Today the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – commended Iceland’s Judicial Affairs and Education Committee, a part of Iceland’s parliament, for recommending that the country’s full parliament dismiss a proposed ban on male circumcision, effectively putting an end to a three-month national debate over the legislation.
The committee issued the recommendation after reviewing the bill that members of the Althing, Iceland’s parliament, introduced in February.
Earlier this month, at the urging of a coalition of Jewish groups spearheaded by the Orthodox Union (OU), U.S. Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the committee’s ranking member, sent a letter to Iceland’s ambassador to the United States, H.E. Geir Haarde, urging his government to stop the legislation from moving forward and safeguard religious freedom for all Icelandic citizens. Other coalition members include the World Jewish Congress; Agudath Israel of America; and the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry.
In their letter to Iceland’s ambassador, Royce and Engel stated that such a ban would create insurmountable challenges for Jews and Muslims living in Iceland and send a message of intolerance toward different faiths and cultures. Male circumcision, or Brit Milah, is a fundamental ritual and sacred rite of passage for both the Jewish and Muslim communities; throughout history, attempts to prohibit Brit Milah have been tantamount to rejection of the existence of the Jewish people.
In March, OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin and other Jewish communal leaders met with Amb. Haarde in Washington, D.C. to express their concern about the proposed ban and its dire ramifications for Jews in Iceland and Europe as a whole.
“We are extremely gratified that members of the Icelandic government heard our concerns, understood the importance of this issue and responded accordingly. The OU has advocated tirelessly to stop attempts to criminalize Brit Milah around the world and safeguard the universal value of religious freedom. We also thank U.S. Reps. Royce and Engel for working with us to convey to the Icelandic government the potential damage such legislation could cause.”