Dutch insurer defends circumcision coverage

Cnaan Liphshiz

AMSTERDAM (JTA) – A major insurer in the Netherlands defended its coverage of circumcision in boys younger than 18 for religious reasons amid criticism of the practice and the impact of Islam in society.

Zilveren Kruis, which is the kingdom’s largest insurer, included religious circumcision in its 2017 brochure published earlier this month and then defended it in a statement published on its website Tuesday.

“We are seeing that some of the insured parties want to be circumcised or have their boys circumcised,” the agency, whose name means “Silver Cross,” wrote in replying to “various questions over why some complementary plans include reimbursement for non-medical circumcision,” as Zilveren Kruis defined it.

On Tuesday, René van Rijckevorsel, the acting editor-in-chief of the conservative Elsevier weekly, wrote on Twitter that Zilveren Kruis are encouraging female genital mutilation. After Zilveren Kruis clarified that their insurance covers only males, he said he considered this, too, “mutilation.”

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But in its statement, Zilveren Kruis suggested its coverage encourages parents to have the procedure performed hygienically in licensed clinics.

The right-leaning news blog GeenStijl, which says it is accessed 2 million times per month, wrote that “instead of implying Zilveren Kruis wants to throw homosexuals off of buildings, we will stick to the facts.” GeenStijl reported that Zilveren Kruis is moving into the niche that until recently had been occupied only by specialized insurance companies catering specifically to Muslims.

Zilveren Kruis began including non-medical circumcision of boys in some of its plans in 2014.

In northern Europe, non-medical circumcision of boys is under attack from critics who see it as a foreign influence by Muslims and by progressives who say they do not object to such influences per se but view this particular custom as violating children’s rights.

A similar debate has evolved around ritual slaughter of animals.

Both customs are shared by Jews and Muslims, though Judaism has stricter regulations on both.

About half of Dutch Jews do not perform circumcision on their boys, according to a 2009 survey by the community.

Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacob said that Zilveren Kruis’ inclusion of circumcision is “clearly meant to benefit Muslims, not Jews.” Nonetheless, he said it was a “positive thing” because it establishes the practice’s legitimacy. “The small Jewish community sometimes profits from concessions that are obtained by the far larger Muslims minority thanks to its electoral and market size,” he said.

But, he noted, the reimbursement is conditioned on the procedure being performed by a “medical professional” whereas many Jewish circumcisers, or mohalim, are not licensed. “We should be careful about allowing oversight by the state on religious matters,” he said.

Several mohalim in the Netherlands are also licensed physicians.

Separately, in October a Swedish court rejected a Muslim mother’s request for reimbursement from her municipality of the circumcision of her son, the Vetlanda Posten lcal newspaper reported.