OSLO - Norway has been plunged into a heated controversy about circumcision after an Oslo watchdog for children's right called for Muslims and Jews to replace the religious practice with a symbolic ritual.
Muslim and Jewish children are entitled to the same protection as all other children, Dr. Anne Lindboe, a pediatrician at Norway's ombudsman for children's rights, told Vart Land newspaper, the JTA news agency reported on Tuesday, August 7.
Lindboe criticize circumcision for causing unnecessary pain as well as being medically unbeneficial.
She argued that the practice was a violation of a person's right to decide over his own body, calling for replacing it with a symbolic, nonsurgical ritual.
The call followed a proposal made last June by Norway's Center Party, which has 11 members in the 169-seat parliament, to impose a ban on circumcision.
The row follows weeks of emotional debate and outrage in Germany after a regional court in Cologne banned circumcision, describing the practice as a crime.
But the verdict sparked outrage among Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders, who denounced the ruling as a serious intrusion on religious freedom.
Lindbeo's suggestion is not the first in Norway about the ritual practice.
Reidar Hjermann, a former pediatrician at the ombudsman, proposed setting 15 as the minimum age for circumcision.
The children's ombudsman is an independent governmental institution entrusted with safeguarding the rights of minors.
But the proposal has sparked fury among the Jewish community in Norway.
Norwegian Jews will not be able to live in a society where circumcision is forbidden, Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish Community of Oslo, told JTA.
He stressed that the mandate of Norway's children's ombudsman should not interfere in Jewish rituals.
Norway has a Jewish community of about 700 and a Muslim community estimated at 150,000.
Circumcision is a confirmed Sunnah in Islam as an act pertaining to fitrah (pure human nature).
The practice is also mandatory for Jewish males according to biblical texts Jews circumcise male infants eight days after birth to recall their covenant with God.
The time for Muslim circumcision varies according to family, region and country.
Others use the practice for hygiene purposes, generally among infant boys.The World Health Organization has estimated that nearly one in three males under 15 is circumcised.