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!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "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:
  • 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.