Interior Minister Will Not Ban Burkas - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Interior Minister Will Not Ban Burkas

Published February 1, 2011

Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jónasson does not believe it right to outlaw the use of burkas in Iceland, while two female MPs want to see them banned.
Speaking in parliament yesterday, Vísir and Morgunblaðið report, conservative MP Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir asked the minister whether or not there exists a possibility of banning the burka. She brought up that the discussion in other countries on the matter has been heated, and the question should be answered before women wearing burkas arrive in Iceland. She also cited chairman of the Muslim Society of Iceland, Amal Tamimi, who has contended that the burka has nothing to do with religion.
The minister responded that he has long considered the question, and decided that it wouldn’t be right to institute such a ban. For him, the matter rests upon the relationship between the government and an ethnic group in the country. He also said that it was a reminder of the western tendency to want to go out into the world and change the cultural mores of other countries to be more in line with western attitudes.
However, Social Democrat MP Þórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir countered that the question was with regards to women in Iceland; not in other countries. She pointed out that in Iceland, women have the right to be individuals in a public space, while the burka deprives women of individuality.
The burka may have nothing to do with religion, but it is tied to certain ethnic groups, and as such, banning the burka or attempting to do so has brought up a number of questions with regards to human rights, women’s rights, and cultural freedom.

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