Iceland’s Progressive Party is advancing a bill that seeks to ban male circumcision in the European country. Muslim and Jewish groups in Iceland have condemned the bill. On Monday, Iceland’s Bishop Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir voiced her opposition to the proposal.

Brit milah in Israel (archive)

Brit milah in Israel (archive) Photo Credit: Yaakov Naumi/Flash 90

A bill being advanced by Iceland’s Progressive Party in the country’s parliament seeks to ban male circumcision, penalizing the act with up to six years in prison. If the bill passes, Iceland will become the first European country to ban the ritual. 

Ahead of the parliament discussion about the bill, Iceland’s Bishop Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir criticized the proposal for criminalizing religious practices. “On the one hand, there’s an irreversible intervention in a child’s body, but on the other hand, it’s the right of the child to grow up in the religious and cultural practices of his parents, practices that mold the identity of every person,” she explained.

The bill equates male circumcision to female genital mutilation, which has been outlawed in Iceland since 2005. Sigurðardóttir stressed, however, that male circumcision is different from the banned practice for females and that the parliament should “provide room to discuss this sensitive matter.”

Male circumcision is commonly practiced by Jewish people and Muslims and according to Sigurðardóttir, Iceland may become a country in which these people can no longer live if the practice is banned. “The danger that arises if this bill becomes law is that Judaism and Islam will become criminalized religions and that individuals who believe in these faiths will be banned in this country and unwelcome,” she added. “We must avoid all such forms of extremism.” Both Jewish and Muslim groups in Iceland have condemned the bill.