Is there a need for Muslim schools in Norway?
In April 2018, the Muslim foundation Den Muslimske Grunnskole (The Muslim Primary School), filed a request to the Norwegian Ministry of Education asking for permission to establish a Muslim-only School in Oslo.
The Norwegian Directorate of Education (UDIR), rejected the application, stating:
“A Muslim-only school in Oslo would have negative consequences for students seeking to integrate with Norwegian society.”
The council further stated that the rejected application also failed to meet minimum requirements as mandated within the Free State Act.
The Muslim Foundation is allowed to appeal and challenge the decision. However, it seems that the main question is that “What is the necessity of such schools?” and ” what is the goal of establishing such institutes?”
Integration is essential
In the matter of immigration, the integration process between the host and immigrant communities is an essential factor, in which assimilation is the most challenging. On the other hand, nearly all the immigrant communities struggle to keep their identity within the host community. If their identity and values are clashing with the identity and values of the host community, the process of assimilation will be more difficult.
Also, we need to remember that the Muslim communities in the west have been formed by the immigrant population. The immigrant population has encountered a lot of challenges in adopting itself with the host community. Discrepancies in language, culture, customs, principles and priorities may cause conflicts. These challenges can create extra frustration for both the host and immigrant community.
There are very many variables in the process of assimilation, and religion is one of the most important. If the identity of either host or immigrant community is defined by religion, we can expect potential challenges. The Muslim community defines itself according to Islam. This means that no matter which nationality, culture or even which branch of Islam the immigrant belongs to – as long as they are Muslim, they are ‘Friends’. And whoever who is not in this circle is not a friend.
Friend or foe
The actual question is thus “Do the Muslim community perceive the Norwegian community as a friend or not?” If both parties perceive each other as friends, simply with different choices and approaches, then there is no need to feel threatened. If the Muslim community perceive the Norwegian community as a friend then it doesn’t need to alienate itself; Muslim children can go to Norwegian schools, have Norwegian friends and practice Islam within the family and society, without feeling isolated. But if they perceive the Norwegian community as a unfriendly community, then the need for having separate schools will come into play.
What is the goal?
The second question is “What is the goal of such schools?” If they aim for such Muslim schools are simply teaching and preaching the Islamic principles – the mosques can be used as additional educational institutions. The Muslim community can prepare the Islamic charter and present it to the UDIR. In these charters, the Muslims can clarify their educational outline, address their concerns and negotiate for what they think the current scheme lacks.
The main reason for education is to teach the next generation how to deal with differences, learn co-existence and kindness toward other humans regardless of hue, culture, language or religious differences. Thus, if the Muslim community thinks that the current educational system suffers from weakness. it can merely find the solution for it within the current charter – instead of neglecting the existing system and attempt to replace it with its own.
This article is written by Zahra Moravvej for Norway Today.
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