Denmark to probe whether circumcision violates health code

Jewish leader links controversy to concern over country’s growing Muslim minority, not to anti-Jewish sentiment

JTA — Denmark has commissioned an investigation into whether non-medical circumcision procedures violate its health code.

“We will examine the public health recommendations followed in this area,” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt told the Copenhagen-based Politiken daily on Saturday.

Politiken reported that the Danish government has commissioned a study on this question. Last month the paper published an expose that said the National Board of Health did not monitor the conditions under which circumcisions take place.

Non-medical circumcision of minors has been the subject of a heated debate in Denmark over the past few months. Several politicians reportedly have called for a ban on the practice, prompting angry reactions from Jews and Muslims.

Venstre, Denmark’s largest party, will decide whether to seek a ban on such circumcisions based on the results of the study, a party spokesperson told JTA.

The chief rabbi of Denmark, Bent Lexner, told Politiken that he did not think the launching of the investigation reflected distrust on the government’s part. He said the government was welcome to carry out its investigation.

Lexner added that a doctor is always present during a circumcision, which under the Jewish rite is carried out by a mohel, or ritual circumciser.

“Our register goes back 250 years, and we can document every single circumcision,”  the rabbi told Politiken. “A journal is also kept in connection with the circumcision itself. The doctor who is present keeps a record of what happens.”

Denmark, a country of 5.5 million, has a Muslim minority of 210,000 and some 8,500 Jews.

Finn Schwarz, the president of the Jewish Congregation in Copenhagen, told JTA that the current debate about circumcision is connected to popular discontent with the level of integration of Muslim immigrants.

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