Tolerant Denmark Debates Circumcision Ban

Some See Practice as Violation of Children's Rights


By Paul Berger

Published August 20, 2012, issue of August 24, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Tolerant Denmark, the nation that famously saved its Jews during World War II, is embroiled in a fierce debate about whether circumcision should be medically supervised or even banned.

The Scandinavian country is not alone: Health officials in Norway, Austria and Switzerland have also questioned circumcision this summer. But in Denmark, the debate has dominated the media as a topic for public discussion.

The furor follows hard on the heels of a ruling by a local German court outlawing circumcision, and a local Dutch court banning ritual slaughter. Both rulings, later overturned by higher courts, and the debate in Denmark reflect a deep-seated secularism in Northern Europe that is becoming increasingly hostile toward Jewish and Muslim practices.

“Now we know again that large parts of the Danish population, leading doctors, leading ethicists and many politicians suffer from acute spiritual and cultural phimosis [a tightening of the foreskin],” Danish journalist Martin Krasnik wrote in a July 27 article in the newspaper Politiken.

Krasnik, one of several Danish Jews to come to circumcision’s defense, complained bitterly of the “freak show of commentaries and readers’ letters” that filled newspaper columns, websites and television talk shows in Denmark this summer, transforming a usually slow news cycle into the “golden days of a good old-fashioned culture of radical xenophobia, self-righteousness and disgusting wiener talk.”

Circumcision opponents retort that their stance has nothing to do with xenophobia or religious prejudice. Instead, they say, it is about protecting children’s rights. Backed by research suggesting that circumcision causes babies intense pain and harms some men’s sex lives, a chorus of critics, including secularists and politicians, say circumcision must be stopped.

Politicians from several Danish parties questioned why a requirement that a doctor be present during ritual circumcision is not routinely followed. Others went further. Jørgen Arbo-Bæhr, a Member of Parliament for the socialist Red-Green Alliance, told The Copenhagen Post, “We advocate a ban on circumcision.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.