Norwegian FM to Simon Wiesenthal Center: "Government will not Propose a Ban on Ritual Circumcision

November 25, 2013

Børge Brende, Norway's recently appointed Foreign Minister has assured senior officials of the Simon Wiesenthal Center that "The Norwegian Government recognizes the importance of ritual male circumcision for the Jewish community in Norway…[and] it will not propose a ban on ritual circumcision". The November 22nd letter to Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center's Associate Dean and Mark Weitzman, its Director of Government Affairs, came in response to concerns expressed by the Wiesenthal Center and others that Norway officials were considering criminalizing brit milah.

"We commend the Government of Norway for declaring their commitmentnot to ban b'rit milah (Jewish ritual circumcision) and for reaffirming their commitment to protecting "religious freedom as enshrined in international law," said Cooper and Weitzman. "We hope this sends a clear message to Dr. Anne Lindboe, Norway's Children's Ombudswoman and other Norwegian figures who continue to publicly express their opposition to Brit Milah."

"The Jewish world is for the first time confronted with efforts in numerous countries to ban Jewish rituals. Historically, such draconian actions were taken by tyrants, dictators and mass murderers. Today we are confronted with such initatives being proposed and passed in democracies. The Wiesenthal Center is therefore particularly grateful that Foreign Minister Brende's letter also puts his government on record as 'committed to safeguarding freedom of religion as enshrined in international law'. We urge all European democracies who currently criminalize or are seeking to criminalize core Judaic practices to recognize that such laws and initiatives stand in direct defiance of international laws protecting religious freedom," Cooper and Weitzman concluded.

In the fall 2012, Rabbi Cooper and Mr. Weitzman went to Oslo to confer with Ervin Kohn, the President of Norway's Jewish Community and Norwegian officials about proposed bans to brit milah and Norway's longstanding ban on Jewish ritual slaughter (Shechita).

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).