Sweedish Muslims Demand Separate Laws

April 28, 2006

From The Local:

Sweden's largest Muslim organisation has demanded that Sweden introduce separate laws for Muslims, according to Swedish television. Sweden's equality minister Jens Orback called the proposals "completely unacceptable".

The Swedish Muslim Association, which represents around 70,000 Muslims in Sweden, has sent a letter to all Sweden's main political parties suggesting a number of reforms, SVT's Rapport programme reported.

The proposals include allowing imams into state (public) schools to give Muslim children separate lessons in Islam and their parents' native languages. The letter also said that boys and girls should have separate swimming lessons and that divorces between Muslims should be approved by an imam.

The letter provoked an instant, and damning, response from integration and equality minister Jens Orback.

"We will not have separate laws in Sweden. In Sweden, we are all equal before the law. In Sweden, we have fought for a long time to achieve gender-neutral laws, and to propose that certain groups should not be treated like others is completely unacceptable."

Orback said he had spoken to representatives of the Swedish Muslim Council, and they did not support the association's position.

"We have freedom of speech, we have the right to opinions and we have the right to make proposals – but if a law is going to be changed, it must be the same for everyone."

Asked whether the proposal plays into the hands of racists, Orback said that it did.

"I think it is very problematic and unfortunate that people who have been in Sweden for so long make proposals such as this that are so opposed to our intentions, when we are fighting for women's rights and the right to divorce," Orback replied.

Liberal Party leader Lars Leijonborg also slammed the idea of separate laws.

"Sweden has equality between men and women. To introduce exceptions for Muslims so that women can be oppressed with the support of the law is completely unacceptable to me," Liberal leader Lars Leijonborg wrote in a statement.