (all the while the man can get as much as he wants from as many as he wants). Circumcision does nothing to change or alter a man’s sexual experience and has been PROVEN to be healthier and cleaner for all concerned. In addition, it is a religious practice that has been going on for thousands of years and is therefore protected by law. These wackadoodles here are being contrary for the sake of not having anything interesting to do so let’s protest this. They don’t have a voice to stand on.

  8. Nobody who believes Leviticus is the inerrant word of God…is really making much effort stopping us from eating crabs or lobster, or pork (non-Cloven hooves — corrected). So I think Big-G won’t mind if we ban cutting pieces of the penis off, Leviticus 12:3…and spare girls the knife too !!

    However, Still some progress to be made on getting Yahweh to ease up on who we lovingly share our private parts with and when !!

  9. No, Sorry, the foreskin has a purpose — it should not be cut off without permission of it’s owner.

  10. I see that the NFL team in D.C. has a candidate for a new name.

  11. I see no good reason why anybody should have pieces of their body cut off by somebody else without their own permission.

    I agree. I miss my umbilical cord.

  12. “it is a religious practice that has been going on for thousands of years and is therefore protected by law”

    1 – therefore? – is it protected by law or just by custom?
    2 – slavery has been going on for thousands of years and was protected by law – doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.

    – – – – – –

    “Circumcision does nothing to change or alter a man’s sexual experience and has been PROVEN to be healthier and cleaner for all concerned”.

    As someone who’s phimosis was cured after puberty I can assure you that it did make a difference to sexual experience.
    In my case it was probably healthier – I can’t speak for others… but… this was my body and my decision and I’m grateful to my parents that, despite their concerns, they left the decision to me.

    I accept that sometimes it is a parent’s responsibility to take a decision about their child’s welfare – when, and only when, it is necessary. Otherwise the decision should be deferred until informed consent is possible and only carried out once that informed consent has been given – anything less is to disrespect the humanity of the child.

    I appreciate that, in some cultures, children are regarded as possessions – those cultures are outmoded and need to change.

  13. “Some parents choose to omit cord severance entirely, a practice called “lotus birth” or umbilical nonseverance. The entire intact umbilical cord is allowed to dry and separates on its own (typically on the 3rd day after birth), falling off and leaving a healed umbilicus.”

  14. On the other hand:

    There is significant risk associated with keeping a newborn connected to what is essentially a dead and decaying organ, Dr. William Schweizer, an OB/GYN and clinical associate professor at New York University Langone Medical Center, told Live Science in an email.

    “Risks center around a concern for infection in the placenta, which can spread to the baby. The placenta is dead tissue, and because of this, the blood in it is prone to bacterial overgrowth,” Schweizer explained.

  15. Your earlier comment implied that the loss of your umbilical cord was covered within “I see no good reason why anybody should have pieces of their body cut off by somebody else without their own permission”

    Now you say there is, as I agree, a good reason.

    Either I’ve misunderstood you or your position appears inconsistent.

  16. “Nobody who believes Leviticus is the inerrant word of God…”

    Are you referring to Christians here, or somebody else?

    If Christians, there is no reason why they should stop anyone, including themselves- from “eating crabs, and lobster, or pork (non-cloven hooves–corrected)”.

    If you are referring to Jews, then observant ones certainly abstain from those things, and would vehemently object to you forcing them deny their religion by eating such foods. Just as they would vehemently object to you forcing them to deny their religion by banning circumcision.

  17. So basically, Iceland is considering driving out practicing Jews and Muslims in order to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. How “tolerant” of them.

  18. Referring to multiple religions…

    That is too bad if anybody religiously objects to banning circumcision or genital mutilation (same thing). Iceland is getting it right !!

    Ask the owner of the genitals at an age appropriate time before cutting piece(s) off or modifying them in any way.Their parents religion must stand aside.

  19. Ah, the intolerant “tolerance” of the totalitarian “progressives”.

    And precisely WHAT “multiple religions” that believe in Leviticus as the inerrant word of God do you fault for not banning shellfish, etc. Your line of reasoning seems incoherent.

  20. You don’t know about fundamentalist Christians? They are all about the sex limitations of Leviticus — but never enforce the shell-fish or non-cud-chewing parts.

    Who is intolerant here? Those with a knife at an infant’s private parts?…Or those trying to stop knife wielders?

  21. Of course I know about them. But the issue really has little to do with them.

    The Apostolic Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) indicates what parts of the Law are to be observed by Gentile Christians. Shellfish, etc., are not forbidden. Sexual immorality is. The Apostles confirmed this elsewhere in their writings. So it is not a matter of hypocritical modern Christians selectively enforcing one law or another. It goes to the very core of Christian teachings received from Jesus’ own Apostles, to the very meaning of the Gospel itself. This is not a teaching confined to fundamentalists.

  22. Hardly matters when some committee decided what rules should be enforced…If God doesn’t mind shell-fish — edit out the appropriate parts of the Gospel.

  23. “when some committee decided”

    LOL. No committee decided; it was God Himself, according to the New Testament. It is not up to us to change it.

  24. Where in the New Testament does god say we can eat shellfish?

  25. No, you’re arguing, Father, that a committee gets to decide what parts of the Bible are adhered to. That’s not God Himself; that’s arbitrary humanity doing what they please.

  26. Nope, that is what you are arguing.

    The Apostles were taught by Christ our God Himself. The Apostolic Council of Jerusalem was in agreement with the Holy Spirit (God). See Acts 15.

    You, on the other hand, were not divinely taught by Christ and the Holy Spirit. You will excuse me if I prefer to follow their teachings rather than yours.

  27. Try Acts 15; no abstention from shellfish was required.

    At greater length, try the line of argument by the Apostle Paul regarding Law/Gospel in many of his Epistles.

  28. Ridiculous question. Since when is adherence to heterosexual, monogamous marriage being “obsessed with sex”? It is those who promote licentious, adulterous, anytime-with-anyone sex who have an obsession with sex in their lives.

  29. Yes, of course God Himself !!

    Amazing how God seems to have the same preferences as a jealous, male, sexually anxious, bronze-age, tribal animal herder.

  30. Amazing how the “God” you describe bears no resemblance to the Christian God. But don’t let that get in the way of your narrative.

    Also amazing – but perhaps not surprising – how quickly you dropped your “committee” nonsense when it was shown to be a fabrication not based on documentary evidence. Tell me, when you’re busy blowing smoke, is it vape or real honest-to-goodness tobacco?

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