Sweden rejects blanket ban on veils in schools
Jan 11, 2012, 14:26 GMT
Stockholm - Sweden's education agency on Wednesday rejected a blanket ban on veils but said that teachers had in some situations the right to ban students from wearing them.
A general ban on Islamic garments such as the full-face niqab or full-body burqa could be considered a violation of religious freedom, the National Agency for Education said.
The agency had been asked to clarify its guidelines on in which situations it was possible to ban facial coverings.
Lessons in which students could be required to remove veils included those involving laboratory experiments or metal and machinery work, the agency said.
Education Minister Jan Bjorklund, who had proposed a ban on any kind of facial covering, welcomed the agency's statement and repeated his view that education is based on an interaction between teacher and students, and it was necessary to be able see each others' faces.
The Equality Ombudsman said the agency's statement was in line with its own view.
But Metta Fjelkner, the head of the National Union of Teachers which represents 80,000 teachers, said it was a pity the responsibility had been laid on individual teachers, saying such decisions could be 'divisive.'
There are no statistics on how many female students in Sweden wear the burqa or the niqab. Estimates suggest there are at least 100,000 practicing Muslims among Sweden's 9 million inhabitants, but that number is also uncertain as there are no official statistics.
The issue has surfaced from time to time. In 2009 a woman studying to become a kindergarten teacher was told she could not wear the niqab at a school where she was training in Stockholm.
She complained to the Equality Ombudsman, who said that a general ban against veils was discrimination, but since a compromise had been found to allow the woman to complete her training she had not been discriminated against.