Religious freedom

I have resurrected the following  two year old news item because it has relevance for Epicureanism, the rights of women and the irrationality of outdated religious practice:

“A national conversation is needed in Sweden about “where the limits of religious freedom lie”.  Judging by the stunt in 2018, pulled by the conservative newspaper Göteborgs-Posten, it is teachers at Swedish kindergartens who most need to be part of it.

“The paper got a reporter, posing as the Muslim parent of an incoming kindergartner, to phone 40 preschools and ask staff to please make sure that her little girl wore her headscarf at all times, even if she wanted to take it off. And a shocking two-thirds said they would: several even offered to film the child to prove the stricture was being enforced.

“Sweden’s national preschool curriculum is “very clear that the values guiding school activity must include individual freedom, integrity and gender equality”. How can forcing girls into headscarves or veils comply with this requirement? The Islamic scarf or veil isn’t just another garment: it is arguably a symbol of women’s “submission to men”. If a girl rejects the scarf, for whatever reason, that should be her choice. Our teachers must have the courage “to put a foot down against patriarchal and oppressive behaviour”. We can’t “allow oppression in the name of tolerance”.   ( Galán Avci, Aftonbladet, Stockholm, June 2018)

My comment: how can you expect a little girl of 6 or 7 years old to go against her parents or her teachers and refuse to wear a headscarf?  At that age children are conformists, doing what other children do and what their parents want.  And if the parents want it, what right have teachers to intervene?

What you can do, but at an older age, is to discuss the issues of “patriarchal” practices and let the children choose when they are more mature.  A class discussion about why moslem women have this cultural  habit might get them thinking for themselves. This is  the best way of doing it.  My personal view is that head scarves are outdated.  If a man is turned on by the sight a young woman’s hair alone there is something weird going on in his head.  Epicurus believed in equality, not treating women as second class citizens.

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