Print Print

Non-Muslim teachers wear Islamic veil in protest of ‘burqa ban’ in Sweden


Between February 2002 and November 2018, Swedish politicians from the Centre, Christian Democrat, Moderate, Liberal and Sweden Democrat parties proposed policies to ban clothing variously referred to as the “burka,” “full-covering veil,” “face veil” and “niqab” (Arabic for face veil) at least 38 times, six at the national level and thirty-two at the municipal.

Research suggests that circa 100 women in Sweden wear a “burka”; Throughout the 16 years under study,  the media reproduces, enriches and disseminates the burka as “problem” through reportage on burka ban bills, interviews with politicians and letters to the editor about the burka, and reports of incidents in which an actor is wearing a burka.  Four interrelated representations—“hiding the face,” obstructing communication, “the oppression of women” and religious excess—characterize the “problem” appear frequently to promote the Burka as the Problem.

Following a proposal by the right-wing Sweden Democrats, the municipality of Skurup in southern Sweden has introduced a ban on religious headgear in its primary schools and preschools. In protest, non-Muslim teachers chose to put on veils.

The ban, backed by the liberal-conservative Moderates and the local Skurup party, applies to both children and staff. According to the newspaper Aftonbladet, it "stirred up emotions", as protests by Malmö's Young Muslims and counter-protests were held outside Skurup's town hall.

Following this decision, non-Muslim teachers and staff have adopted the headscarf and, in some cases, donned the whole face veil (also known as ‘niqab’) to show their support for their Muslim students.

“The students get excited when they see that we also have veils. They feel that we support them,” teacher Marit, who teaches Swedish as a second language, told Aftonbladet.
Prästamosseskolan headmaster Mattias Liedholm said that he refuses to comply with the municipality's decision.

“Neither I nor any of my colleagues will enforce it. Then it becomes a matter of personnel for the municipality to handle,” he said.

Andreas Lindholm, a lawyer with the Swedish National Agency for Education, suggested that a blanket ban on headdress is contrary to the European Convention on Freedom of Religion.

Footnotes: Footnotes: Foto: KRISTER HANSSON Läraren Marit bar slöja för att visa sitt stöd.