Norway’s Progress Party recently adopted a policy of supporting any proposed national ban on the circumcision of baby boys, triggering strong reactions at home and even sparking international outrage; the Israeli Embassy in Oslo called the decision “disappointing and unfortunate.”
The circumcision of infant males, which has religious significance among Jews and Muslims, has long been an infected issue in Norway.
At its national meeting last weekend, the Progress Party became the first to adopt an anti-circumcision policy.
Although it has no immediate effect, as it only indicated how it would vote if a ban on circumcision were discussed, it nevertheless added fuel to the fire of controversy.
“Circumcision is a vital part of the Jewish identity, both for religious and secular Jews,” Israeli Ambassador Raphael Schutz said, as quoted by the Norwegian newspaper Fjordabladet.
“As the representative for the Jewish state, the embassy wants to express its disappointment [over the Progress Party’s decision] and hope that the measure will be reversed,” Schutz continued.
Progress Party MP Kari Kjønaas Kjos explained to the Norwegian Christian newspaper Dagen that she voted in favor of the ban in order to protect children’s rights and admitted that the negative reaction was no surprise for her.
“For us, this is about children’s rights to control over their own lives. This is about altering an otherwise healthy child, without the child having the possibility to object,” Kari Kjønaas Kjos said.
However, the Progress Party is far from unanimous in its policy on fellow Norwegians’ private parts.
Progress Party leader and Norwegian Finance Minister Siv Jensen pointed out that she personally opposed her party’s stern anti-circumcision policy and specifically stressed that her party has always been a firm supporter of Israel.
She also made it clear that banning circumcision is only her party’s policy, but not that of the coalition government of which the Progress Party is part.
Incidentally, the Progress Party’s goal to ban circumcision was called “anti-Semitic” by numerous Norwegian columnists and politicians.
“I urge anyone wishing to retain an organized Jewish life in Norway to vote for any party other than the Progress Party in the fall,” Ervin Kohn, the chairman of the Norwegian Jewish Confederation DMTtweeted.
Friends of Israel (VINA) leader Marius Gaardner called this decision “the most problematic” since WW2 and ventured it was “more serious than various boycott proposals against Israel.”
He also called it a “direct attack on the Jewish minority in Norway,” the Norwegian organization With Israel for Peace (MIFF) reported.
Circumcision has been controversial in Norway for many years, with doctors deeming the procedure medically unnecessary and enjoying the right to refuse to perform it.
However, with many Jews and Muslims preferring to have circumcision carried out by unauthorized personnel, the Norwegian authorities are trying to persuade them to resort to state hospitals.
At present, Norway has a tiny Jewish community of about 700 people.
The Jewish diaspora reached its peak at about 2,100 people, but suffered dramatic losses under the Nazi occupation of Norway, which lasted between 1940 and 1945.
The exact percentage of Muslims in Norway remains a matter for debate, yet has been rising steadily since the late 1960s and is currently said to hover at around 3.8 percent of the Norwegian population of 5.2 million.
In urban areas, such as Oslo County, however, the percentage is creeping closer to 10 percent.