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Arkush mounts strong defence of circumcision after Iceland ban proposal

Board chief says Iceland's draft bill on circumcision is a 'straightforward attack" on religious freedom

    Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies, has defended Brit Milah as being "integral" to Jewish "core values and identity”.

    In the wake of a bill tabled in the Icelandic parliament calling for the ban of circumcision for non-medical reasons, Mr Arkush appeared on Monday’s BBC Newsnight and insisted that he did not know of any Jewish boy who wished to "reverse" the procedure.

    Asked by presenter Emily Maitlis  whether circumcision was merely a ritual carried out by parents with little prior thought, Mr Arkush said: "As a Jewish father myself of a son I absolutely thought about it - as did my wife. 

    "We had no doubt whatsoever we wanted our son brought up in traditional Jewish values - in line with what we understand to be the divine commandments in the Torah."

    Mr Arkush added that he would not want his son to have grown up with other Jewish boys "going into the changing room at a swimming pool and being different."

    He continued: "I don't know any Jewish boy who would ever want to reverse it.

    "We are proud of the way we look - it is integral to our core values and our identity.

    "I am delighted that my parents enabled me to have the procedure to be part of that identity."

    Dr Anthony Lempert, chair of the Secular Medical Forum, appeared on the show alongside Mr Arkush and argued circumcising of boys  who he said were too young to consent.

    Revealed to have been brought up in a Jewish home himself Dr Lempert claimed he had not given a practice which he called a "branding procedure" much second thought until he had "looked at the evidence."

    But Mr Arkush insisted:" I wouldn't have thanked my parents if under Mr Lempert's rule I would have been asked at 16 if I wanted to procedure and told at 16 it is rather painful and much more hazardous. 

    "I'd much rather they did it when I was eight days old."

    The outgoing Board chief described the Icelandic draft law, which would impose a six year prison term on anyone guilty of "removing part or all of the (childs) sexual organs" , as a" straightforward attack on religious freedom" in the country.

    Mr Arkush added that if Iceland wished to ban something they did not approve of the government should look at smoking which does "such harm" even to those who do not smoke.

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