March 14, 2014
UN official says circumcision protected by freedom of religionby Tovah Lazaroff
A United Nations official gave a boost to the battle Jewish organizations are waging to protect the ancient ritual of circumcision, when he told the Human Rights Council it was a right that should be protected.
“Freedom of religion and belief in its application goes far beyond any pre-defined lists of classical religions,” Heiner Bielefeldt said in Geneva on Wednesday. “It protects human beings in their broad variety of convictions, and also conviction-based practices. So issues like male circumcision are part of that.” [And human sacrifice?]
Bielefeldt, who is the UNHRC’s special rapporteur on freedom of religion, made his brief comment on circumcision one day after he delivered a global report to the council on freedom of religion.
The report did not deal with circumcision, but the World Jewish Congress discussed the issue when it addressed the council and Bielefeldt on Wednesday morning, in a statement delivered by Lisa Rahmani.
Rahmani, a member of the WJC’s Jewish Diplomatic Corps program, urged the council to protect Jewish male circumcision and shechita, ritual slaughter of animals. She added that religious Muslims who eat halal meat also needed protection for their ritual slaughter practices.
Shechita and circumcision are cornerstones of Jewish religious practice that date back thousands of years, Rahmani said.
“However, today we are witnessing an increasing number of government actions that seek to condemn and ban these religious practices,” Rahmani said. “We call on the special rapporteur to recognize that these practices are forms of religious expression, to recognize that they are not trumped by other values [... such as the human right to security of the person?], and to ask him to consider limitations on ritual slaughter and circumcision as violations of freedom of religion in his next report to the council.”
“In the same way, it is ironic and distressing to observe that circumcision is considered to be a mutilation when performed for religious reason, but is acceptable, and often encouraged, if performed for medical reasons,” Rahmani said.
[Is it "ironic and disressing" that hand amputation is considered to be a mutilation when performed for a religious reason, but acceptable and often encouraged when peformed for medical reasons, such as after serious burn or injury?]