Norway, like the rest of Scandinavia, is often lauded for its progressiveness. But on Monday, the Norwegian government proposed a ban on full-face veils in schools and universities.
Niqabs, burqas, and any other facial coverings have “no place in Norwegian schools,” Per Sandberg, the acting immigration and integration minister, said in a statement. “These clothes prevent good communication, which is important for students to receive a good education.”
Norway would be the first country in Scandinavia to enact a so-called burqa ban, but not the first in Europe; France, Belgium, Austria, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands have all passed their own versions. Local Norwegian authorities already have the power to ban face-veiling garments, but the country’s conservative coalition government is now set to make it a national law.
“We have every reason to believe this will be approved by Parliament,” Education Minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen told Reuters.
If it is approved, Sandberg told reporters, teachers and employees who wear face coverings could lose their jobs, while students may face expulsion. Hijabs will still be permitted.
But only about 3 percent of Norway’s population identify as Muslims, and far fewer than that wear face coverings, prompting opponents of the proposal to say the law is needless.
“There are very, very few who use the niqab,” Linda Noor, of the Oslo-based Minotenk think tank, which focuses on minority issues, told broadcaster NRK. “Therefore, I believe the proposal is not necessary.”