Oslo — Norway's right-wing government last Wednesday announced plans to ban the full-face Islamic veil from classrooms and university lecture halls.
Education Minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, quoted in the Vårt Land newspaper, said the government was seeking "national regulations prohibiting the full-face veil in schools and universities".
Muslim women are rarely seen wearing such veils in Norway, let alone in schools. But the issue has come up recently in political debates, with less than a year to go before parliamentary elections.
Several political parties including the opposition Labor Party had expressed support for such a ban.
Røe Isaksen stressed that the ban would not apply to Islamic headscarves that leave the face exposed such as the hijab. People should be allowed to express their faith in public in Norway, he said.
"I want a young Christian girl who wears a cross to be able to show it," he told parliament. "I want a Jewish boy who wears a kippa to be able to show it. And I do not want a ban on the hijab."
The Norwegian plan comes as several European countries have moved to ban the face-covering niqab and full-body burqa.
Bulgaria banned women from wearing the full veil in public last week, and Switzerland's lower house l narrowly approved a draft bill on a nationwide ban the week before that.
In August Germany's interior minister came out in favor of a partial ban.
France and Belgium have both banned the burqa and niqab in public, while French beach resorts sparked international controversy this summer with local bans on the full-body "burkini" Islamic swimsuit.