Merete Hodne was hit with a 10,000 kroner fine in September for turning Malika Bayan away from her hair salon in Bryne, a small town in southwestern Norway, in October 2015. Although the 47-year-old hairdresser avoided a prison-sentence, she filed an immediate appeal against the decision on the grounds that the hijab is a political, not a religious symbol.
In the Gulating Court of Appeal in Stavanger on Tuesday, Hodne’s lawyer argued that her client’s conviction should be overturned.
“If the court is in doubt about whether Hodne denied Bayan because she thought the hijab is a political symbol or a religious symbol, she should be acquitted. The doubt should be in my client’s favour,” Linda Ellefsen Eide said.
When the appeal trial got underway, Hodne described herself as a “Mohammedan critic” and once again argued that she did not deny service to Bayan for religious reasons.
“To me the hijab is the same as an Isis flag. The hijab is a political symbol. As a matter of principle, one cannot know if the person wearing it is a Mohammedan or if it is someone who believes that God has decided that they should wear the garment,” she said, according to Stavanger Aftenblad.
The defence called a new witness who was not present at the September trial, who claims he heard Bayan being encouraged to specifically seek out Hodnes’s hair salon.
“In central Bryne, there were five-six people and I overheard them say that ‘now you should do this and that and go up to Hodne’. The way I understood it was that they planned it there and then,” the male witness said.
The man said that he first became aware of what he had overheard when he read about the case in the newspaper.
Bayan outright rejected the man's assertions when she testified before the Court of Appeal, arguing that the visit to Hodne’s salon was not something that was planned in advance.
Hodne has been described by Norwegian media as a former activist in Islamophobic movements such as Pegida. She has previously said that the headscarf was a symbol of “Islamic ideology” — which she called “evil” — just like “the swastika is that of Nazism”.
While Hodne has acknowledged that she could have turned Bayan, 24, away more courteously, she has steadfastly denied the charge of religious discrimination.
As of 7pm, no verdict in the appeal case had been announced.