Protest niqab ban in Norway

Last month, the Directorate for Primary and Secondary Education of Norway gave permission for the niqab (which covers the whole face except the eyes) to be banned in schools. This law denies Muslim girls many fundamental rights including the freedom to practice one?s religion and the right to education.

Erling Lae, the leader of Oslo City Council, has decided to remove the veil in schools because it causes problems for teachers who cannot see their students’ faces. The ruling will now make it possible for the niqab to be banned from schools in other municipalities in Norway. The Oslo city councillor for schools and education has said that the niqab makes communication impossible between teachers and students and between students as well.

However, under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of religion unless it is in the interest of public safety and health. It is clear that wearing the niqab in classrooms does not pose any threats to other students and teachers. Furthermore, in some schools of thought within Islam, wearing a niqab is obligatory and so a ban is clearly an infringement on religious freedom.

France, and parts of Germany and Belgium have already prohibited the wearing of the headscarf in schools and unless effective action is taken, the ban will spread throughout the whole of Europe.

Please contact your political representative, the Foreign Minister of your country and the Norwegian Embassy in your respective countries to condemn the law.

IHRC alert, 19 July 2006