Jews in uproar over Swedish circumcision law

News  Agence France-Presse. Friday, 8 June 2001.

STOCKHOLM, June 8 (AFP) - A new Swedish law regulating male circumcision has caused an uproar among the Jewish community in Sweden and abroad, representatives of Stockholm's Jewish community said Friday.

Under the new law that goes into effect in Sweden on October 1, circumcisions can only be carried out on boys under the age of two months, and local anesthesia must be administered by an authorized nurse or doctor.

Jewish groups from Europe, Israel and the United States meeting in Madrid last week discussed the new law, which they view as an unjust restriction on their religion, according to Lena Posner-Koeroesi, the chairwoman of Stockholm's Jewish community.

The reactions I have encountered have been of incredible indignation, where people have compared the regulation to those Nazi Germany implemented against the Jews, Posner-Koeroesi told the Swedish news agency TT.

Rare in Scandinavia, about 3,000 Jewish and Muslim boys are circumcised for religious reasons each year in Sweden.

Supporters of the new law, adopted June 1, have argued in defense of the well-being of children, as debate focused on how to respect both the rights of the child and freedom of religion.

Males old enough to make up their own minds are permitted to opt for circumcision under the new law.

In the Jewish religion, circumcision is a rite performed on boys when they are eight days old as a sign of inclusion in the Jewish community. A tradition that dates back some 4,000 years, it is performed by a specially trained and ordained functionary called a Mohel.

In presenting the bill to parliament, the Swedish government recommended that any qualified person approved by the  External link Swedish Board of Health be allowed to perform circumcisions, such as a Mohel, using the necessary anesthesia.

But Sweden's parliament went a step further and required that the Mohel, or any non-doctor carrying out the operation, be assisted by a nurse or doctor to administer local anesthesia, a move that has upset the Jewish community.

According to Posner-Koeroesi, Sweden is the only country in the world that has such restrictions on the Jewish community.

Sweden has already banned the ritual Jewish slaughter of animals, forcing the community to import its meat.

On behalf of the Swedish community and international Judaism, I am incredibly upset and bewildered by what Sweden is doing, Posner-Koeroesi said.

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