The Norwegian authorities have drafted a bill restricting the wearing of niqab and burqa, items of clothing that cover women’s faces: Islamic dresses are going to be completely banned in kindergartens, schools and universities, making illegal for all workers in education. The reason for changing the dress code was given by the leadership of the local Islamic union, who hired a woman in a burqa to work in the department of public relations. In recent months, the struggle with strict religious clothing has swept the EU countries and their closest neighbors. Before Norway this year, niqab and burqa were banned in Germany and Austria, in the autumn of last year – in Bulgaria; A referendum on banning the burqa may take place in Switzerland. In March, the European Court of Human Rights spoke out against the right of workers to wear a veil.
Vikings look behind the niqab
According to the Minister of Education of the country, Thorbjorn Roo Isaksen, the ban is needed in order to facilitate communication between the teacher and the students. “This clothing interferes with normal communication, and it plays a key role in the learning process,” the official said. Speaking against teachers in burqa, the authorities of Norway mean Islamic private secondary schools, in which migrant children are taught Arabic and Islamic culture. Education is tied to a national secular standard.
The intention to ban the burqa for teachers and pupils of the Norwegian authorities is announced three months before the national elections scheduled for September 11, 2017. Perhaps the proximity of the vote explains the fact that, along with the right, the Social Democratic opposition in the parliament intends to support the ban. Thus, the displacement of the burqa from public space becomes the subject of general consensus in Norway.
Earlier, the Norwegian Ministry of the Interior allowed the police to stop women in niqabas or burqas. However, it remains unclear what punishment will be imposed for violation of the dress code. In EU countries, where the burqa is already banned, the same standard applies: EUR 150 fine. The bill, proposed by the Norwegian authorities (Norway is not part of the European Union), bypasses this issue.
Europe takes off the veil
The campaign against the burqa in Europe is largely the result of terrorist acts that occurred in Germany in the second half of 2016. Under the influence of these events, the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel included the prohibition of too strict Islamic outfits in the program of her Christian Democratic Union. According to the French Islam scholar Gilles Kepel, in Germany, the opinion has long prevailed that the regulation in the field of clothing can provoke Islamic radicals to commit acts of terrorism. The massacre committed by a Tunisian migrant, Anis Amri in Berlin in December 2016, contributed to changing this view: terrorism came to Germany, despite the absence of a dress code.
In January 2017, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurtz proposed to go further than Angela Merkel. The politician intends to ban not only niqab and veil, but also hijabs – scarves that cover the woman’s hair, leaving an open face. Kurtz, who presides over the conservative People’s Party, enlisted the support of the Secretary of State for the diversity of the Muslim woman, Muna Duzdar. However, the country’s president, Alexander van der Bellen, opposes, admitting that all women will wear hijabs in time as a sign of solidarity with Muslim women against Islamophobia.
Discussions on the higher floors of the Austrian authorities resulted in banning only the burqa and the niqab. As in the case of Norway, this initiative is easily linked with the elections to be held in the Alpine republic in the fall of 2017. Then the parliament will be chosen by the citizens of Germany.
Secularity in French way
The first in the European Union ban on wearing super-tight garments was introduced in April 2011 by France. A fine of 150 euros imposed by the country did not lead to the complete disappearance of the burqa and niqab from public space and is still being criticized by separate groups of leftists. Attempts by the French authorities to introduce new prohibitive measures – against hijabs (to which ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy calls) and Islamic burqniki swimsuits (the point of view of former Prime Minister Manuel Wals) – were not accepted by the French society.
At the suggestion of Wals, in 2016, private Islamic secondary schools were subjected to increased scrutiny by law enforcement agencies. Some of these institutions were accused of promoting intolerance to adults. The position of the newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron on the dress code and the prevention of terrorism is much more compliant. France does not intend to introduce new restrictions on the Islamic way of life.