Sweden to crack down on Islamic schools

Sweden plans to ban groups who do not support gender equality from starting or running schools, the country’s education minister said on Sunday.

Sweden to crack down on Islamic schools
Abdirisak Waberi, when he was headmaster of Lars Pehrson / SvD / TT
Gustav Fridolin made the call as he launched an inquiry into tightening the regulation of religious schools in the country. 
“The regulatory framework will be tightened,” Gustav Fridolin wrote in an article in the Aftonbladet newspaper. “Those who do not support fundamental values around equality and human rights should be stopped from running free schools in Sweden.” 
The proposal comes as the debate around religious free schools continues to rage in the country, most recently over the decision to let the Islamic headmaster and former Moderate party MP Abdirisak Waberi start a new Islamic school in the city of Borås. 
Waberi has been criticised in the past for attempting to explain why under Islam it is permitted for a man to marry four women but not for a woman to marry four men, and for expressing a desire to live in a state governed by Shariah law.
In 2006, he told Ottar magazine that he thought men should be the heads of their families.  “In my opinion, it is the man that is the strong person in the relationship. He controls the relationship, and the woman stands as a base,” he said.  
In his article, Fridolin said that no one should be forced to engage in any religious practices at any school, even those founded by religious organisations. 
“No child should be exposed to direct or indirect compulsion to take part in religious activities in any school in Sweden,” Fridolin wrote. “And all education should be completely free of religious infleunce.” 
Sweden’s Social Democrat-Green coalition government has appointed the Swedish jurist Lars Arrhenius to investigate what sort of religious instruction typically takes place in religious schools in Sweden, and also to see how the new laws being considered could be written so as to respect the European Convention on Human Rights. 
Fridolin stressed in an interview with Aftonbladet accompanying his article that the government was not interested in bringing in a total ban on religious schools in Sweden, as was once Social Democrat policy. 
“From my side there’s no point in attacking Jewish schools which have existed in Sweden since the 1950s,” he said. 
Sweden has over 70 religious schools, the majority of which are Christian, about 11 of which are Islamic, and a handful of which are Jewish. 
Fridolin complained that the current regulations over free schools did not allow school regulators to investigate the backgrounds of people or organisations who want to start a new school. 
“If a club or group wants to hire premises, we check who they are, but if they want to start a school, we say ‘just go ahead’. It’s totally absurd.” 
Arrhenius's investigation is expected to be completed by the New Year. 


Schools in Sweden discriminate against parents with Arabic names: study

Parents with Arabic-sounding names get a less friendly response and less help when choosing schools in Sweden, according to a new study from the University of Uppsala.

Schools in Sweden discriminate against parents with Arabic names: study

In one of the largest discrimination experiments ever carried out in the country, 3,430 primary schools were contacted via email by a false parent who wanted to know more about the school. The parent left information about their name and profession.

In the email, the false parent stated that they were interested in placing their child at the school, and questions were asked about the school’s profile, queue length, and how the application process worked. The parent was either low-educated (nursing assistant) or highly educated (dentist). Some parents gave Swedish names and others gave “Arabic-sounding” names.

The report’s author, Jonas Larsson Taghizadeh said that the study had demonstrated “relatively large and statistically significant negative effects” for the fictional Arabic parents. 

“Our results show that responses to emails signed with Arabic names from school principals are less friendly, are less likely to indicate that there are open slots, and are less likely to contain positive information about the school,” he told The Local. 

READ ALSO: Men with foreign names face job discrimination in Sweden: study

The email responses received by the fictional Arabic parents were rated five percent less friendly than those received by the fictional Swedish parents, schools were 3.2 percentage points less likely to tell Arabic parents that there were open slots at the school, and were 3.9 percentage points less likely to include positive information about the municipality or the school. 

There was no statistically significant difference in the response rate and number of questions answered by schools to Swedish or Arabic-sounding parents. 

Taghizadeh said that there was more discrimination against those with a low social-economic status job than against those with an Arabic name, with the worst affected group being those who combined the two. 

“For socioeconomic discrimination, the results are similar, however, here the discrimination effects are somewhat larger,” he told The Local. 

Having a high economic status profession tended to cancel out the negative effects of having an Arabic name. 

“The discrimination effects are substantially important, as they could potentially indirectly influence parents’ school choice decision,” Taghizadeh said.

Investigating socioeconomic discrimination is also important in itself, as discrimination is seldom studied and as explicit discrimination legislation that bans class-based discrimination is rare in Western countries including Sweden, in contrast to laws against ethnic discrimination.”