Norway Government Party Weighs Banning Circumcision, Reaping Fury From Rabbis and Jewish Groups

Jewish organizations’ furious response to the possible banning of halal and kosher slaughter in Belgium was something to behold, I wrote yesterday. Animal welfare doesn’t matter nearly as much to the offended minority as its own religious exemptions from the law do… and so we got this, courtesy of the European Jewish Congress:

“This decision, in the heart of Western Europe and the center of the European Union, sends a terrible message to Jewish communities throughout our continent that Jews are unwanted. … We call on legislators to step back from the brink of the greatest assault on Jewish religious rights in Belgium since the Nazi occupation of the country in World War II.”

Now Jewish groups are also focusing their ire on Norway’s Progress Party, which just voted in favor of a law banning ritual circumcision of children under 16.

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Proponents of the Norwegian bill, which was discussed during the party’s national gathering over the weekend, claim that circumcision constitutes mental and physical harm to children and constitutes a serious violation of children’s rights. The Progress Party is the third-largest party — with 29 of 169 seats in parliament it serves as the junior partner in Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s cabinet.

Reacting to the news, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the European Jewish Association, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett calling on them to urgently establish a joint working team for both government offices and Jewish organizations in Europe, in order to prevent the spread of anti-Jewish legislation.

“I have no doubt that the State of Israel — the state of the Jewish people — cannot remain indifferent to it, and I call on you to exert all your political influence in order to prevent the exclusion of Jews from life in various European countries.”

Please consider toning down the ghetto/pogrom talk, rabbi. No one is being excluded from living anywhere. We’re happy to have you and your followers in our midst. We just ask that you ponder that, in a modern society, the ritual mutilation of a child’s genitals might not be tolerable for reasons other than antisemitism.

But of course Margolin went there repeatedly, calling the Norwegian bill “disgraceful,” and adding that

“There’s no doubt that this is an anti-Jewish decision that is blatantly antisemitic, because the bill does not harm Muslims who are not obligated to circumcise their children as infants and can perform the procedure even at an older age.”

Of course, the genital mutilation of very young girls, while not exclusive to Islam, is widespread in multiple Muslim-majority countries, from Somalia to Indonesia.

In any case, I see no need for Norway to go along with cultural or religious genital cutting, of either gender, demanded by whichever minority or majority. The right of children not to be subjected to medically unnecessary pain and Bronze-Age bloodletting should surely outweigh religious customs.

It bears remembering that, if the Progress Party has its way, circumcision will remain legal in Norway, but only for those 16 and older. At that age, should an uncircumcised believer desire to go under the knife, the bill before parliament allows such an informed decision.

Offering that choice strikes me as a great deal more enlightened than having adults decide that the private parts of their babies or toddlers must be trimmed with a sharp instrument, based on nothing but “tradition.”

(Image via Shutterstock)

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