The opening of Norway’s first Muslim-only school has caused controversy in the Scandinavian country’s capital, with anti-immigration activists and politicians expressing their concerns over how the taxpayer-funded move might harm integration in the country.
Plans for the school were green-lit last week, after years of campaigning by the ‘Association of Muslim Mothers’. In Norway, religious schools can apply for state-funding, and on that basis, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, the Education Minister, said “…when all Parliamentary parties are agreed that we should have a law where religious schools get state funding, it’s a little strange to deny Muslim schools approval.”
According to the Local.no, the school is set to “teach its pupils Arabic and Islamic values as well as the standard subjects on the curriculum, replacing the subject of Religion, Philosophy and Ethics with Islam, Religion and Philosophy.”
Labour Party politician Trond Giske said of the move: “I’m concerned that if we begin to group ourselves by religion, it will weaken the inclusiveness of Norwegian society. We spend a lot of money on inclusion in Norway, and now we are apparently going to be spending it on segregation.”
The issue is even dividing those with the governing Conservative and Progress parties, which both sit on the right of the political spectrum. The Progress Party’s Oslo representative Camilla Willhelmsen said: “These kids need to be in an environment with other Norwegian children. The community is already to some extent segregated and this will not make it any better.”
Oslo City Councillors are also said to be “skeptical” of the new school, and have pointed to the failure of the Urtehagen Islamic school which only remained open from 2001 to 2004. The Norway Post claims: “The controversial school was eventually shut down by the County Governor as a result of several complaints and unrest.”
Critics are said to be petitioning the relevant ministers to stop the plans going ahead, but if they are unsuccessful, the school is set to open in East Oslo in the autumn.