A Swedish shopping centre has been forced to apologise after insisting a wall mural they had commissioned did not feature a woman wearing a hijab. The secular organisation said they did not want to display religious symbols.
The shopping centre had commissioned the UNITY Burlov and Ungdomsgruppen Burlov youth groups from the Burlington area to paint a wall inside the local shopping centre, just outside Malmö.
The youngsters decided to draw a “diverse” range of people, but management saw it differently.
“It’s so horrible you almost can’t believe it’s true,” complained Pia Jönsson, whose husband Magnus Heberlein works for a local anti-racism group, in a post on Facebook.
“What kind of message are you sending to customers? How can you play into the hands of racists in such a disgusting way”, she added.
As the mural went up management called the youngsters into a meeting and explained that they did not want religious imagery in their building. The hijab was subsequently replaced with hair.
“The young people are angry and sad. They have grown up in this municipality, and are proud of its diversity and want to show it off as something beautiful. But they have been trampled on”, Ms. Jönsson wrote.
Speaking to SVT News Skåne, Ms. Jönsson’s husband, who works for the ‘Network Together in the Neighborhood’ anti-racism organisation, said:
“We think it’s very upsetting to censor young people’s work in this way… We want to promote solidarity and cohesion, and these young people want to emphasise that everyone has a place and will be accommodated here.
“When it becomes infected, it is very upsetting”.
Grosvenor Fund Management, a London-based firm which owns the shopping centre, put out a press release on Saturday apologising for what had happened.
“We apologise that a mural of a woman in a hijab was considered a religious symbol and was therefore altered,” they wrote.
“That the picture was changed was unfortunate. For us it is important to welcome all customers regardless of their religion, ethnicity or sex.”