Norwegian army allows religious headgear

The Norwegian defence ministry has given the all-clear for uniformed soldiers to wear religious headgear such as turbans, hijabs and kippahs.

Norwegian army allows religious headgear
In neighbouring Sweden, police and passport officers like Masooma Yaqub have had the right to wear a hijab with their uniform since 2006 (Photo: Fredrik Sanderg/Scanpix).

With little fanfare, the armed forces relaxed the rules for religious garb earlier this summer, an advisor to the Norwegian defence chaplaincy told newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad.

“The use of religious symbols with armed forces uniforms was cleared on July 1st this year,” said Major Tor Simen Olberg.

Among the symbols approved by the military were turbans for Sikh soldiers, as well as different forms of Jewish skull-caps, which may also be worn under standard military caps.  

Muslim women meanwhile will be permitted to wear a hijab, or head scarf, with their uniforms.

“This is on condition that women who wear a hijab tie it tightly around their heads,” said Olberg.

He added that the new rules only covered a limited range of religious symbols. In addition to headgear, soldiers will also be allowed to wear armbands containing religious symbols that have been engraved or mounted.

Major Olberg spoke about the new dress code during a seminar on religion and conflict held this week at NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre at Jåttå in Stavanger.  

Among those who objected to the move was Jan-Arild Ellingsen of the right-wing populist Progress Party.

”The armed forces should be kept independent of ethnic and religious affiliations,” he told news agency NTB.

Ellingsen, who is also a member of the parliamentary defence committee, argued that army uniforms gave soldiers all the identification they needed.

”It’s fine having hidden symbols to denote affiliation, but it’s entirely unnecessary to show them,” he said.

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