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Female police officers in Norway will not be allowed to wear the hijab -the Muslim headscarf - as part of their uniform, the minister of culture said on Monday, rejecting a proposal from a government-appointed commission.
Culture Minister Hadia Tajik's remarks were made at a news conference after she accepted a report from the 15-member panel that had proposed allowing religious headwear to be used, reversing the current policy.
“The commission has had a broad mandate,” Tajik said. “They have raised the issue of religious symbols and uniforms. The government dealt with this issue in 2009 and decided that religious symbols would not be allowed to be used in connection with police uniforms,” she said.
The Labour Party, the main force in the ruling red-green coalition, also rejected changing the current policy at its party conference in 2011.
Tajik said she did not envision a change “in the foreseeable future.”
Most political parties have said they opposed changing the police uniform rules. The Norwegian Police Federation in 2009 said it opposed any form of religious headwear, saying the police force had to be viewed as neutral.
The issue was raised in 2008 when a young Muslim woman asked if it was possible to wear the hijab during police training and as a trained police officer. Police in neighbouring Sweden have since 2006 been allowed to wear the headgarb.
Commission head, Sturla Stalsett, who is a pastor, said he and a majority of the 15-member panel believed that police officers and judges should be allowed to wear religious headwear or symbols like the cross.
The commission, which was appointed in 2010, has reviewed various faith issues in society and how international conventions affect Norwegian legislation.
Other proposals called for civil marriage ceremonies to be recognised as the legal marriage ceremony in Norway, Stalsett said.
“This would show that marriage is a legal institution,” he said.
After such a ceremony, the newlyweds could also opt to be blessed in their church or faith community.
Rigmor Aasrud, minister for church affairs, was sceptical about the proposal saying she feared “more bureaucracy,” news agency NTB said.
Labour Party deputy leader Helga Pedersen said she wanted the faith communities to “keep the right to marry, but also wanted to introduce a more general civil ceremony,” NTB said.
The opposition Christian Democrats did not support changing the status of church marriages, leader Knut Arild Hareide said.
The commission's proposals were to be discussed in the coming months. - Sapa-dpa