NORWAY IS ABOUT to become the first Scandinavian nation to ban the wearing of the niqab in all places of education – nurseries, schools and universities.
The authorities say that they are banning all headgear which “hinders communication”, and as well as niqabs and burqas, balaclavas and masks wil be banned too. Conventional hats and caps will be allowed – as will scarves. Presumably, then, teachers and pupils will be banned from wearing a balaclava (it does get very cold in Norway) but will be allowed to wear a bobble hat and a large scarf they can bury their chins in – producing much the same effect as wearing a balaclava in terms of warmth, but somehow allowing better communication.
The ban was defended by two government ministers.
•Torbjorn Roe Isaksen, Minister of Education and Research, said that communication is important if students were to receive a good education – hence the need to ban the niqab. This raises the interesting point of whether, in a lesson in which pupils were getting that good education by learning about the niqab, a demonstration niqab could be worn an tried on by pupils and teachers so they could obtain a first hand experience.
•Per Sandberg, who is the interim Minister of Immigration and Integration also spoke up in favour of communication between human beings. That would be communication in the sense of men telling women what to wear, then.
The Government has made no statement on whether the ban will apply to nuns wearing the habit (a full head covering which allows only the face to be seen) in convents.
Some local authorities already ban the niqab in schools, but this is the first time that a national ban has been suggested. Opponents have pointed out that the niqab is not worn very often in Norway – suggesting that the measure is more about the Govenrment trying to be seen to be cracking down on Muslims rather than explaining why the niqab prevents communication.
The move also comes just three months after a public outcry over the Muslim Council of Norway appointing as its new communications officer a woman, Leyla Hasic, who habitually wears the niqab. Protestors – including a Muslim MP and some Muslim oganisations – pointed out that the Council receives public money in the form of grants to work on interfaith dialogue and similar projects, which apparently meant that it should not employ anyone who wore a niqab. The Council said that Ms Hasic was employed because she was the best person for the job.
To date, no one is known to have protested against Norwegian lumberjacks who wear woolly hats and scarves, or against nuns running convents and other social projects. While several ministers have expressed concern over Norway giving public money to those who employ niqab wearers, to date there has been no comment from the Treasury on whether they will accept taxes from employees who have been to work wearing a niqab.
•Read more about it:
Crowds support graffit mosque
Should Muslims do more?