Sara Malm — Daily Mail March 13, 2018
Sweden could be set to ban all religious schools, following a proposal from the leading party ahead of this year’s election.
The Social Democratic party, which currently leads a minority government, has pledged to ban all religious free schools to tackle segregation in the country.
Ardalan Shekarabi, Sweden’s minister for Public Administration said that ‘teachers, not priests and imams should be in charge of schools’
The proposal is not yet backed by parliament, but several other parties have criticized establishments of more religious free schools following reports of gender separation in classes at existing institutions.
‘We have to knock down segregation to keep Sweden together… school segregation must therefore also be broken down,’ Ardalan Shekarabi told a news conference in Stockholm.
Mr Shekarabi said his party, which has been losing support to the main opposition party the Moderates in the most recent polls, hopes to gain voters’ support on the issue.
‘Teachers and pedagogues should be in charge of a Swedish school, not priests and imams,’ Mr Shekarabi said.
Omar Abu Helal, principal at an Islamic charter school in southern Sweden, slammed the proposal as ‘a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights’ and ‘the freedom of religion’.
All religious schools in Sweden, one of the most secular nations in the world, are ‘free schools’, and operate independently while receiving state funding.
As it is forbidden in Swedish law to charge for primary education for children up to 18, any non-state run school receives government funding.
There are 71 primary and upper secondary religious schools, which make up five percent of all free schools in Sweden. One is Jewish, 59 are Christian, and 11 are Muslim.
There are several other Jewish schools which do not fall into this category, as they do not have specific religious elements in their education plans, and exist to cater to an ethnic minority.
Segregation, integration and immigration are set to be the main talking points in the lead up to the general election in Sweden, a country which welcomed 163,000 asylum seekers in 2015 during the European migration crisis.
The country has registered around 400,000 asylum requests since 2012, or one for every 25 inhabitants, a record in Europe.