Swedish town bans Islamic headscarf in primary schools

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Swedish town bans Islamic headscarf in primary schools
The headscarf will be banned for children up to year 7. Photo: TT

A municipality in southern Sweden has voted to ban the Islamic headscarf in schools for children under the age of 13, in a first for Sweden.


The populist measure is part of a new 'integration plan' for the town of Staffanstorp, roughly 20km outside Malmö, which has been drawn up for by the centre-right Moderate Party and the populist Sweden Democrats. 
"The headscarf is a symbol that women are not available. It's a sexualisation of women and it's unreasonable to do that to young  girls," Christian Sonesson, the town's Moderate Party mayor, told the local Sydsvenskan newspaper.  "I have nothing against adult women wearing headscarves, but these are small children, little girls." 
The measure was voted through with seven votes in favour and four against on Wednesday afternoon. 
Pierre Sjöström, a councillor for the town's Social Democrat opposition accused Sonesson of "foregrounding a non-problem". 
"It's just cosmetic. The Moderates don't even know if we have pupils who wear headscarves. This is a solution to a problem that we don't have," he told the newspaper. 
Andreas Lindholm, a lawyer for the Swedish National Agency for Education, told Swedish broadcaster SR that he believed the measure was religious discrimination and therefore contravened the law. 
"We ruled that it is not permitted or compatible with religious freedom or discrimination laws to bring in a blanket ban against the veil in schools," he said. 
In their first draft of the law, the two parties confused the headscarf and the veil, and in the final law that passed the word 'veil' had been changed to 'headscarf'. The new draft also limited the ban to children in Sweden's Class 7 (which starts at age 13) and below.
After September's election Sonesson chose to go into coalition with the populist Sweden Democrats, even though he would have been able to build a majority with his party's more liberal allies on the centre right. 


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