Norway wants to introduce a ban on Muslim veils in schools and universities, the government has said.
In a decision which would bring it into line with a growing number of European states, adults and children would be restricted from covering their faces with burkas and niqabs in order to encourage a more open society.
In recent years France, Holland, Belgium, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria have all imposed restrictions on women wearing full-face veils in public places.
Norway would be the first of the Nordic states – comprising Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Finland – to follow suit.
Norway has a minority government made up of a center-right Conservative party and the populist Progress Party.
Education Minister Torbjoern Roe Isaksen stated he was confident the legislation would be passed to cement the ban. He said: “We have every reason to believe this will be approved by parliament.”
About 15% of Norway’s 5.2 million population are classed as immigrants. In recent years relatively large numbers of Pakistanis, Iraqis and Somalis have moved to the country, triggering public debate about its future direction.
Minister of Immigration and Integration, Per Sandberg, told a news conference on Monday: “Face-covering garment such as the niqab or burqa do not belong in Norwegian schools. The ability to communicate is a basic value.”
He added that if the law is passed, anyone who breaks it could risk losing their job. Students in breach of the decree would face being expelled from university.