Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki News), International Edition,
Friday, 24 August 2001.

Danger of botched home circumcisions a problem for low-income Muslim families

Wealthy families can afford services of private hospitals

Last week's case in which a number of Muslim boys in Kuopio had to be hospitalised after complications involved with circumcisions performed at home (see link below) has led to new debate on the issue of religious circumcision.

According to Imam Chodr Chehab of Finland's Islamic community, most of the Muslims living in Finland are immigrants.

"Circumcisions should not be performed at home, but it is the only alternative for those families who cannot afford private hospital treatment", Chehab says.

Private hospitals charge FIM 4,000 - 5,000 for a circumcision.

Chehab is concerned about the possible complications that can ensue from performing the procedure at home. He says that places should be made available where competent surgeons could perform circumcisions.

In addition to recent immigrants, Finland has a community of Tartars, who have lived in this country for more than 100 years. They routinely have their sons circumcised at private hospitals.

In Finland's Jewish community, male babies are circumcised at the age of eight days either by a Jewish doctor, or a mohel specially trained to perform the procedure. The ritual circumcision is performed either at home or the synagogue.

"If the circumcision is delayed, it is performed on children and adults at a hospital or similar facility", says Dan Kantor, a representative of Helsinki's Jewish congregation.

In a statement issued in 1992 the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health urges Finnish public health clinics and hospitals to take a positive view toward religiously motivated male circumcision.

In a ruling in 1999, Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman Riitta-Leena Paunio said that Finnish law does not oblige public health care services to arrange circumcisions for non-medical reasons.

In a statement issued in 1999, a majority of the members of Finland's advisory committee on medical ethics (ETENE) felt that public health services could be used for the circumcisions of Jewish and Muslim boys.

In the United States circumcisions are common for boys of all religions, because the removal of the foreskin is believed to have health benefits, including the prevention of urinary infections. "In Europe the thinking is that the foreskin is a part of the organ. If it is healthy, it should not be removed", says urologist Tuija Lahdes-Vasama.

Previously in HS International Edition:

Botched circumcisions send four boys to hospital in Kuopio 21.8.2001

Links: NORM - National Organisation for Restoring Men (US anti- circumcision and foreskin restoration site)

Cite as:
(File revised 29 January 2002)

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