Norway Vows Not To Ban Circumcision of Boys

Foreign Minister Responds to Wiesenthal Center

getty images

By JTA

Published November 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Norway will not introduce a ban on the non-medical circumcision of boys, the country’s foreign minister said.

“The position of the government has been and will remain clear: It will not propose a ban on ritual circumcision,” Borgen Brende wrote in a letter dated Nov. 22 that was sent to the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s New York offices.

Brende was replying to a letter sent to him in which the center sought clarifications on a statement released earlier this month by Norwegian Health Minister Bent Hoie announcing plans to introduce legislation next year to “regulate” the practice.

In Norway and throughout Scandinavia, non-medical circumcision of boys under 18 is the subject of a heated debate on children’s rights and religious freedoms. The children’s ombudsmen of all Nordic countries — Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway — released a joint declaration last month proposing a ban.

But a ban will not occur in Norway, Brende wrote, as “the Norwegian government recognizes the importance of ritual male circumcision for the Jewish community.” He added that his country was “committed to safeguarding freedom of religion as enshrined in international law.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told JTA his organization considers the letter “very positive” and the reference to international law as “potentially very significant because it enshrines the government’s commitment to religious freedoms. This is important for overcoming the attempts of people who seek to ban circumcision.”

Cooper added that the letter also bears meaning for attempts by the center and other parties to lobby for the scrapping of Norway’s ban on religious slaughter, which has been in place since 1929.

“We will try in the coming months, in consultation with the local Jewish community, to move forward with efforts to reverse this law, which should have been thrown out a long time ago,” he said.

Referencing the intensification of secularism in Western Europe as a reaction to perceived problems connected with the arrival of millions of Muslim immigrants, Cooper said, “We know that many of the problems we face on shechitah and milah [kosher slaughter and ritual circumcision] are in many ways not because of Jewish practices but because of Muslims’ practices.”


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!
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • 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.