Danish commission says government should ban hijab at schools

A commission appointed by the Danish government has recommended a ban on young girls wearing the hijab or Muslim head scarf at schools.

Danish commission says government should ban hijab at schools
Mannequins in hijab outside a clothes store in Copenhagen. A commission has recommended the government ban the garment in schools. File photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

The commission argues that wearing the hijab marks our Danish Muslim girls as being different from other Danish girls, broadcaster DR reports.

The conclusion was reiterated by Christina Krzyrosiak Hansen, head of the commission and Social Demoratic mayor for the municipality of Holbæk.

“When you are a little girl and go to elementary school, you should be allowed to be a child. If you then, when you are adult, later in life decide you want to wear a head scarf – doing it of your own free will – we won’t get involved,” Hansen told news wire Ritzau.

“We think that, as such, is fine. But we must talk openly about what is happening. There can’t be anyone who believes that in eight-year-old girl puts it on herself,” she said.

A hijab is a head scarf worn by some Muslim and women girls, covering the hair but not the face. It is distinct from the niqab, which covers the face apart from the eyes, and the burka, which covers the entire face with a mesh enabling the wearer to see.

The hijab ban as recommended by the commission would apply at private schools and free schools as well as public elementary schools.

Hansen rejected the suggestion such a ban impinges on religious freedom, which is guaranteed by Denmark’s constitution.

“We are not placing a bind on religious freedom. That was actually very important for the commission. We are not doing that. That’s not what we are addressing. We’re not addressing whether we are for or against head scarves,” she said.

The government or parliament are not required to follow the recommendations of the commission. Immigration and integration minister Kaare Dybvad Bek declined to comment on the government’s position on the recommendations, in response to a request from DR.

Other parties have been quick to react to the commission’s publication on an issue that has traditionally divided Denmark’s left and right.

The right-wing Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti, DF) said it wants to prevent primary school students from wearing the hijab.

“Of course you shouldn’t wear a head scarf when you live in Denmark. It is oppressive to women. Nobody is going to tell me that a ten-year-old girl decides for herself that she wants to wear a head scarf,” DF immigration and integration spokesperson Pia Kjærsgaard told Ritzau. 

“The scarf is a very clear religious symbol, which does not at all show that you belong in Denmark. We do not wear head scarves in Denmark,” Kjærsgaard said. 

DF has attempted to introduce similar bans in the past but has always failed to gather the necessary parliamentary support. 

The Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre) oppose a potential hijab ban, pointing out there’s no indication it would increase equality but could further stigmatise women who choose to wear the hijab later in life. 

“We think it looks difficult to fight social control with social control,” Social Liberal leader Sofie Carsten Nielsen said.

“After all, that’s what this would be, if you forbid some girls to wear certain clothes. That is also a control that the state exercises,” she said. 

The commission, which was appointed by the Social Democratic government earlier this year, made a total of nine different recommendations related to minority ethnic girls in Denmark.

Its objectives are to make recommendations on “how we in Denmark can ensure that women with minority backgrounds can enjoy the same rights and freedoms as other Danish women”.

In addition to a hijab ban at schools, the commission recommends groups at preschools should “reflect the population” and courses on Danish ways of raising children for “selected minority ethnic parents”.

It is set to make additional recommendations relating to young adults and adults in the coming months.

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Danish government split over repatriation of women and children from Syria

Only one of the three parties in Denmark’s coalition government has stated it wants to repatriate women with national connections to Denmark from Kurdish-run prison camps in Syria.

Danish government split over repatriation of women and children from Syria

The Moderate party, one of the junior parties in the coalition, wants Danish children to be repatriated from the al-Roj prison camp in northern Syria, even if it means their mothers are evacuated with them.

The other two parties, the Social Democrats and Liberals (Venstre), still oppose bringing the women back to Denmark.

The two latter parties have stated that they only want to evacuate the children and not the mothers, who are in the camps because they have been sympathisers of the Islamic State (Isis) terror group or spouses of Isis militants.

As such, the government is split over the question of whether to retrieve the five children and three mothers from the camp, where they have now been marooned for several years.

Human rights organisations have in the past expressed concerns over the conditions at the prison camps and Denmark has faced criticism for not evacuating children there who have connections to Denmark.


Current government policy does not evacuate children from the two camps without their mothers and will not evacuate mothers if their Danish citizenship has been revoked.

A recent headline case saw a mother from the camp win an appeal against a Danish immigration ministry decision to revoke her citizenship, meaning she now has the right to be evacuated. She was expected to be prosecuted by Denmark under terrorism laws on her return to the country.

Denmark’s Scandinavian neighbour Norway on Wednesday repatriated two sisters who went to Syria as teenagers as well as their three children, citing abysmal conditions in the camp where they were housed.

Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, leader of the Moderate party, said at a parliamentary committee hearing on Wednesday that the government will state its agreed position on the issue “soon”, news wire Ritzau reports.

“The government will make a decision on the government’s position on the basis of the updated government policy position. And I expect we will do that soon,” he said.

Rasmussen said in January that the government had asked the relevant authorities to provide up-to-date information related to the Danish children who remain in the camps.

That information is expected to form the “policy position” (beslutningsgrundlag) referred to by Rasmussen in his committee comments.