Starting from age 5 or 6, more and more little Norwegian girls are being sent to school with a hijab.
The Muslim headgear which covers the hair, is becoming a more common sight in elementary schools in Oslo, also in the 5-10 age group.
This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog - islamineurope.blogspot.com
Traditionally the tight, religious garment is worn in several countries to cover a women's head and hair from the teenage years.
But now it's steadily little girls aged five or six who come to school in Norway with a hijab - in fact earlier than what's common in the parent's homeland.
This is documented in a survey VG conducted in elementary schools in Oslo. The principals of 45 of the schools in Oslo said that hijab is worn in primary school. In total, 58 of the elementary school in the capital answered VG's survey.
"We have student who wear the hijab in all seven grades, though it's a bit more common among the older girls than the youngest," the principal at Tøyen school, Tor Helgesen, told VG.
"As a Norwegian father I don't think it's good. Hijab is a mark of different treatment of the sexes and puts women in an inferior position. The garment seems to me to hamper natural interaction and play between the little children," says lawyer Øivind Østberg.
In a letter to the children's Ombudsman he asked the ombudsman to get involved, because parents put the hijab on girls as young as five in his daughter's former kindergarten in Oslo.
The wearing of the Muslim headgear was a heavily debated issue this spring, after Education Minister Kristin Halvorsen questioned in February whether schoolgirls really cover themselves with the religious garment voluntarily.
The VG survey confirms for the first time that the wearing of the hijab is widespread down to the lowest grades. The survey shows also that the wearing of the hijab increased in the past five years.
27 of the principals specified from which grade the students wear the hijab, and of those 18 answered that it includes the three lowest grades. Ten answersed that students wear the hijab to school already from first grade, when they are six.
"The youngest to wear the hijab by us goes to first grade. In the youngest classes there are more girls who wear the hijab now then several years ago, says Gry Sjødin Neander, principal of the Rødtvedt school.
"Several nationalities wear the hijab more than others, mainly Somalis, Iraqis and Moroccans."
"Do you have the impression that it's the decision of the girls themselves or their parents that they'll go with a hijab to school?"
"We assume it's the parents who make this decision. It's difficult for a six year old to make such a differentiation themselves," says Sjødin Neander.
VG asked several principals if we can speak with the youngest students, their parents and teachers about wearing the hijab, but this was denied. The debate about waering the hijab is not very popular among the school administratrs.
"I don't understand why there's such a debate about this headgear. As a school we respond to it being allowed and register that some students have the hijab as part of their dress-code. Beyond that it's not an issue for us," says Tor Helgesen of the Tøyen school.
"The most important thing is that they learn to read and write, not what they have on their head. As a garment, hijab doesn't limit integration," says Leif Arne Eggen of the Mortensrud school.
At just two of the 45 school where little girls wear hijab, did the principals say that it's been a subject of internal discussion at the school.
Source: VG (Norwegian)