Sweden’s Council of Jewish Communities criticised for not protesting possible circumcision ban

By Nathalie Rothschild, October 3, 2013
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Calls to ban circumcision resurfaced in Sweden last week.

The right-wing Sweden Democrats tabled a bill to criminalise non-medical circumcision, and the children’s ombudsman — together with representatives of several healthcare bodies — published an opinion piece in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter claiming that circumcision contravenes human rights.

Björn Söder and Per Ramhorn of the Sweden Democrat Party submitted the parliamentary motion, which notes that “outdated religious traditions aimed at mutilating small boys and girls… do not belong in a modern society governed by the rule of law”.

“I understand the Jews’ point of view and we have freedom of religion in Sweden, but sometimes it goes against human rights… Circumcision can affect one’s sex life. It is a form of mutilation,” said Mr Ramhorn.

“Outdated religious traditions aimed at mutilating small boys and girls… do not belong in a modern society governed by the rule of law”

“It is of course an unacceptable attack on what we as Jews see as a fundamental right to carry our tradition on to future generations,” said Lars Dencik, a Swedish-Jewish professor in social psychology at Denmark’s Roskilde University.

“Any demand for the prohibition of brit milah is a frontal attack on Judaism,” said Göran Rosenberg, a prominent Swedish-Jewish author. “In Sweden, this demand is most aggressively pursued by the Sweden Democrats… This should worry those liberals and others who use the same arguments and who choose not to notice that there is an agenda of cultural and religious intolerance lurching beneath them.”

Benjamin Gerber, a pedagogue with the Jewish community in Gothenburg and the son of Sweden’s only non-medically trained mohel, criticised Sweden’s Council of Jewish Communities for avoiding the debate around circumcision. “This will not go away. Instead of keeping a low profile, it’s time for us Jews to come out and say that we have no problems with our bodies… We don’t have thousands of Jews and Muslims in Sweden complaining about feeling violated. Instead, the critics come from outside these communities.”

In Scandinavia, the campaign to ban circumcision has supporters across the political spectrum. In 2011, a number of medical doctors, academics, humanists and priests backed the Swedish Association of Health Professionals’ bid to outlaw circumcision, arguing that the practice violates personal integrity.

In Denmark, an organisation was formed earlier this year to campaign against non-medical circumcision following a debate sparked by a doctor who argued that circumcised men have poor sex lives.

In Norway, a number of organisations and politicians failed to push through a law last year to ban ritual circumcision; it can now only be carried out at hospitals there.

Last updated: 7:45pm, October 3 2013