Muslim leaders and politicians are stating their disappointment and displeasure at education officials' decision not to allow prayer rooms in the Norwegian capital’s schools.
The criticism comes following Conservative (H) city education councillor Torger Ødegaard’s about face in the matter, Thursday.
“I have related via the education directorate that establishing a separate prayer room in Oslo schools is out of the question. The school is an institution of knowledge, not a religious one,” he said, contradicting his earlier claim he is unable to micro-manage them.
Councillor Ødegaard’s decision comes following censure from Carl I Hagen, 58-year-old populist Progress Party (FrP) veteran.
Mr Hagen recently successfully hammered through a barrier on accepting asylum seekers awaiting settlement in Oslo in connection with a pre-2012 budget deal.
Wielding his rightist financial club again, he has now threatened to bash a hole in the agreement if Muslim prayer rooms were allowed, NRK reports.
“I agree there shouldn’t be own prayer rooms, but one has to look at it according to the need. I’m disappointed,” Mehtab Afsar, general secretary of umbrella organisation Islamsk Råd told NRK. “It’s important for many people to practice their faith.”
“I’m disappointed the Councillor has changed course after his statement this spring it was up to the individual school whether they wanted a quiet room,” he added.
Socialist Left (SV) Education Minister censures Mr Ødegaard’s move. “He’s turned 180 degrees. He has previously said it was the principals’ decision. Progress has now pressured him into a volte-face.”
“Pupils are not entitled to a quiet room. Nonetheless, I think it is wise that the decision is taken at each school. Mr Ødegaard should trust his principals. He has every right to override principals in Oslo, and I cannot overrule this.”
Last year, Mr Ødegaard slammed Bjerke Upper Secondary School for dividing classes by ethnicity.
Criticising Carl I. Hagen today for not having acquainted himself with the matter better, Mr Afsar explained, “One is not engaged in radicalisation even though one has a need to say a prayer.”
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