Ban on niqab in Swedish schools is discrimination: ombudsman

A ban against wearing veils that cover the face at schools and universities violates the Swedish discrimination act, the country’s equality ombudsman ruled Wednesday.

The decision by Katri Linna was the first concerning full-face veils in Sweden.

It was sparked by a complaint made in early 2009 by a young Muslim woman who was studying to become a kindergarten teacher, who was told she could not wear the full-face niqab at her school in Stockholm.

In her decision, Linna said the right to wear religious garb did not mean that safety measures should be neglected but “schools, or employers, are obliged to seek solutions to possible obstacles.”

The plaintive finished with good results, suggesting that “her niqab did not constitute an obstacle for her training,” Linna said.

In August, Education Minister Jan Bjorklund said he wanted leaders of Swedish schools and universities to be allowed to ban students from wearing clothes that cover their faces, including the burqa, the niqab or balaclava masks.

DPA, 1 December 2010