Let cops wear Muslim headscarves: committee

A government-appointed committee is set to make recommendations that will allow police and judges in Norway to wear clothing and personal effects with religious overtones, including the Muslim hijab.

Let cops wear Muslim headscarves: committee
Photo: Amelia Johnson (File)

Tasked with setting out a new religious affairs policy, the committee believes that religious symbols like the hijab and the Christian cross should be granted a place in Norwegian public life, Christian newspaper Vårt Land reports.

“We need to be able to tolerate being exposed to other people’s religion, whether we meet an imam in a hospital corridor or a police officer with a hijab,” one committee member told the newspaper.

Another member confirmed the committee’s stance.

“Based on discussions with the committee, I am convinced that it will be possible to combine religious headgear with judges’ robes and police uniforms.”

Sturla Stålsett, who heads the committee, clarified that Norway would not choose to go down the same road as France, which banned the wearing of the hijab in schools in 2004.  

“Our conclusions will reflect the fact that we in no way want to hide away or reduce the presence of religious symbols. We want to ensure that diversity can be robust,” he said.

The issue of hijab-wearing police officers sparked a furious debate three years ago, leading then Justice Minister Knut Storberget (Labour Party) to retract a proposal that would have allowed Muslim women in the police force to wear the headscarves.

The religious policy committee, formed by Culture Minister Anniken Huitfeldt (Labour Party), held its first meeting in August 2010.

It has been mandated with examining Norway’s current policies on faith and religion with a view to developing new proposals that will give the country a more coherent approach. It is expected to present its findings by the end of this year.

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Norwegian bank tests ‘Islamic loan’ concept

Norwegian bank Storebrand is offering new ‘halal loans’ based on Islamic principles.

Norwegian bank tests 'Islamic loan' concept
Storbrand's headquarters in Lysaker. Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix
The bank recently created a website promoting ‘ethical loans’ for home financing without interest. 
The bank writes that it is testing the idea of interest-free loans in part to appeal to Muslim home buyers who may not want to accept a traditional loan because of their faith. Islam prohibits charging interest or fees on financial loans. 
“We wanted to find out if there could be another way to enter a housing market with rising prices. The product could appeal to young people, new graduates or people who can not accept normal housing loans because of religious concerns,” the bank writes on a website that was set up to gauge interest in the idea. 
Within a week, around 300 people contacted the bank to express interest in the loans. 
“Storebrand is now currently evaluating the market potential for such a loan and considering what the product might look like. We have also been approached by financial advisers in the UK and Malaysia who want to help us to put together this type of loan,” the bank’s communication manager, Bjorn Erik Sættem, told Vårt Land. 
Although the bank says it is still merely testing the idea, its website states that instead of paying interest on a home loan the home buyers would pay rent on the property until they’ve paid in enough to achieve ownership. 
Sættem said that the bank has received “a handful” of negative reactions to what has been dubbed the ‘halal loan’, including some customers who have cut their ties with the bank.