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Norway says no to burqa ban in nation's schools

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Norway says no to burqa ban in nation's schools
The Progress Party said it still opposes the niqab and burqa but that no other parties supported its call for a ban. Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum / SCANPIX
12:11 CEST+02:00
Norway's integration minister, Sylvi Listhaug, said on Friday that the government will not pursue a national ban on niqabs and other face-covering garments.
Listhaug's statement was in response to an inquiry from the Labour Party's Jan Bøhler on whether the government intends to follow the integration recommendations from a committee of leading politicians, who among other things proposed a national ban on the niqab and burqa in schools and other learning institutions. 
 
Before joining the government coalition, Listhaug's anti-immigration Progress Party (FRP) had called for a total ban on the face-covering garments worn by some Muslim women. 
 
But now that her party is in government, Listhaug said that there will be no nation-wide burqa ban “at this point”.
 
"To the extent that such practices pose challenges, the local municipality or local public authority can find individual solutions, in some cases a ban. For example, Oslo Municipality has instituted a ban on clothing that completely or partially covers the faces of students,” Listhaug wrote in response to Bøhler's formal inquiry. 
 
In a video posted to Facebook, Listhaug said that despite the apparent change of course in not advocating for a nation-wide ban, she and FRP still oppose the the face-covering garments.
 
 
“The Progress Party and I are against the niqab and burqa and believe that the best [solution] would have been to ban them. But when we proposed this in parliament, all of the other parties voted against it. If it turns out that the Labour Party has now reversed course, then there will be a majority in favour of a ban,” she said in the video. 
 
Listhaug called on Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre to clarify whether the party is now in favour of a ban. 
 
FRP's immigration spokesman, Mazyar Keshvari, said that he wasn't suprised that Listhaug shot down a national ban, saying it wasn't really the party's decision.
 
“It's nothing to be angry or disappointed over. It's the Conservatives in the government who are against a ban,” he told NTB. 
 
Keshvari accused Bøhler of making statements that are inconsistent with Labour's stance. 
 
“Labour was against it when we submitted a proposal to ban garments that cover the face in Norwegian schools. We still have the proposals ready, but first we must find out if there are more in Labour besides just Jan Bøhler who support a ban,” he said. 
 
Keshvari said he didn't put much stock in the committee's recommendation to ban burqas and niqabs in schools. 
 
“They participated as individuals and were not bound by their parties. This was a super-council at a seminar that will not lead to anything,” he said. 
 
For his part, Labour's Bøhler said it was surprising that the government has ruled out a national ban at this point. 
 
“This is a principle issue that is about putting one's foot down when it comes to the most extreme fundamentalists. Society should take joint responsibility and set guidelines and shape opinions, not push it off to local [authorities],” Bøhler told VG. 
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