(JTA) — Citing Muslim extremism, two Cabinet ministers in Sweden called for closing all faith-based schools in the country.
At a news conference Tuesday, Secondary Education Minister Anna Ekström and Public Administration Minister Ardalan Shekarabi said they supported banning religious schools.
“The important thing for us is that in school there are no confessional elements,” said Ekström, a member of the ruling Swedish Social Democratic Party.
Her remarks were reported in the international media, including the Daily Mail in London, as a policy pledge to ban all religious schools. However, Shekarabi said that no such concrete plans exist and that they do not have a majority in parliament.
Shekarabi wrote in an op-ed for Aftonbladet that he supports banning faith-based schools, citing his experiences with gender segregation in his native Iran. Referencing phenomena the arrival in Sweden of hundreds of thousands of Muslims since the 1970s, he wrote “I see religious oppression again — in Swedish schools.”
With the exception of Bulgaria, the Swedish population of 9 million has Europe’s highest proportion of Muslims, at 8.1 percent, according to a 2017 Pew study.
Ilya Meyer, a Swedish Jew and former deputy chair of a branch of the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association, called the targeting of all faith schools to end extremist indoctrination in Muslim ones “a bizarre move by the increasingly repressive Swedish government.”
“Because the Swedish government cannot ever be seen to be saying or doing anything against Muslim intransigence because it is Muslim intransigence, its solution is to tar all religious schools with the same brush and ban them all,” he wrote on Facebook.
Administrators from Hillel, Stockholm’s main Jewish school, were not immediately available for comment when approached by JTA.
Ritual slaughter of animals is illegal in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland. In 2013, the ombudsmen of all Nordic countries said they consider non-medical circumcision of boys a violation of children’s rights.