Letter to Iceland's Minister for Foreign Affairs on Proposed Male Circumcision Ban

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April 20, 2018

In a letter to Iceland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt expressed appreciation for the government’s recommendation to the Icelandic parliament that male circumcision remain legal and its regulation be consistent with the practice in other Nordic countries.

April 19, 2018

His Excellency Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Raudararstigur 25
105, Reykjavik

Dear Minister Thórdarson,

The Anti-Defamation League is one of America’s premier human relations and civil rights agencies and is dedicated in purpose and program to combating anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defending democratic ideals and protecting civil rights for all.

We recently submitted a letter to the Icelandic parliament in strong opposition to the proposed bill to ban and criminalize circumcision of young boys.  We emphasized the central role of circumcision in Judaism and stated that a ban on the practice would unduly restrict religious freedom.  We also noted our concern that Iceland would be celebrated by anti-Semitic extremists as a state which is legislating to prevent a Jewish community from existing within its borders.

I raised these issues as well in conversations with your representative in Washington, DC, Ambassador Geir Haarde.

We write to you today to express our appreciation for your Ministry’s March 28 letter to the Icelandic parliament, which suggests not to ban male circumcision but instead to follow the example of other Nordic countries, where a medical professional is involved and parental consent is obtained.  We agree that such regulation would not unduly restrict religious freedom.

Your Ministry’s letter also urges parliamentarians to take into consideration the arguments against the proposed ban, and references the arguments ADL has raised, specifically the potential for the ban to stoke anti-Semitism and contribute to extremism and the threat to Iceland’s international reputation.  We thank you for endorsing these concerns and noting the messages conveyed to your ambassadors, including the specific reference to your embassy in the United States.

We hope your Ministry’s letter represents your government’s formal opposition to the proposed ban and that the coalition parties will call for party discipline among their members of parliament to defeat any proposal to ban circumcision of young boys.


Jonathan A. Greenblatt
CEO and National Director
Anti-Defamation League