Norway’s conservative government coalition is moving forward with plans to ban garments in schools that cover the wearer’s face. The ban will apply to the nikab or burqa worn by some Muslim women and to anyone wearing masks or winter gear known as finlandshetter.
The proposed national ban will not apply to caps, hats or head scarves including the hijab. Education Minister Torbjørn Roe Isaksen said at a press conference Monday that “face-covering garments can hinder good communication and learning.” Per Sandberg, Norway’s acting minister in charge of immigration and integration, said that the government views clothing that covers the face as oppressing women, and that “doesn’t belong in Norway.” Sandberg is stepping in for Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug, who is on maternity leave. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) pointed out how she has earlier said there is little use of nikabs in Norwegian schools, and they were not a big problem.
The government’s proposed ban has broad support in Parliament, however, with the opposition Labour Party and Center Party backing it and even trying to take credit for it. The Center Party doubted there was time, however, to enact the ban before Parliament recesses for the summer. Only the Liberal Party and the Socialist Left party (SV) think current rules, which allow the schools themselves to ban face-covering locally, are good enough.
The Norwegian students union also opposes a ban, claiming that everyone should have equal opportunity and access to, for example, higher education. A general ban on women wearing a nikab doesn’t allow that, claimed Marianne K Andenæs, leader of Norsk studentorganisajon (NSO).