Tromsø University professor Nils Aarsæther has banned niqab-wearing students from attending his lectures.
Speaking to NRK recently, he quoted a parliamentary decision “that says a teacher may request to see the face of those who are taught. This is to do with covering the face, not hats or religious symbols.”
The niqab covers a woman’s face apart from the eyes, and is most commonly worn in Arabian peninsula Arabic countries such as the UAE (United Arab Emirates), Oman, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.
France introduced a ban on niqabs last year, and Norway’s far-right Progress Party (FrP) has also suggested penalising women who wear these and burkas in public.
Whilst Labour Party (Ap) deputy leader Helga Pedersen stated, “I’m against burkas and niqabs. We don’t want a society where people are concealed from top to toe", Professor Aarsæther’s policy has been greeted with discouragement, however.
Leader of Tromsø’s Muslim community Alnor, Sandra Maryam Moe, finds it “disappointing that he [the professor] chooses to exclude someone for wearing a niqab. This is neither about a disciplinary, nor a behavioural problem.”
“I hope this is just a storm in a teacup. Norway is an open and inclusive country. One should accept the people who use the niqab here because they are so few in number, as well as let them make use of the opportunities they have in our society,” she said to NRK, doubting the lecturer’s claim that the niqab creates problems with student-teacher communication.
Meanwhile, the professor himself does not wish to participate in the ensuing debate, as he does not wish it to escalate, contribute to racism, hate, and increase scepticism towards Muslims.
“I have thought about this problem, therefore that’s why I haven’t chosen to make it public. The matter became known after the media rang me following a tip-off about an episode that occurred last year,” he concluded.
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