Adam Taylor writes: Last week, a photograph that appeared to show six women wearing burqas on a bus sparked a heated debate in a private Facebook group for Norwegians critical of immigration.
For many members of the group, which is called “Fedrelandet viktigst” or “Fatherland first,” the image encapsulated the problems Norway was facing after an influx of Muslim immigrants in the past few years.
It also played into a continent-wide debate about Islamic dress across Europe. Norway’s right-wing government recently proposed a law that would ban some forms of dress worn by Muslim women in schools and universities — the first Scandinavian country to do so.
The burqa, a long, loose veil worn by some Muslims in Afghanistan and other parts of South Asia, would be restricted under the law, as would the face-covering niqab more commonly worn in Arab countries. Masks and other items of clothing that cover the face would also be restricted.
Some group members took the picture — posted with the comment, “what do people think of this?” — as proof that a ban was needed. More than 100 soon commented on it. “It looks really scary, should be banned. You can never know who is under there. Could be terrorists with weapons,” one user wrote, according to a translation from the Local website. Others described it as “frightening” and “tragic.”
However, when you look at the photograph above more closely, it may become apparent that the photo itself is irrelevant to any debate about Islam in Norway. Why? Well, those are not burqas. They’re bus seats. [Continue reading…]