Demand rises for Muslim schools

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At least three different groups are working to establish private, Muslim schools in Oslo. Norway currently has around 60 private Christian elementary schools, but hasn’t had any Muslim schools since one shut down amidst employee conflicts in 2004.

The various groups would like to send their children to schools that would follow the Norwegian curriculum but offer either Arabic or Turkish as the foreign language course option of German or French. All children also learn English.

One group told newspaper Aftenposten that they also sought a stricter disciplinary environment for their children than is currently found in Norwegian public schools, where children routinely address their teachers by their first names and where both students and parents alike have complained of noise and restlessness in classes.

The Muslim schools would also emphasize Islam but the prospective principal at one of them said they wouldn’t be run by foreign imams. Rather, she said, they would conform to “Norwegian reality” and simply swap the Christian-oriented lifestyle classes that remain part of the public school curriculum with classes about Islam.

“I want a Norwegian, Muslim school where children can strengthen their identity,” Rawafid Shahad, prospective principal (rektor) of the fledgling Urtehagen Free School told Aftenposten.  “We will have more focus on upbringing and discipline than you find in the Norwegian schools.”

She doesn’t think a Muslim private school would limit integration in Norway. Nor does Trond Ali Linstad, chairman of the group trying to establish the new Urtehagen school.

“If a child’s background and identity is valued, it will be easier for them to enter society in a positive way,” Linstad told Aftenposten. “If not, they can wind up on the streets.”

Only around 2.5 percent of children in Norway attend private schools and they can stir controversy. Some politicians were already voicing reservations, on both ends of the political spectrum. The left-leaning parties often oppose private schools, while the right-leaning parties are among the most vigorous proponents of full integration, with demands that immigrants should become as norsk as possible.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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