Staffanstorp Municipality in southern Sweden has decided to introduce "zero tolerance" for Islamic head garments for young children, Swedish Radio reported.
The ban, which is part of Staffanstorp's new integration plan, has been adopted in a revised form. Compared with the draft, the word "veil" has been replaced with a word that can be translated as "headscarf" or "headdress", and the ban applies to kids until the sixth grade.
Staffanstorp beslutade i dag vid ett möte i kommunstyrelsen att införa nolltolerans mot slöja för barn i förskola och i skola upp till sjätte klass.— SR Ekot (@sr_ekot) 29 мая 2019 г.
Men ett sånt förbud kan strida mot diskrimineringslagen och religionsfriheten.
Foto: Martina Holmberg/TThttps://t.co/q4sBZgB37u pic.twitter.com/6KDjlJajgt
Christian Sonesson, the chairman of the municipal council, has argued that putting a religious veil on a child was part of the so-called "honour culture".
"Girls and boys, men and women have the same rights, obligations and opportunities and must participate in education and working life on equal terms. These are important Swedish values that should be covered by everyone who lives here", Sonesson wrote on Facebook.
Therefore, he noted, the municipality doesn't condone separate bathing times for men and women or gender-separate teaching and doesn't accept veils on children in preschool and compulsory school.
Christian Sonesson has also presented a number of integration proposals. Among other things, the municipality only intends to provide new arrivals with housing for as long as they receive the so-called "establishment allowance", that is for a period of two years.
Sonesson also wants to introduce an "obligation to integrate", which means that the new arrival has a responsibility to adapt to the prevailing laws, rules, norms, and values. Among other things, it implies learning Swedish, "making themselves employable", acquiring a residence of their own and "understanding and respecting Swedish society and Swedish values". If the newcomer fails to live up to the requirements, the municipality will impose sanctions, for instance by shortening the contract period for the residence that the person has been assigned.
The "headdress ban" has polarised the Swedish public. On social media, some ventured that the municipality has "lost it completely" and called on boys to come to school wearing a headdress in protest.
Others, by contrast, were very supportive and called Staffanstorp "the country's best".
"Headscarf ban has been voted through in Staffanstorp. The first municipality that stops humiliating and misogynist headdress. Thank you for driving gender equality", unlike the Social Democrats", a user named Curlingpappan ventured.
The Social Democrat opposition in Staffanstorp called this an artificially inflated "non-problem" and pledged to appeal.
As Sweden's Muslim community becomes more prominent, the acceptance of various Islamic headdresses has become an increasingly hot topic for debate, with calls for bans being heard every now and then. At present, however, no nationwide restrictions are in place. Last year, the Green Party's Leila Ali Elmi became Sweden's first hijab-wearing member of parliament.
Earlier this year, Staffanstorp, which is jointly governed by the centre-right Moderates and the right-wing Swedish Democrats, became Sweden's first municipality to completely reject helping Daesh* terrorists "re-integrate" into society using public funds. No resources should be wasted on helping the terrorists, the municipality said blankly, provoking a storm of criticism.
"Staffanstorp is one of the few municipalities that have been openly critical of the state migration policy. Within the current legislation, we have chosen to largely go our own way. Sometimes it has meant a lot of criticism from the top and from the outside as well", Sonesson explained.
In 2016, when the Swedish government decided that all municipalities would be forced to receive and arrange housing for new arrivals, Staffanstorp chose not to buy new housing or build temporary modular housing, and instead solved the problem allowing new arrivals to live in caravans.
* Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/IS/the Islamic State) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia