Norway backtracks on letting police wear hijab

Decision on allowing Muslim headwear sparks massive outcry


Norway's government will reexamine its week-old decision to allow Muslim women police officers to wear the Islamic head scarf following massive criticism of the ruling, Justice Minister Knut Storberget said.

"In light of the debate that has surfaced ... especially the reactions from (the main police union) Politiets Fellesforbund, I think it is necessary to start over again," Storberget said during a televised debate on Norway’s TV2 late Tuesday.

Storberget's comment came a week after Norway's centre-left government approved a police decision to allow female officers to wear the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, in a bid to improve recruitment of Muslim officers.

"We think it's necessary to recruit widely and to develop a police force which reflects all classes in society, regardless of beliefs and ethnicity, which is more important than demanding a neutral uniform," police chief Ingelin Killengreenv said.

The decision was made after months of debate but sparked an outcry, especially from the main opposition populist right Progress Party, which decried the "gradual Islamisation" of the Scandinavian country.

The police union, which has demanded that force uniforms remain "neutral," also objected.

Storberget said the question would now be reevaluated."We're not saying no (but) we're not saying yes either," he said.

Several other European countries, including Sweden and Britain, allow their police officers to wear religious headwear.