October 17, 2012
Jewish leader unveils model bill on regulating shechitah in EU
European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor has unveiled a model bill designed to set “strict legal terms” on religious freedoms in order to enshrine them in Europe.
Kantor, who is also co-chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, or ECTR, presented the model bill on Oct. 15 at the European Parliament.
Designed to delineate the legal boundaries of tolerance in light of “anti-Semitism, racism and attempts to limit freedom of worship in Europe,” the document proposes to enshrine Jewish and Muslim religious slaughter practices, shechitah and halal, as well as ritual circumcision. It also recognized the state’s right to regulate these practices.
Citing “overriding” public safety reasons, the bill proposes to ban burkas and other face-covering headgear. Kantor said he hoped parliaments of European Union member states adopt the principles laid down in the model bill in legislation, as “only by defining the boundaries of real tolerance can we ensure it.”
The model bill was co-authored by Aleksander Kwaśniewski, a former Polish president and co-chair of ECTR, a Brussels-based NGO comprised of Nobel Peace Prize laureates, several former heads of states and others recognized for adding to tolerance.
Under the model bill, “migrants who refuse to learn the local language may face deportation due to their unwillingness to integrate," said Prof. Yoram Dinstein, one of the documents’ co-authors and an Israeli expert in international law.
“Many support tolerance as an abstract idea but find it hard to specify how it should be applied,” he told JTA. “This document tries to translate aspirations into practice.”