Ban on hijab in Norwegian courts rejected

Norwegian judges and other court officials are to be allowed to wear religious dress including the Muslim headscarf or hijab during court sessions, the board of the National Courts Administration said Monday.

However, if a party in a case has objections to the use of such attire – which also includes the Sami national costume – the person wearing such clothing could be recused – in other words excused from the case – the board said.

The National Courts Administration had initially proposed that all religious attire be banned in court rooms but revised its proposal after hearing opinions from various agencies.

Current guidelines for judges stipulate that “a judge has to act in such a manner that there can be no reason to question the judge’s impartiality.”

The discussion about the attire in court rooms was linked to a similar debate within the Norwegian police force. A year ago, the justice minister dropped plans to allow women police officers to wear the hijab as part of their uniform. The Norwegian Police Federation said it opposed any form of religious headwear, saying the police force had to be viewed as neutral.

DPA, 14 June 2010