Senior figures from Britain’s religious communities have met Icelandic MPs and officials in Reykjavik to lobby the island’s government to oppose a proposed ban on religious circumcision.
A bill has been put forward in Iceland’s parliament to criminalise non-medical circumcisions, which if passed would make Iceland the first European country to ban circumcision.
Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies, said after last week’s meeting he was “cautiously” hopeful that Iceland would not press ahead with the ban, but might simply insist on tighter regulations around the practice.
He told the JC: “In Scandinavia they have often taken a very simplistic view that circumcision has got to be wrong.
“They are very strongly secular. They have not heard the arguments supporting brit milah.
“I am sure the committee considering the bill now gets the arguments and will consider them on their merit.
“I also met two of the closest advisers to the Icelandic Prime Minister. It was clear to me that irrespective of their view on brit milah, they are deeply conscious of the affect this has already had on Iceland’s image abroad.
“I cannot say for sure the government will express a view on this either way — but if the government is at all concerned about its image elsewhere in the world — then tentatively I am optimistic an outright ban will be avoided in favour of some kind of regulation.”
Mr Arkush also said he was particularly impressed by a presentation at the conference by an American medic currently posted in Iceland who warned about the unintended consequences of banned circumcision for children under the age of 16.
“If an observant 16-year-old decided they did wish to be circumcised you would then be asking them to undergo a process that has become high risk, rather than minimal risk,” said Mr Arkush. “This was one of the superb arguments put over by the doctor in his presentation.”
Mr Arkush attended a conference with Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, the chief imam of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, which was organised by the Interfaith Forum of Iceland in Reykjavik last Tuesday to stand up for Iceland’s tiny minority communities.
Among Iceland’s population of 334,000 there are about 1,500 Muslims and 250 Jews.