Stop forcing young girls to wear veils
Sweden needs to have a national conversation about “where the limits of religious freedom lie”, says Gulan Avci. And judging by the stunt just pulled by the conservative newspaper Göteborgs-posten, it is teachers at Swedish kindergartens who most need to be part of it. The paper got a reporter, posing as the Muslim parent of an incoming kindergartner, to phone 40 preschools and ask staff to please make sure that her little girl wore her headscarf at all times, even if she wanted to take it off. And a shocking two-thirds said they would: several even offered to film the child to prove the stricture was being enforced. Sweden’s national preschool curriculum is “very clear that the values guiding school activity must include individual freedom, integrity and gender equality”. How can forcing girls into headscarves or veils comply with this requirement? The Islamic scarf or veil isn’t just another garment: it is arguably a symbol of women’s “submission to men”. If a girl rejects the scarf, for whatever reason, that should be her choice. Our teachers must have the courage “to put a foot down against patriarchal and oppressive behaviour”. We can’t “allow oppression in the name of tolerance”.