Government minister won’t ban hijab

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The young politician from the Socialist Left party who now serves as Norway’s cabinet minister in charge of family and integration issues is opposing calls for a ban on religious dress. His party tackled the challenges of integration at a meeting of top officials in Oslo over the weekend.

Audun Lysbakken, the youngest minister in Norway’s left-center coalition government, said he doesn’t personally support controversial religious dress such as head scarves (hijab) or full-length robes such as the burka and niqab, which also cover a woman’s face. He doesn’t think the state, however, should ban their use.

“I am worried about a development where children start wearing religious symbols and dress from a very early age,” Lysbakken told newspaper Aftenposten. “But they have the right to make their own choices and we, as politicians, can’t regulate such use or lay down general prohibitions.”

Lysbakken’s own party leader, Education Minister Kristin Halvorsen, doesn’t want young girls to use the hijab, not least after some young Muslim girls in Oslo told Aftenposten last week that they’d been beaten by their parents for removing their head scarves. But Halvorsen also said she wouldn’t support a ban on it.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of the Labour Party has said that any prohibitions could, for example, be up to individual schools, while opposition politicians have called for a national ban on head scarves and religious dress in public schools.

Lysbakken denied the Socialist Left has waited too long to acknowledge cultural collisions and problems of integration, telling party members that Norway is doing better than many other European countries on dealing with integration issues.

By Views and News staff