Stop forc­ing young girls to wear veils

The Week - - News - Afton­bladet (Stock­holm)

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”.

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