Jewish and Muslim groups have condemned a proposed bill in Iceland’s parliament which would outlaw circumcision for non-medical reasons.
The legislation, if approved, would impose a six-year prison sentence on anyone found guilty of “removing part or all of the child’s sexual organs”.
There are an estimated 250 Jews living in Iceland, and around 1,500 Muslim Icelandic citizens.
If passed, the law would make Iceland the first European country to ban circumcision.
In a joint statement, the Jewish communities of Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway said they “strongly protest” the proposed legislation, saying it would “attack Judaism”.
It said: “Iceland would be the only country to ban one of the most central, if not the most central rite in the Jewish tradition in modern times.
“But it would not be the first time in the long tradition of the Jewish people. Throughout history, more than one oppressive regime has tried to suppress our people and eradicate Judaism by prohibiting our religious practices.”
The group claimed that Iceland does not currently have an organised Jewish community, saying the legislation would provide an “effective deterrent” to one being established.
Imam Ahmad Seddeeq of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Iceland also condemned the move, telling the BBC that it would be a “contravention of religious freedom”.
Iceland Progressive Party MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir, who introduced the bill earlier this month, said the issue was one of “children’s rights [which] come above the right to believe”.
Supporters of the mooted bill on circumcision compare it to Iceland’s 2005 ban on female genital mutilation (FGM).
But Jewish campaign group Milah UK dismissed comparisons between male circumcision and FGM, claiming that the former causes “no recognised long-term negative impact on the child”.
Male circumcision is legal throughout Europe, although a court in Germany in 2012 passed a local ban after the circumcision of a four-year-old Muslim boy led to complications, saying it “permanently and irreparably changed” the body.
The German government later clarified that circumcision was legal, as long as it was performed by trained practitioners.
In the UK in 2016, a court ruled that a Muslim father could not have his sons circumcised because their mother disagreed with the practice.