Stockholm: Sweden`s Education Minister
wants to make it easier for the heads of higher education
establishments to ban women wearing face-covering veils at
their schools, he said in comments broadcast on Wednesday.
"Teaching is communication. It`s about being able
to look at each other in the eyes and communicate with each
other," Jan Bjoerklund told Swedish public radio.
"In that way, I mean it is extremely unsuitable to
allow clothing which covers the face," he said.
Bjoerklund is also the leader of the Liberal Party,
a partner in the government`s four-party coalition vying for
re-election on September 19.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt
told AFP Bjoerklund`s suggestion was a Liberal Party proposal,
and that it had not been discussed by Reinfeldt`s Moderate
Party or the government as a whole.
It is currently unclear in Swedish legislation
whether a school can forbid students from wearing
full-covering Islamic veils known as niqab or burqa.
But the Swedish national agency for education
issued a directive in 2003 saying schools did have the right
to ban students from wearing the burqa.
"Schools, both on pedagogical grounds and as a
general rule, can forbid the burqa," the agency said at the
Bjoerklund said he wanted "Sweden`s headmasters to
have laws that are easy to interpret. You should not have to
go to court to know what the law says."
Last year, a municipal adult-education
establishment in Stockholm banned a woman wearing the niqab
from a child care course.
She claimed she was discriminated against and took
her case to Sweden`s discrimination ombudsman, who has not yet
rendered a decision.
Bjoerklund today said he thought it would be unfair
to allow young women wearing face-covering veils to complete
an education aimed at employment in Swedish pre-schools, since
they would likely never get a job.
"Children must be able to look at their nursery
school teacher to see if she is ... happy or worried or
whatnot," he said.