Norway: Education minister against hijab in elementary school

Norway: Education minister against hijab in elementary school

Norwegian Eduction Minister Kristin Halvorsen (SV, Socialists) wants hijabs out of elementary schools.

"I think children-hijab are absolutely undesirable, because it hampers the children's development and their chances of making independent choices," Halvorsen told Dagbladet.

Helga Pedersen (Ap, Labor) told Dagbladet yesterday that she would consider a ban on hijab in elementary schools. The proposal is already supported by the FrP (Progress Party)

The SV leader and education minister makes it clear that she's reticent about a ban, but doesn't hide that she's against the Muslim head-dress.

"Hijab in elementary school in Norway is something that appeared in recent years. I see it as coercion of small children, and it hinders them from participating equally with other children in Norwegian schools," says Halvorsen.

She says that she's travelled a lot in Muslim countries and that hijab for little girls is in no way common there.

"I can't see that there's any religious reason for putting hijab on little girls. Neither is it a tradition in Muslim countries to treat little girls like adult women," says Halvorsen.

Q: But can't the hijab be seen simply as a fashion. Other children in Norway also dress differently now than they did 20 years ago?

A: Some girls will certainly want to dress as adult women do, but neither do I think that seven year old girls should go with high-heels. Hijab for little girls should be seen as a sign which is chosen so that they'll be apart and not be included," says Halvorsen.

Q: Why do you think, then, that parent choose to have their daughter wear a hijab?

The education minister answers that she first wants the parents who do this to explain why they choose this, and that she's afraid it's a social sign that people want stricter control over their children's choices.

She is aware her proposal can start a fire. "It can be some people will be provoked by this, but we should deal with that. It's important that we as a society say clearly that we don't want this," says Halvorsen.

Still, she's not sure a ban is the way to go about this.

"A ban on clothing is alien to a liberal society. A ban can additionally lead to communities shutting themselves even more and that more Muslims will send their children to Muslim schools where hijab is allowed. There's absolutely no wish for such a development," says Halvorsen.

But yet she doesn't want to denounce the debate on a ban on the hijab in elementary school, which is now ongoing in her own party in Oslo.

"The important thing is that we as a society should be clear that we don't want hijab in elementary schools, not the discussion on whether it should be banned or not," says Halvorsen.

She also says that she's only talking about the hijab for children of elementary school age.

"I don't want to be part in any way of the stigmatizing of adult women's use of the hijab. Adult women should make their own choices," says Halvorsen.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian)

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