UK Jewish groups welcome scrapping of plan to ban brit milah in Finland
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UK Jewish groups welcome scrapping of plan to ban brit milah in Finland

Former Board President and co-chair of Milah UK, Jonathan Arkush, said: 'Larger Jewish communities have a responsibility to smaller ones to help them in a time of need'

Jonathan Arkush
Jonathan Arkush

Lawmakers in Finland have removed language against non-medical circumcision of boys from a bill on female genital mutilation – following a push by Jews in the country and the UK groups.

The measure calling to “clarify” Finland’s ban on the genital mutilation of women passed Friday in the Parliament, after an intervention from the Board of Deputies and Milah UK.

Amendments would have potentially limited or outlawed the non-medical circumcision of boys, Yaron Nadbornik, president of the Central Council of Finnish Jewish Communities, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. His organisation reached out to Milah UK, a London-based advocacy group, which involved representatives at the Foreign Ministry, Nadbornik said.

The European Jewish Congress also was involved in efforts to eliminate the amendments added by the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, which is headed by Leena Meri of the populist the Finns Party.

The move was welcomed by former Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush, who is Co-chair of Milah UK . He said: “Larger Jewish communities have a responsibility to smaller ones to help them in a time of need. But more than that, we know that if a self-described liberal democracy like Finland bans Milah, the threat to us here in the UK becomes greater. We want to thank the Finnish Jewish community, his excellency the ambassador, and all those who worked to ensure a common sense way forward on this core religious freedom.”

Yaron Nadbornik, President of the Central Council of Finnish Jewish Communities, said: “We thank Milah UK and the Board of Deputies for their support during this anxious episode for the Finnish Jewish community. The support of international partners has helped ensure a way forward for us to work towards securing our religious freedom for now.”

Finland is an EU member state and subject to the rulings of the European Court of Justice.

Jews and Muslims have vocally objected to attempts to ban non-medical circumcision of boys in Europe by coalitions of right-wing anti-immigration parties and liberal ones that view the custom as a violation of children’s rights.

The new Finnish law does state the issue of circumcision of boys should be “clarified” in the future, but Nadbornik said a ban “has been averted for the time being.”

Some 50,000 Finns who wanted their Scandinavian nation’s penal code to have a specific law against female genital mutilation signed a petition leading to the bill. Mutilation had been punishable under laws against aggravated assault.

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