Denmark Proposes Hijab Ban in Elementary School, Backlash Ensues

On September 12, The Danish Commission for the Forgotten Women's Struggle, an organization of Denmark's ruling Social Democratic Party, announced a proposal to ban hijabs for students across Danish elementary schools. They believe that banning hijabs in elementary schools will put a stop to religious discrimination and promote equality.

On August 24, the proposal was approved by the Social Democratic Party, which reviews the policies of many European countries. It is one of the nine recommendations to prevent "honor-related social control" of women from minority backgrounds.

Additional recommendations include modern Danish language courses for selected minority ethnic parents, ethnically diverse groups in day-care centers, Christian studies classes in school, and improvement of sex education in primary schools.

If the ban is implemented, then Huda Makai Asghar, a 15-year-old ninth grader who studies at Kokkedal Skole, a public school with nearly 800 students located outside of the Danish capital, Copenhagen, would be forced to remove her hijab which she has been wearing for two years.

Asghar said, "I have always known that we have freedom of religion in Denmark. I can wear what I want, and I can believe in what I like. So when I heard about the proposal, I was surprised.”

According to Asghar, the idea violates her choices and freedom and forces girls like her to take off the headscarf against their wishes.

The headscarf ban proposal has faced huge backlash in Denmark. Iram Khawaja, associate professor at the Danish School of Education at Aarhus University, has spoken against the ban. Her research on children from ethnic and religious minorities in Danish society asserts the prohibition would not tackle girls' issues in Islamic communities. She added, "On the contrary, a ban can add to bigger issues. The girls who are already being exposed to negative social control will be put under increasing pressure,"

Khawaja said, "It is problematic to equate wearing the hijab with negative social control – there are also girls who do not wear the hijab who are exposed to negative social control,"

Many protested on the streets of Copenhagen against the proposed ban. Activist Lamia Ibnhsain initiated the "Hands off our hijabs" event.

Ibnhsain talked about "difficult feelings" about the ban. "I realized that our voices are invisible in society. The initial intention with the demonstration was to go to the streets and make our voices heard," she said.

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