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New Integration Minister Debates Islamic Veils

Published fredag 3 november 2006 kl 10.12
Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni

Sweden’s outspoken new integration minister contributed to a growing debate in Europe about Islamic veils on Thursday, saying headscarves had the effect of ”isolating” Muslim schoolgirls.

Nyamko Sabuni also told the news agency Reuters in an interview that she was closely watching the outcome of a dispute over a school that barred a nine-year-old from wearing a headscarf.

Sabuni, who fled to Sweden from Burundi when she was 12, stated ”Where in the Muslim scripture does it say that children shall wear a headscarf? No where. The purpose of a headscarf is for a woman to hide her charms from men whom she could marry.”   

She added that ”The headscarf is a means of isolating the girl from her surroundings.”

37 year old Sabuni became Sweden’s first black cabinet minister following September elections that brought a centre-right government to power after 12 years of Social Democratic rule.

Sabuni, who is not herself a Muslim but comes from a Muslim family, must reconcile integration ideas she has proposed in the past to parliament with the new government’s milder policies.

Sabuni has shelved proposals that caused Swedish Muslim groups to protest her elevation to cabinet, but she holds fast to a personal view that headscarves should be prohibited in school for those under 15, Sweden’s age of consent.

Schools in Sweden, with an estimated Muslim population of up to 400,000, have since 2003 had the right to ban full-face veils, although the country has been largely inured to a growing debate about religious headgear in other European nations.

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