Professor won't teach student with face veil

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Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum/Scanpix (File)
14:56 CET+01:00
A professor at the University of Tromsø has made headlines in Norway for refusing to teach a Muslim student who covers her face with a niqab veil.

Nils Aarsæther, a professor of planning, has told his superiors at the university in northern Norway that he refuses on principle to teach any students who hide their faces at his lectures, newspaper Nordlys reports.

A Centre Party committee member, Aarsæther said his stance was grounded in a parliamentary decision from last year permitting individual teachers to require students to show their faces.

“I count the use of the niqab as a form of masking, which I consider an abomination in the public arena. It’s about how we interact with each other, and the importance of communication not being masked. For me, balaclavas and niqabs are two sides of the same coin,” he told Nordlys.

Aarsæther said he had only encountered the issue once, when he stepped in as a substitute lecturer to teach a class last year. A student, believed by the newspaper to be the only woman at the university who wears a niqab, approached him to ask if she could attend the lesson wearing the full veil.

“It worked out amicably in that the student made contact in advance. When I said I’d rather she didn’t use the niqab the student decided not to attend,” the professor told Nordlys.

The student declined to comment on the matter when contacted by the newspaper.

According to university chief Jarle Aarbakke, the Tromsø institution does not have an official policy in place for students who cover their faces.

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Nevertheless, he said he respected Nils Aarsæther’s decision and was happy for lecturers to make up their own minds when confronted with similar situations.

“I am however open to raising the issue at board level if this becomes a significant problem that many people find difficult to handle,” Aarbakke told Nordlys.

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